Tag Archive for: Woodland Hills

Another RV Resort Coming Near North End of Woodland Hills Drive

Yet another “RV Resort” is coming to the Kingwood/Porter area. This one will be at the north end of Woodland Hills Drive about a block north of Kingwood Park High School. Plans show parking for 43 RVs on the 4.4 acre property.

The Porter Strong RV Resort, which contains a recreation building, dumpsters, and concrete driveways, will back up to homes along Birchwood Springs Avenue in Woodridge Forest.

The drainage calculations look impressive…until you consider the way they estimated impervious cover.

Location map from construction plans obtained via a FOIA Request to MoCo Engineering. Note: High School is mislabeled. Should say, “Kingwood Park High School.”

Access from Porter For Now

Access to the RV resort – at least for now – will be via Needham Road and Collette Lane in Porter. However, plans show a dotted line for an extension of Woodland Hills Drive, which currently stops approximately 300 feet short of the development. It’s not immediately clear whether Montgomery County or the developer plans to extend Woodland Hills north at this time.

Drainage and Detention Plans

For the full construction and drainage plans, click here.

Drainage in this area flows south to Bens Branch. Note in the layout above that two 7-foot-deep, dry-bottom, stormwater-detention basins flanked by drainage swales will help intercept stormwater flowing south before it reaches adjoining properties.

FEMA shows no floodplains in the area and USGS shows no wetlands on the site.

The detention basins for the 4.4 acre site will hold 4.4 acre feet of stormwater before they start to overflow. That exceeds Harris County Flood Control District’s minimum recommendation for areas flowing into Harris County.

Moreover, the engineer claims the site only requires 3.4 acre feet in a 100-year storm. That calculation is based on Atlas-14 requirements adopted by Montgomery County.

The engineer indicates that the maximum discharge rate for the ponds, which will be pumped, is about 8 cubic feet per second less than the natural runoff rate for the site. So for everything up to the 100-year storm, runoff going into Bens Branch from this area should be reduced.

All that is good news. Now for the bad news.

The engineer seems to have based all those calculations on 29% impervious cover.

That seems unlikely for this type of project. The number of parking spots per acre is roughly equivalent to the Laurel Springs RV resort which claimed to have 66% impervious cover, but likely has much higher.

Best practices require excluding detention basins from impervious cover calculations. A quick glance at the construction diagram above suggests that concrete will cover much more than a third of the remaining property.

Also, the engineer says it will take 48 hours to drain the ponds after a 100-year rain. The ponds do not appear to empty by gravity, however. They will require pumps, which could present problems in a power outage. Such outages frequently occur in storms strong enough to create floods.

Pictures Taken on 2/1/24 Show Extent of Construction

Currently, the site is being cleared. Construction has not yet started. I took the shots below on 2/1/24. They show the extent of clearing as of last week.

Looking SW at construction site. Woodland Hills and Kingwood Park HS on left. Northpark Rec Area top center. Homes are in Woodridge Forest.

Looking W toward Woodridge Middle School at top of frame.
Reverse Angle. Looking E toward Woodridge Village. Surrounding areas already include a number of mobil homes and RVs.

Bens Branch Getting Crowded

I hope contractors build what the plans indicate. Bens Branch has enough flooding problems of its own. The Kingwood Area Drainage Analysis showed that parts of the stream could flood in a two-year rain.

Since that study, several high-density developments have been built nearby in the watershed. They include The Preserve at Woodridge, which apparently understated the amount of impervious cover, and Brooklyn Trails, which was grandfathered under pre-Atlas-14 requirements.

And then there’s the Northpark Drive Expansion Project, which is seeking more room for another detention basin to mitigate its own increases in impervious cover.

For now, the best thing to do is remain vigilant.

Posted by Bob Rehak on Feb. 7, 2024

2353 Days since 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.

Perry Homes Expanding N2 Detention Pond on Woodridge Village Site; Also Building Up Low Areas

On Wednesday, Perry Homes resumed construction on the Woodridge Village Site in two areas: adjacent to the N2 detention pond and along Woodland Hills Drive. Today, we know more about the nature of the construction activity next to N2 thanks to receipt of construction plans from Montgomery County on Thursday morning. The plans were part of a Freedom of Information Act Request.

N2 Detention Pond Expanding North and East

The new plans show an expansion of the N2 pond to the north and the east. In the satellite image below, “A” represents the original N2 pond which Montgomery County built 15 years ago. “B” represents the approximate expansion area which will be about 8 to 10 feet deep.

A = Original N2 Pond. B = Expansion Area.

City of Houston approved the plans on 3/17/2020, according to this inspection report dated 3/30. Montgomery County approved them the same day according to the County Engineer’s stamp on the plans. Below, see what the same area looked like from a helicopter before construction started.

“Work” indicates where excavation started on Wednesday. Excavation in the area labeled “N2” pre-dates Perry’s ownership of the land.

See below what the N2 area area looked like on Good Friday morning, two days AFTER construction started. Compared to the photo above, contractors took out the crescent shaped row of trees on Thursday. They also started excavating the expansion area.

Looking south at N2. Note: trees are gone. Expansion area is about one-quarter to one-third excavated in two days. See pond in upper left. Photo courtesy Matt Swint.

Part of the dirt from this excavation work went to fill in former wetland areas in the foreground of the image above.

Here’s the same area looking west from a vantage point farther south over Taylor Gully. The area between the old pond and the expansion area still needs excavation. Photo courtesy Matt Swint.
Height of excavator is about equal to depth of pond. Water in pond is due to a one-inch rain late yesterday. Photo looking west courtesy of Matt Swint.
Layout of subdivision immediately north and south of triangular-shaped N2.

Also Filling Low Area Along Woodland Hills

A” represents N2 and the expansion area. “B” is the area along Woodland Hills where other contractors used part of the excavated dirt to fill in boggy areas.
This shows new fill in Area B from photo above.

Two reports (Wednesday and yesterday) from other sources suggested that Harris County was responsible for this work. However, a call to Precinct 4 Commissioner Jack Cagle’s assistant this morning indicated the County is NOT involved in this construction activity.

New Contractors On Job

Note filled area in background adjacent to Woodland Hills Drive. Logo on truck and other equipment parked there today reads “D&J Construction.”
Logo on equipment parked today at the northern Webb Street entrance indicates that Allgood Construction is working on the excavation, one of their specialties.

Plans show that detention pond N1 will eventually go where these trucks are now parked.

I counted six pieces of equipment on the southern section of Woodridge and at least 12 on the northern section, including those above. By my count, that’s a record. I’ve never seen so much earth-moving equipment on this site at one time.

Listing Sign Still Up

A sign at the Woodland Hills entrance today indicated that the Perry property is still listed for sale.

Sign adjacent to Woodland Hills entrance to Perry property indicates that Land Advisors is acting as property broker. Photographed Friday, 4/10/2020.

Due to the Easter weekend, with most staff off, Commissioner Cagle’s office could not reply today about the status of negotiations with Montgomery County, the City of Houston, and Perry Homes to purchase the property.

In their meeting Tuesday, Harris County commissioners discussed trying to negotiate Atlas-14 compliance and closure of the “beat the peak” loophole with Montgomery County. As a contribution from the City, they also requested land in lieu of cash to help defray costs on other Flood Control projects.

Two More Detention Ponds Planned But Not Started

The City and MoCo previously approved plans for N1 and N3, two other detention ponds on the northern section of Woodridge Village. Contractors have not yet started excavating those.

Looking south on eastern boundary toward Elm Grove, where the N3 detention pond will go. Work has not yet started here.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 4/10/2020 with help from Matt Swint

955 Days after Hurricane Harvey and 204 after Imelda

Imelda Floods Ben’s Branch Schools, Homes at Three Choke Points

Disclaimer: I spent the better part of a day driving down every street that borders Ben’s Branch. I saw damage clustered in three areas. It’s possible other areas were affected but the City had removed trash before I got there.

At least two schools, 7 homes, and one business flooded along Ben’s Branch in Kingwood during Imelda. All were located near choke points along the creek. And massive recent upstream development likely played a role in each case. That new development also played a role in eroding the margin of safety between floodwaters and foundations all along the creek – even for homes and businesses that did not flood. Total damages will likely exceed $3 million along Ben’s Branch in Kingwood.

Three circles represent choke points where virtually all structural flooding happened on Ben’s Branch during Imelda. See discussion below.

Ben’s Branch Now and 10 Years Ago: Influence of Upstream Development

Area in white box is roughly 800 acres. Three quarters of it was not developed ten years ago (see below). Red line marks the course of Ben’s Branch through a series of retention ponds and new ditches that now contribute more water faster during heavy rains.
Same area in 2009, only ten years ago.. Neither Woodridge Forest, Woodridge Village, nor the Kroger Center at 59 had started development yet, though some areas had been cleared.

Imelda Tested Design Limits of Drainage Systems

Most drainage systems are designed to protect homes and businesses from a hundred-year flood. Imelda was a hundred year flood. The storm tested the design limits of flood infrastructure everywhere along Ben’s Branch in Kingwood.

Based on its peak intensity of 4.56 inches in one hour (as measured at the US59/West Fork gage), Imelda qualified as a 100-year storm. Streets, storm drains and ditches are designed to handle that much as an upper limit. And for the most part they did. Especially because builders usually elevate most structures at least two feet above the hundred-year flood plain.

Those extra two feet act as a margin of safety and as a hedge against future upstream development.

Limits Exceeded in Several Places During Imelda

In each case where homes, businesses or schools flooded along Ben’s Branch, unique circumstances eliminated that margin of error and resulted in flooded structures.

With the exception of one low-lying home I found in Hunter’s Ridge very close to the creek, all of the structural damage took place at three choke points along the creek.

Choke Point #1: Northpark and Ben’s Branch

Where Ben’s Branch crosses under Northpark Drive, two things happen. A ditch from the new Woodridge Forest subdivision joins it. And then all that water is forced into a culvert that crosses under Northpark Drive.

These two culverts constrained water flowing under Northpark Drive and backed it up past Hidden Pines at the stoplight in the background. When water started flowing over the road for approximately two blocks, this part of Kingwood was cut off.

To my knowledge, no one has ever upgraded that culvert despite significant upstream development. It backs water up for several blocks during heavy rains and forces water OVER Northpark Drive. This caused at least six homes near Aspen Glade west of Hidden Pines to flood.

When water backed up and flowed over Northpark, it cut off both inbound and outbound traffic. It also broke through the fences of homes that back up to Northpark.

East-West fences were pushed in from the north by water overflowing across Northpark Drive. This location is a block west of the culverts.
Looking north toward Northpark Drive at Hidden Pines. North-South Fences were pushed out to the East by water trying to return to Ben’s Branch across Hidden Pines to the right. Note the new fence. It had just been replaced after the May 7th flood.
The scene on Aspen Glade Drive in North Woodland Hills. These homes are west of Hidden Pines and back up to Northpark Drive.
A resident of Aspen Glade shows how high the water got in front of his house during Imelda.
A worried Lela Yorba wonders how her family will ever recover from the second flood in four months, and whether she should even try. Despite living on Aspen Glade for decades, her home had never flooded before May of this year.
The interior of Yorba’s flooded home during Imelda. Image courtesy of Lela Yorba.
Yorba’s garage during the peak of Imelda. Image courtesy of Lela Yorba.
Floodwaters crept up to the foundations on the far side of the street but did not enter homes according to Yorba. Image courtesy of Lela Yorba.
One week after Imelda, Yorba tries to turn wet walls back into dry walls.

Impact of New Development

Net: the flooding of homes on Aspen Glade was likely caused by an undersized culvert at North Park that could not convey all the water coming from hundreds of acres of new development. When the water backed up, it rushed over North Park for approximately two blocks. Eyewitness reports and FaceBook videos peg the height at a foot above the roadway.

In the last 10 years, more than 600 acres have been developed north of North Park between 59 and Woodland Hills. More new homes are being built every day.

Much of the drainage from the new development joined Ben’s Branch just before it reached the culverts.

This drainage ditch from many of those new homes in Woodridge Forest joins Ben’s Branch east of Hidden Pines in the background where multiple homes flooded. This is additional drainage coming into the creek at a point where part of it can not be siphoned off into the diversion ditch that runs down the west side of the villages of North and South Woodland Hills.

Choke Point #2: Woodland Hills Drive and Ben’s Branch

About two or three blocks east of the culverts under Northpark, between St. Martha Catholic School and Kids in Action, Ben’s Branch narrows down again. It quickly funnels from a wide, excavated ditch to a narrow stream cutting through dense forest. See photo below.

Hovering over Woodland Hills Drive in a helicopter looking east. Ben’s Branch narrows between Kids in Action on the left and St. Martha’s school (out of frame on the right). Both flooded. Note how the fence was pushed in by the force of the water.

At this choke point, both the school and Kids in Action, flooded. Repairing the school after the May flood cost St. Martha $900,000. Repairing Kids in Action cost $500,000. This time it will cost each even more.

Behind St. Martha’s, Ben’s Branch becomes a narrow creek filled with trees. This further slows water down and backs it up. It remains like this most of the way to Kingwood Drive. Image courtesy of Father TJ Dolce.
The natural creek also makes many tight turns. Here, it makes a 150 degree turn followed by a 90 degree turn. Image courtesy of Father TJ Dolce.

The results were costly. St. Martha’s lost two classroom buildings plus its playground.

One of the two St. Martha School buildings flooded by Imelda.
Flooded corridor.
Flooded classroom.

Until the school buildings can be dried, disinfected and rebuilt, classes are being held on upper floors and in other parish buildings. No children were ever endangered by the flood. Parish personnel started evacuations to higher buildings as soon was water started coming into the parking lot, the lowest point on the campus.

Across the creek, Kids in Action, one of Kingwood’s most popular day care and after school facilities, had its own problems.

A distraught Diane Havens, owner of Kids in Action, tries to keep a brave face after she loses the use of her beautiful facilities for the second time in four months.
Hand sanitizer is the second thing you see in the reception area now.
Havens is bringing in four of these mobile units to hold classes until the first floor of Kids in Action can be restored again.

Haven’s spent $500,000 repairing her facilities after the May 7th flood. That’s a lot for a small business. She’s determined to weather this storm, too. But she worries that some of her clients may grow impatient in the inconvenience during repairs.

Choke Point #3: Kingwood Drive and Ben’s Branch

As Ben’s Branch approaches Kingwood Drive from the northwest, it spreads out into a 100+ acre forested area that includes the Creekwood Nature Center. But just before it crosses under Kingwood Drive, Ben’s Branch’s flood plain funnels down between Kingwood High School and the old H-E-B shopping center. At that point, a second branch of the stream joins it from the north. After crossing under Kingwood Drive, it is further constricted on the east side by commercial development. This represents another choke point.

The Kingwood High School Gym and Natatorium (bottom left) took on floodwater during Imelda.

The Kingwood High School gym and natatorium took on several inches of water during Imelda when drains and/or Ben’s Branch backed up. Merchants in the old H-E-B shopping center also report being stranded in their stores for two hours at the peak of Imelda as water from Ben’s Branch raced through the parking lot. Merchants said the water was inches from coming in their stores.

While many of the businesses south of Kingwood Drive in Town Center and Kings Harbor reported having water lapping at their foundations, I found none that reported flood damage.

No Simple Fix

I can’t think of a simple fix to all of three of these problems. Fixing one could compound the others. For instance, it would be simple to replace the culverts under Northpark with a bridge when the street is widened. However, that would just increase the volume of water backing up where the creek narrows between St. Martha’s School and Kids in Action. That would likely flood them even worse.

Channelizing the creek all the way to Kingwood Drive would likely be unpalatable from a political point of view. Four reasons: Few people in that area were affected. They all love their greenbelts. And the costs would be high. That would make the Benefit/Cost ratio of the project a non-starter.

One Possible Solution

One possible solution: convert the unused land around St. Martha’s new church north of Northpark Drive to additional detention. That’s valuable land and detention is expensive, but it may be a better alternative than losing the school which was just expanded in 2008. Father TJ Dolce is pitching that idea and hopes the Archdiocese would approve the use of their vacant land for detention. The big question: Would it be enough to make a difference.

Drainage Study Already Under Way

Thankfully, Harris County Flood Control is conducting a Kingwood-wide drainage study right now. They are studying Ben’s Branch. Hopefully, their talented engineers will be able to find the optimum solution that protects everyone. I sure hope they find it soon because these people are every bit as desperate as the people who flooded twice in Elm Grove and North Kingwood Forest.

Ben’s Branch may affect fewer structures. But it probably affects more people when you add up enrolled students and their families.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 10/1/2019 with help from Father TJ Dolce, Diane Havens, Lela Yorba, Daryl Palmer and National Helicopter Service.

763 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 12 since Imelda

Woodridge Village Plans Being Set in Concrete…Before Case Goes to Trial

Just three months ago, on May 7th, water poured out of Woodridge Village and into the streets and homes of Elm Grove. More than 200 flooded homeowners are suing the developer and contractor for negligence. Meanwhile, before the case has even gone to trial, contractors are pouring concrete. Let’s hope the drainage plans do the job. Because they are literally setting those plans in “stone,” so to speak. Here’s what’s happening north of the MoCo border.

Woodridge plans 5 detention ponds, 3 in the northern and 2 in the southern section. The two in the southern section are now at total depth. However, excavation still has not started on the three northern ponds, despite ideal construction weather.

Elevation Raised Compared to Elm Grove

Looking east along the southern border with the detention pond S1 out of frame on the left and the culvert that leads to Taylor Gully in the upper left. Village Springs in Elm Grove can be seen through the trees on the right.

The new development has been built up about four feet above Elm Grove and Woodland Hills Villages. It gives the hood a split level look.

At the top of that hill, along the perimeter, the contractor bulldozed a v-shaped notch. That’s called a backslope interceptor swale. The swale or depression collects rainwater that would otherwise drain straight into detention ponds. In theory it provides additional storage for rainwater. It also reduces the potential for erosion along the banks of the pond. That’s because water collects in the swale and drains through a pipe into the detention pond.

S2 detention pond above Village Springs in Elm Grove. Photo courtesy of Jeff Miller. Miller says that the pond looks 3 feet below the mouth to the culvert on Taylor Gully. So it will hold water constantly.

Detention Pond S1 Now Lined with Concrete

Contractors have also begun lining detention pond S1 with concrete. That should reduce erosion. It will also accelerate runoff.

Woodridge Village Detention Pond S1 which is north of Woodland Hills Village. The ditch has reached its total depth and is now being lined with concrete. Photo courtesy of Jeff Miller.

Roads Going In

Contractors have also poured the main road through the southern part of the subdivision. It is within feet of connecting to Woodland Hills Drive on one end. It will soon cross Taylor Gulley about in the middle of the subdivision and eventually connect to the northern half of the development.

Looking east from Woodland Hills in front of Kingwood Park High School.

It looks like this from the opposite direction.

Looking southwest toward Woodland Hills from the northern side of the southern section of Woodridge. Main road in distance will soon cross Taylor Gully. Photo courtesy of Jeff Miller.

In Other News

Jeff Miller says it appears that the contractor has nuked all of the trees separating the northern and souther section. Says Jeff Miller who supplied many of these pictures, “As Peter Townseand of the Who sang, ‘I can see for miles and miles.’” The song now applies to the view from Elm Grove looking north. There’s little to see but brush piles.

Nothing but brush piles for miles and miles. Photo courtesy of Jeff Miller

Risky Business: No More Detention Ponds Heading into Peak Hurricane Season

Contractors have not yet started excavation on any of the detention ponds for the northern section: N1, N2, or N3. That’s a risky strategy given months of ideal construction weather behind us and the peak of hurricane season fast approaching. Those Perry Homes subsidiaries are definitely connoisseurs of edge work.

Peak of hurricane season is less than a month away. This is when things usually start to heat up.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 8/16/2019 with thanks to Jeff Miller

717 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Maintenance and Construction Work Beginning on Bens Branch

Here’s some much needed good news regarding Bens Branch. One small maintenance project began last week and an even bigger one should kick off within the next two weeks. Bens Branch cuts diagonally through Kingwood and drains a major portion of the community.

Bens Branch Between North Park and St. Martha Started Last Week

Last week, Harris County Flood Control crews began excavating Bens Branch from North Park to below the old St. Martha’s church. In recent years, the creek had become badly silted and overgrown with vegetation. When the May 7th rains hit, several local businesses flooded including the St. Martha Catholic School and Kids in Action. County maintenance should soon restore normal conveyance through this area. These photos taken last Friday by Thomas Blailock, a Bear Branch resident, show how badly the creek had become constricted.

Photo of Bens Branch taken from Woodland Hills Bridge on Friday, 6/28/2019. Kids in Action is in background. St. Martha is out of frame on the right. Courtesy of Thomas Blailock.
Another photo courtesy of Thomas Blailock showing how badly Bens Branch was constricted in this area.
Note how shallow the ditch has become. Only the bottom tread of the excavator was visible in this standing water.

Bens Branch South of Kingwood Drive Starts Next Month

For the last two months, Harris County Flood Control has also been compiling specs, soliciting vendors and receiving bids for the excavation of Bens Branch between Kingwood Drive and about 1000 feet north of the West Fork San Jacinto River. That area has also become badly silted.

Scope of new Bens Branch excavation project
Bens Branch at West Lake Houston Parkway immediately south of Amegy Bank.

Excavation of approximately 80,000 cubic yards of sediment should begin in July and last for several months. Prepare for dump trucks on the road for the next few months. It will be inconvenient and dirty, but that’s the price of restoring the conveyance of the creek.

This portion of Bens Branch contributed to the flooding of Town Center, The Enclave, Kingwood Village Estates, Kingwood Greens, the YMCA and Kings Harbor and five apartment complexes. Twelve people in Kingwood Village Estates died as a result of injuring sustained during the evacuation or the stress of losing their homes when they returned.

Jason Krahn, the project manager at Harris County Flood Control said last Friday that, “A recommendation to award Project ID # G103-33-00-X004 – Conveyance Restoration on Bens Branch to Solid Bridge Construction, LLC, has been made, and that recommendation to award is scheduled to be on the Harris County Commissioners Court (HCCC) Agenda for HCCC approval of the recommendation to award on July 9, 2019.”  

Once the award has been officially voted on and approved by the Commissioners Court, the Harris County Purchasing Agent’s office will work to obtain the executed contract, and the necessary bonds from the  Contractor so that the project can move forward to construction.  Expect to see about 40 dump trucks per day (8600 loads in total) on the streets of Kingwood.

Money for both of these projects does not come out of the flood bond. It comes from the Harris County Flood Control District Maintenance Budget.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 6/30/19

670 Days since Hurricane Harvey