Tag Archive for: West fork san jacinto

Humble ISD Clearing Site for New Ag Barn Far from West Fork Floodway

On November 6th, the Humble ISD (HISD) broke ground for its new 6.9-acre North Agricultural Science Center at the intersection of Ford Road and Mills Branch Road, opposite the entrance to North Kingwood Forest.

Artists Renderings of new HISD Agricultural Science Center between Porter and North Kingwood Forest. Courtesy of Humble ISD.

Replacement for Flooded Ag Barn Near Deer Ridge Park

The site lies less than a quarter mile south of the new Humble ISD north transportation center. And it’s within four miles of Kingwood and Kingwood Park High Schools.

The new ag center will replace the existing Kingwood Ag Barn located on Woodland Hills Drive at Deer Ridge Park. That facility flooded numerous times since it opened in 1995. The most extensive flooding happened during Hurricane Harvey in 2017.

Site of OLD ag barn location near Deer Ridge Park was in San Jacinto West Fork floodway (cross-hatched area). Source: FEMA National Flood Hazard Layer Viewer.

The new North Agricultural Science Center should eliminate worries of West Fork flooding due to its location on higher land. However, it is still near Mills Branch Creek which flooded Mills Branch Road during Imelda. See the flood map below.

Site of NEW ag barn where Mills Branch Road turns north into Ford Road in Porter. Yellow-green line is Harris/Montgomery County Line. The nearby floodway is for Mills Branch Creek.

Humble ISD received a FEMA grant of more than $8.8 million after the Kingwood Ag Barn flooded during Harvey.

“Hurricane Harvey flooded our current ag facility up to the rafters,” Dr. Elizabeth Fagen, Humble ISD superintendent, said. “Since that time, every time we see significant rain, our students are forced to evacuate a lot of animals to a separate ag facility.”

Aerial Photos

These photos show the new site being cleared on 11/19/2020. The first looks north toward the new HISD transportation center by the cell tower. That’s Ford Steel on the left and the northeast corner of Woodridge Village beyond that.

Site of new HISD Ag Science Center where Mills Branch Road (bottom left) turns into Ford Road (upper left) at county line.
Reverse shot looking south. Mills Branch Road on right with entrance to North Kingwood Forest in upper right. The triangular area opposite the entrance to NKF is a detention pond.

Dirt from the detention pond is apparently being used to build up the site slightly to elevate it above the Mills Branch floodplain.

Details of New Ag Science Center

The center measures 29,000 square feet. It will hold:

  • 70 pigs
  • 70 goats or lambs
  • 20 poultry and rabbit pens
  • 24 cattle.

The new center will also include a practice arena, teacher offices, restrooms, a designated turnout area, comprehensive security measures, and expanded parking.

Veterinary schools often make Ag or FFA experience in high school a condition of admissions.

Larkin Le Sueur, Career and Technical Education Director for Humble ISD, said, “This new facility will offer expanded space for students to interact with their animals and also expand FFA opportunities for our district.” 

The new center will cost $4.5 million to construct. HISD chose Stantec to design the project and DT Construction to build it. It will open in the 2021 school year.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 11/19/2020 with input from Humble ISD, Jeff Miller and Chris Bloch

1178 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 427 since Imelda

Close-Up Photos of Noxxe’s Devastation

The oil and gas company with the joke name (Exxon spelled backwards) is no joking matter. After flooding from Hurricane Harvey, Noxxe left a mile-long trail of devastation in Forest Cove for taxpayers to clean up. The company’s toxic legacy includes dozens of abandoned wells, toppled tanks, and twisted, rusting, ruptured pipes – all in the floodway of the San Jacinto River West Fork, which supplies drinking water to two million people.

Meeting with Texas Railroad Commission

After a series of posts on this subject, I received a call from the Texas Railroad Commission (TRRC). TRRC took control of Noxxe’s operation after the company went bankrupt in February.

Sign posted on entry to Noxxe lease

The Commission’s District Cleanup Coordinator invited me to tour the site with him and discuss the status of cleanup. There’s good news and bad.

Good News

  • Tanks have been drained of toxic chemicals.
  • Some wells have been plugged.
  • TRCC believes the oil spilled on the ground will degrade naturally.
  • A small check dam should keep oil-contaminated rainwater from washing into the river (except in floods).

Bad News

  • Many of the wells have NOT been plugged.
  • Oil has spilled on the ground.
  • Rusting, oil-covered equipment litters the property.
  • Legally, the state has no recourse against the company’s management or the property owners.
  • The State Comptroller’s Office has taken over bidding for cleanup jobs like this, but reportedly has no specialists in toxic waste cleanup.
  • The Comptroller’s Office has reportedly established an “approved vendor list” for these jobs, but the list doesn’t have enough vendors to handle all the work needed in the State.
  • TRRC has no budget to handle the Noxxe job and may not get it.
  • Thieves steal equipment with salvage value.
  • Brine (saltwater produced with oil and gas) has contaminated many parts of the site, killing vegetation.

Ground-Level Photos

These photos represent only a small portion of the site. But I’m sure you get the picture.

Editorial Opinion

Texas and Texans make their living from minerals. But left like this, those minerals may be the death of us, too. Noxxe has given a black eye to the entire oil and gas industry, which has thousands of reputable companies and millions of hard-working people in Texas.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 9/26/2020

1125 Days after Hurricane Harvey

The thoughts expressed in this post represent opinions on matters of public concern and safety. They are protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution and the Anti-SLAPP Statute of the Great State of Texas.

Union Pacific Traffic Over San Jacinto West Fork Now Fully Back and Better

On my most recent flight down the San Jacinto West Fork, I was treated to a rare experience. Just as we flew over US59 heading east, what seemed like a mile-long train started to cross the new Union Pacific rail bridge. As we crossed over the train, the engineer saw me leaning out the door of the helicopter to grab the perfect shot. I think he knew we were documenting progress of the bridge. In salute, or maybe out of pride, he let out a massive blast from his giant air horn. Both the helicopter pilot and I broke out into huge smiles.

A Stirring Moment

It was a stirring moment for someone who has always admired trains. Railroads opened up this country, supported the growth of our cities, and still carry the much of the commerce of our nation on the backs of their rails.

Harvey destroyed the ancient Union Pacific bridge over the West Fork.

Shot taken on March 3, 2018, approximately six months after Harvey. Repairs on the old bridge were still in progress at that point.

But now UP is back. Bigger and better than ever. The sleek new bridge sports wider supports, designed to let fallen trees pass through in the next flood. That should eliminate backwater effects caused by logjams. Compare the “after” shot below.

May 11, 2020. The new UP bridge has wider supports to eliminate logjams in floods.

A Three-Year Project

The construction of the new bridge took almost three years.

  • First UP had to restore the old bridge to keep traffic flowing.
  • Then the company had to build a new bridge between the supports of the old bridge.
  • Finally, once the new supports were in, they had to remove the old ones.

All of that took a little less than a thousand days. And it was fascinating to watch. The result is a tribute to the genius of American engineering and know-how.

Second Major Mitigation Project to Be Completed in Area

This marks the completion of second major flood mitigation project in the Lake Houston Area. The first was TxD0T’s reconstruction of the US59/I69 bridge a few hundred yards to the west. That delayed hundreds of thousands of commuters for 11 months.

The train stretched almost a mile toward Kingwood Drive as it barreled southward. Hopefully, the new bridge may also help reduce train delays at major intersections.

Other Mitigation Projects Still in Development or Being Studied

Other major mitigation projects still in progress or development include:

  • West Fork dredging to restore conveyance and channel of the river
  • Additional floodgates for the Lake Houston Dam, to let water out faster
  • The search for suitable upstream detention to help hold back water during floods
  • Multiple ditch repairs throughout the area
  • Drainage studies throughout the San Jacinto River Basin that will undoubtedly lead to additional mitigation projects

Posted by Bob Rehak on 5/26/2020 with gratitude to the men and women of Union Pacific

1001 Days after Hurricane Harvey