Tag Archive for: Woodridge Village

Rate of Woodridge Village Excavation Increases 47%

The rate of excavation for another stormwater detention basin on the Woodridge Village property picked up 47% in the last five weeks. That’s compared to the weekly average since Sprint Sand and Clay began excavating last year under the terms of its Excavation and Removal (E&R) contract with Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD).

  • The current weekly rate is the highest since last July.
  • As of:
    • January 30, 2023, Sprint had excavated 80,360 cubic yards (CY)
    • March 6, 2023, Sprint has excavated 93,023 CY, according to HCFCD.
  • Dividing the difference by five weeks, yields an average of 2,532.6 CY per week.
  • The weekly average since the start of excavation 54 weeks ago equals 1722.7 CY.
  • So, the February/early March data is an increase of more than 800 cubic yards per week compared to the long-term average, a 47% increase.

Demand for dirt under E&R contracts varies with with housing starts and road construction. Housing starts have slowed greatly in recent months as interest rates have increased to cool inflation. It’s not clear yet whether the increased rate of excavation represents a temporary blip or the beginning of a turnaround in the market for dirt.

Then and Now Photos

Here’s the extent of excavation on the new pond as of January 24, 2023.

Woodridge Village Detention Pond #6
Woodridge Village Detention Basin #6 at the end of January 2023. Contractors have not yet connected the new basin to others.

Here’s how the new basin looks today from approximately the same location – much longer!

Same location at start of March.
Sprint has not yet reached the end of S1, the detention basin on the right.
Looking south toward Kingwood. Sprint has the width of four or five more houses to go before it reaches as far as the end of S1. The tree line in the background is the Harris/Montgomery County line.

Increased Rate is Welcome News

The increase in the excavation rate is welcome news for residents who flooded twice in 2019, thanks in large part to Woodridge Village construction practices. Perry Homes left the aborted development about 40% short of Atlas-14 requirements. Since then HCFCD and the City of Houston bought the site and are working on ways to reduce flood risk.

E&R contracts give HCFCD a low-cost head start on mitigation as engineers finalize plans. Knowing that they will need additional stormwater detention capacity, HCFCD established a flexible contract with Sprint for only $1,000. It lets Sprint remove up 500,000 CY and sell the dirt at market rates. This virtually eliminates a major construction cost and provides major savings to taxpayers.

Sprint is obligated to remove a minimum average of 5,000 CY per month and must place the dirt outside of the 100-year floodplain. The contract lasts three years.

Sprint will excavate within the red line. If they move the total 500,000 cubic yards, they will more than double stormwater detention capacity on the site.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 3/6/2023

2015 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 1264 since Imelda

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.

New Woodridge Village Detention Basin Already 2nd Largest

As of January 30, 2023, Sprint Sand and Clay had excavated 80,360 Cubic Yards of dirt from a sixth Woodridge Village stormwater detention basin under an Excavation and Removal Contract with Harris County Flood Control District. Even though the new basin is not yet complete, it is already the second largest on the site.

Sprint’s $1,000 contract gives it the right to excavate up to 500,000 cubic yards and sell the dirt at market rates to make its money back. The purpose: to get a head start on construction of another basin that could eventually double Woodridge Village stormwater detention capacity so that it will exceed Atlas-14 requirements and create a safety margin to accommodate future development.

Reason for Project

Perry Homes sold the failed development to Harris County Flood Control District in 2021 after it contributed to the flooding of hundreds of homes in Elm Grove and North Kingwood Forest twice in 2019.

Excavation began in early 2022. By the end of that year, Sprint had removed 73,745 cubic yards of soil. January’s total means Sprint is about one-sixth of the way toward its goal.

The basin already holds a considerable amount of runoff as the pictures below show. The pictures were taken on 1/24/23 after a five-year rain (3.6 inches in two hours). That’s about half the volume that fell on May 7, 2019 when Woodridge Village first flooded Elm Grove and North Kingwood Forest. But at that time, only the long narrow detention basin on the lower right had been completed.

Looking NE across the main part of Woodridge. Basin in foreground is the one under construction.

Reverse angle, looking SW toward Woodland Hills Drive and Kingwood Park High School.

New Excavation Already Second Largest on Site

80,360 cubic yards equals 49.8 acre feet. Woodridge Village’s five original basins had the following capacity:

  • N1 = 13.2 acre feet
  • N2 = 154.7 acre feet
  • N3 = 42 acre feet
  • S1 = 18.6 acre feet
  • S2 = 42.5 acre feet
Original Detention Pond Capacity on Woodridge Village

That means the new basin already ranks as the second largest on the Woodridge Village site.

Only N2 has more capacity at the present. But eventually, the new basin could double its size.
All basins will eventually converge into the basin in left foreground above. From there, water exits into Taylor Gully.
Despite the 5-year rain that fell only hours before these photos, Taylor Gully never came close to overflowing on January 24th because of the controlled release rate.

More capacity will mean the site can safely handle much larger rainfalls.

Current detention pond capacity equals 271 acre feet. When complete, the new basin will add 309 acre feet, more than doubling the site’s stormwater detention capacity.

Funding and Next Steps

This is all part of a larger plan outlined in the preliminary engineering review for Taylor Gully that HCFCD shared with the public in December. The plan also calls for deepening a portion of Taylor Gully and replacing the twin-culvert bridge at Rustic Elms with an open-span bridge.

U.S. Representative Dan Crenshaw has already secured $1.6 million for Taylor Gully Improvements. The City of Houston also has secured a $10.1 million loan from the Texas Water Development Board to improve drainage in the Taylor Gully watershed.

Next up: final design of the improvements before construction can begin.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 1/31/23

1981 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 1230 since TS Imelda

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.

Royal Pines Floods Neighbor on Less Than 1″ of Rain … AGAIN

On October 28, Royal Pines flooded a neighbor on less than an inch of rain. Two months later, on December 29th, the same thing happened again. The video below provided by the homeowner shows the volume of water funneled across her property by the developer.

Video from NW corner of Royal Pines

This video and the previous one from October demonstrate the dangers of clearcutting and redirecting drainage without first constructing sufficient stormwater detention capacity.

Altering Landscape Accelerates Runoff Toward Homeowner

The homeowner who shot the video lives adjacent to the left border in the photo below. Royal Pines has apparently sloped its property toward that corner where contractors will eventually build a stormwater detention basin.

Looking N across Royal Pines. This and other photos below taken on 1/3/23.

Land now slopes toward where video was filmed at left corner. But that area used to slope in the opposite direction. See details below from the USGS NATIONAL MAP and the developer’s plans.

Green arrow on left shows location of homeowner’s property. Red X within V-shaped contour shows exact location of low point (graph on right) before clearing and grading the land.

There used to be an 8-foot drop east of the homeowner’s property. But now, instead of water flowing directly north to White Oak Creek, it flows northwest.

The general plan for Royal Pines (below) shows the same V-shape in the proposed detention basin (upper left). The line represents the edge of the floodplain and confirms that the developer A) knew about the slope and B) changed it.

Royal Pines
Royal Pines General Plan.

Silt Fence, Trench Ineffective Against That Much Water

The video above and the photos below show that silt fence makes a terrible dam against even small rains funneling toward a point from such a large area.

Exercise in futility. A series of silt fences have done little to catch and slow the water...or the silt. Note erosion deposited in woods.
Looking south. The developer apparently tried to divert runoff racing toward the homeowner with a trench. But erosion from the barren land rapidly filled it in.
Runoff also collects at the entrance to Royal Pines. Looking ENE from the entrance at the northern end of West Lake Houston Parkway.

Unfortunately, the developer plans to build homes there, not another detention basin.

0.88 Inches of Rain Fell in Two Hours

The graph below from the Harris County Flood Warning System shows that .88 inches of rain fell in the two afternoon hours before the homeowner shot the video.

Homeowner shot video after first two bars on left.

The table below shows that that much rain in two hours constitutes less than a 1-year rainfall event.

atlas 14 rainfall probabilities
Atlas 14 rainfall probabilities for this area.

That’s consistent with actual observed events and climate records. According to the National Weather Service, on average, we can expect rainfalls greater than 1 inch 14 times per year in Houston. That’s about once per month.

Woodridge Village Revisited

The Montgomery County Engineer’s Office has reportedly asked the developer’s engineering company to revise its plans. The homeowner says that according to the engineer’s office, not even a 6-7 foot tall berm around that portion of the property would be enough to stop all the water flowing in that direction.

So, what lessons can we learn from this example? As with Woodridge Village, don’t clear and grade this much land before constructing detention basins!

The first sentence of Section 11.086 of the Texas Water Code states that “No person may divert … the natural flow of surface waters in the state, or permit a diversion … to continue, in a manner that damages the property of another…”

Posted by Bob Rehak on 1/13/2023

1963 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.

Public Comment Period on Taylor Gully-Woodridge Village Plan Open to December 28

Last night, Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) revealed its long-awaited recommendations to reduce flood risk along Taylor Gully. The recommendations involve channel improvements, another Woodridge Village stormwater detention basin, and a new bridge at Rustling Elms.

HCFCD is seeking public comment on the plan through December 28, 2022.

Outline of Recommended Alternative

Excessive runoff from Woodridge flooded hundreds of homes in Elm Grove, North Kingwood Forest, and Mills Branch twice in 2019 after a developer clearcut 270 acres without sufficient mitigation.

To fix the problem, HCFCD examined four different alternatives outlined in this presentation, but recommended Option 1. It includes building:

  • A concrete-lined, low-flow channel within the existing channel to expand conveyance from 350 feet downstream of Creek Manor Drive to 1500 feet downstream of Mills Branch Drive. The concrete portion would be four feet deep and 20 feet wide.
  • An additional dry-bottom, 412.5 acre-foot detention basin on the northern portion of the site.
  • A new clear-span bridge at Rustling Elms to replace the current bridge over two culverts.
Four-foot-deep, 20-foot-wide concrete channel-in-a-channel (not drawn to scale) would expand conveyance without expanding current width of main channel.
Scope of recommended alternative. Does not show work on E&R contract already underway or replacement of Rustling Elms bridge. But those would be included.

The recommended alternative would not require any right-of-way acquisition. Translation: no buyouts required.

166% Increase In Stormwater Detention Capacity

Not shown in the diagram above is the stormwater detention basin that Sprint Sand and Gravel is currently working on. Under the terms of their excavation and removal contract with HCFCD, the contractor has up to three years to excavate 500,000 cubic yards. A spokesperson for HCFCD said, “We expect that they will excavate the full amount. The E&R area, like the existing Perry Homes basins, will eventually connect to or become part of the Woodridge detention-basin network to complement the recommended alternative.”

Five hundred thousand cubic yards equals 309 acre feet. With the new pond, that would add 721 acre-feet of stormwater detention to the existing site. The site currently has 271 acre feet of detention. So, the detention volume would increase 166%. It only needed to increase 40% to meet Atlas-14 requirements. Net: the recommended fix should create a considerable margin of safety.

Not Included in Recommendations

The plan does NOT include any improvements near White Oak Creek at the downstream end of Taylor Gully. HCFCD determined that flooding at that end of the channel was caused by backup from White Oak and Caney Creeks.

Area circled in red floods from water backing up from White Oak Creek, not Taylor Gully.

However, discussion during the meeting suggested that the recommended detention basins further upstream on Taylor Gully could help that area to a minor degree. The plan primarily addresses flooding along and either side of the channel highlighted above to the left of the red circle.

Bridge Replacement

Because of the concrete-lined, low-flow channel conveyance improvements that are a part of the recommended alternative, the existing culverts at Rustling Elms Drive (below) would need to be replaced. See below. An open-span bridge like the one in the background would likely replace it. The current bridge built over culverts (below) backed water up considerably during the 2019 floods and contributed to flooding homes for several blocks on either side of it.

Rustic Elms Bridge on Taylor Gully
The bridge at Rustling Elms (foreground) caused backups after Woodridge was clearcut. This would be replaced.

Comparison of Alternatives

HCFCD recommended Alternative #1 because it removes the most structures, acres and roadway from the floodplain for the second lowest cost. Compare the alternatives below. For a fuller description of each alternative, including those not recommended, see the complete presentation.

Alternative #1 is recommended.

What Comes Next?

The sequence below outlines project steps. We are currently discussing the preliminary engineering phase. After public comments have been incorporated in that report, HCFCD will deliver it to commissioner’s court and begin final design.

After close of public comments, they will be incorporated into plan transmitted to Commissioners Court.

Then, the final design will begin for all improvements. Once complete, the final design will dictate final costs and timing.

To View Video of Meeting and Comment…

HCFCD wants your input. To review the hour-long video of the meeting and/or submit a public comment, see this page (F-14 Taylor Gully Flood Risk Reduction Project).

Review the entire presentation here.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 12/15/22

1934 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Save the Date: HCFCD Releases Details of Taylor Gully Meeting

On Dec. 2, I printed a story about an upcoming virtual community meeting on Taylor Gully. At the time, Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) had not yet released details yet on how to attend. They have now. See their press release below. Please share it with family, friends and neighbors if you live anywhere along Taylor Gully. That includes parts of Sherwood Trails, all of Elm Grove, all of North Kingwood Forest, parts of Mills Branch, Woodstream Forest, and even parts of Porter in Montgomery County. Yes, plans will affect Porter also.

Map of Project

Map of project from HCFCD.org

Virtual Community Engagement Meeting for the
Taylor Gully Flood Risk Reduction Project

HCFCD PROJECT G103-80-03.1-E001


The Harris County Flood Control District will hold a community engagement meeting for the Taylor Gully Flood Risk Reduction Project. The purpose of this meeting is to inform residents about the project’s status, share project information and gather important community input on this effort.

The Taylor Gully Flood Risk Reduction Project focuses on improvements to Taylor Gully and the mitigation required to build the project. This project will be partly funded through the 2018 Bond Program, which was approved by Harris County voters on August 25, 2018. Community engagement is a foundational component of the Bond Program, and we invite your participation and input as projects are implemented.

Register Now

The virtual community engagement meeting will be held on:

December 14, 2022, 6:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. 

Join online at: PublicInput.com/taylor

Or by phone* at 855-925-2801 with Meeting Code: 3364

The meeting will begin with a brief presentation to share project updates, followed by a moderated Q&A session with Flood Control District team members. Residents will be able to submit questions, comments and input before, during and after the meeting, which will be considered during project development. Any comments not addressed during the Q&A session will receive a response at the conclusion of the public comment period.

Even if you are unable to attend the live meeting, residents are encouraged to register for the meeting to receive future project updates. A recorded version of the meeting will be available on the Flood Control District’s website and YouTube channel after the event. Meeting accommodations can be made for those with disabilities. If needed, please contact 346-286-4040 at least three business days prior to the meeting. For questions, please contact the Flood Control District at 346-286-4000, or fill out the comment form online at hcfcd.org/taylor.

Esta reunión de participación comunitaria se llevará a cabo en inglés; sin embargo, el Flood Control District proporcionará intérpretes de idiomas y materiales traducidos a pedido. En caso de necesidad, comuníquese al 346-286-4040 al menos tres días hábiles antes de la reunión.

*If you attend by phone only, maps and other exhibits will not be visible. However, information will be available after the meeting on the project webpage at hcfcd.org/taylor.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 12/8/2022 based on a press release from HCFCD

1927 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 1176 since Imelda

Taylor Gully-Woodridge Village Meeting Scheduled for Dec. 14

The Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) has scheduled a community meeting to reveal the results of an engineering study of the Taylor Gully watershed and Woodridge Village, the aborted development that flooded Elm Grove and North Kingwood Forest twice in 2019. The virtual meeting will be on:

  • December 14, 2022
  • 6:30 PM – 7:30 PM

Two Related Efforts

Because Woodridge Village sits at the headwaters of Taylor Gully, the volume of stormwater detention upstream and the amount of conveyance needed downstream are related. More of one could mean less of the other. HCFCD has been working to find the optimum solution, which should be discussed at the meeting.

Areas of Concern Identified by Community Members

Community members previously expressed concerns, including:

  • Bringing stormwater detention capacity on the Woodridge Village site up to Atlas-14 standards.
  • Straightening a Taylor Gully oxbow adjacent to Woodstream Forest where numerous homes flooded.
  • Replacing the old culvert-style bridge on Rustic Elms with an open-span bridge.
Rustic Elms Bridge on Taylor Gully
The Rustic Elms Bridge on Taylor Gully has a twin-culvert design with less conveyance than more open bridges like the one at West Lake Houston Parkway farther downstream in this image. Nearly every home behind this bridge on adjacent streets flooded in 2019.

Hundreds of homes adjacent to Woodridge Village and Taylor Gully flooded twice in 2019 after a developer clearcut approximately 270 acres before building required stormwater detention basins.

The developer then sold the troubled project to HCFCD in March 2021 after building 271 acre feet of stormwater detention capacity – an amount sufficient to meet Montgomery County’s pre-Atlas-14 standards, which were in effect at the time of permitting.

Taylor Gully One of Top Two Priorities in Kingwood Area

The Kingwood-Area Drainage Analysis from October 2020 recommended Taylor Gully as one of the top two priorities for Kingwood. However, HCFCD also recommended the Taylor Gully project be re-analyzed to determine how the use of Woodridge Village for detention could modify the recommended plan.

Here is the scope of work for the engineering company that worked on the Taylor Gully-Woodridge Village project.

42 More Acre Feet Removed to Date from Woodridge Village

In March 2021, Harris County and the City of Houston purchased the Woodridge Village property. They then started an Excavation and Removal Contract with Sprint Sand and Clay in January 2022 that could ultimately double the volume of stormwater detention on Woodridge Village.

Since February 2022, Sprint Sand & Clay has removed an average of more than 1,700 cubic feet of dirt each week from Woodridge. That’s roughly one acre foot per week. An acre foot equals 1613.33 cubic yards of material.

So, HCFCD has increased detention capacity by almost 42 acre feet since signing the contract with Sprint. That means detention capacity has already increased by about 16 percent, not quite half of what it needs to meet new Atlas-14 requirements.

Stats from HCFCD show cubic feet of dirt removed from Woodridge Village by Sprint Sand & Clay each week since start of E&R contract.

Pictures Showing Woodridge Village Status

Here are some pictures that show the extent of excavation on November 26, 2022.

Looking NE along Harris/Montgomery county line (tree line on right).
Close-up shot of active work area.
Looking S toward Sherwood Trails Village

Excavation and removal contracts give HCFCD a head start on construction of stormwater detention basins. The final dimensions may not be known yet, but HCFCD can make adjustments as it finalizes construction plans.

We should learn more about those on December 14th. Block out the date for the Taylor Gully, Woodridge Village meeting.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 12/2/2022

1921 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Royal Pines Clearcutting Floods Neighbor on Less Than 1″ of Rain

As proof of how dangerous clearcutting without sufficient mitigation can be, the controversial Royal Pines development has flooded a neighbor on a rain that was less than 1″ – even as the Lake Houston area flirts with drought.

Royal Pines sits at the northern end of West Lake Houston Parkway in Montgomery County. Looking SE from NW corner on 10.31.22.

The circumstances are similar to those of a nearby development – Woodridge Village. There, clearcutting flooded Elm Grove Village and North Kingwood Forest twice in 2019. Without sufficient detention basins, sheet flow from approximately 268 acres swept through hundreds of homes. But those incidents weren’t during a drought. And the rainfalls were much heavier.

Less than an Inch of Rain

In this case, the rain fell on October 28, 2022. Harris County’s Flood Warning System recorded a peak of .72 inches of rain in an hour at the nearest gage. To put that in perspective, .72 inches is so slight that it would have had to have fallen in five minutes to qualify as a five-year rain or ten minutes to qualify as a one-year rain.

atlas 14 rainfall probabilities
NOAA’s Atlas 14 rainfall probabilities

However, the rain was spread out over about a half hour.

From Harris County Flood Warning System for West Lake Houston Parkway gage on 10/28/22.

And the soils were not saturated either. The Lake Houston Area has been in drought for much of the year. As of 11/5/22, the US Drought Monitor rated this area “abnormally dry.”

From US Drought Monitor

During the entire month before October 28, the area had received only a little more than a half inch of rain.

From Harris County Flood Warning System for month before rain in question.

Sloping Land Toward Neighbor’s House

The flooding occurred in the northwest corner of the new development. From pictures and emails supplied by the neighbor, aerial photos taken during the last several months, elevation profiles obtained from the USGS national map, and construction plans obtained via a FOIA Request, I’ve been able to piece together the following. It appears that:

  • Montgomery County asked the developer to revise its plans for a detention basin.
  • Before approval of the revisions, contractors clearcut 200+ acres.
  • Contractors filled in a natural depression that channeled runoff toward White Oak Creek and sloped the development toward the neighbor’s home.
  • Runoff from the .72-inch rain rushed toward the northwest corner of the development.
  • Silt fences funneled most of the runoff toward the corner, where it broke through the fence.
  • Runoff also seeped under the fence.
  • The runoff washed sediment across the back of the neighbor’s property toward White Oak Creek.

See the YouTube video below.

Video shot by resident on 10/28/22
Sloping mudline on silt fence shows how land had been angled toward this corner. The lower elevation used to be to the right. See discussion below.
Water and muck running onto neighbor’s property through break in corner. Water also ran underneath silt fence.
Aerial photo taken five days later on 11/2/22. Notice all the muck still in the corner and the silt deposited in the woods.

The neighbor’s property extends on a straight line beyond the left fence. Water flowed from bottom of frame toward corner.

Wider shot taken after the rain on 11.2.22 shows contractor tried to fill in trench eroded by runoff.
On 11.5.22, contractors repaired the silt fence and installed additional silt fences to slow and block runoff.

Luckily, the neighbor’s house did not flood. But a heavier rain might have flooded it.

Development Now Slopes Toward Neighbor Instead of Away

The USGS National Map shows that this area used to slope AWAY from their property, NOT TOWARD it.

Left side of image shows contour (brown line) from USGS National Map before land was cleared. Right side shows area east of the resident’s home used to slope down more than 7 feet in about 250 feet.

In this area water flows from the bottom of the frame toward the top where White Oak Creek is. Comparing the contours on the left above and depression on the right with the direction the water actually travelled confirm that contractors altered the slope of the land.

Yet Chapter 11.086 of the Texas Water Code begins “No person way divert … the natural flow of surface waters in this state, or permit a diversion … that damages the property of another …”

Missing Detention Basin

Construction plans show that the developer was supposed to have built a detention basin in the corner that flooded.

Royal Pines
Royal Pines construction plan shows detention basin in northwest corner. Also note same contour shown on USGS map above.

However, the Montgomery County Engineer’s Office has reportedly asked for changes to the design of the detention basin. A sound business practice would have been to avoid clearcutting that area until the basin could have been excavated immediately.

Montgomery County does not require the approval of construction plans before clearcutting. This story shows why that should change. Delays expose people to more flood risk.

Normally, October is the second rainiest month in Houston. We average 5.46 inches.

Clearly, the flooding shown in the pictures below could have been much worse in a normal year.

Let’s hope they get that stormwater detention basin built before heavier rains return! And let’s also hope that other contractors learn this clearcutting lesson.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 11/6/2022

1895 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.

Woodridge Village Excavation, Taylor Gully Updates

Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) says that, as of 10/31/22, Sprint Sand and Clay has hauled off 66,094 cubic yards of dirt from Woodridge Village. That means, despite the slowing real estate market, that the company has exceeded its Excavation and Removal contract minimum within nine months of the first year.

Objective of Excavation

The objective of the contract: to get a head start on the removal of up to 500,000 cubic yards of dirt from what will eventually become the sixth stormwater detention basin on the Woodridge Village property. Woodridge forms the headwaters of Taylor Gully.

The Woodridge property flooded up to 600 homes in Elm Grove and North Kingwood Forest twice in 2019. That happened after the a developer clearcut the property before installing sufficient stormwater detention capacity.

Since then:

Community Meeting Will Reveal Findings of Engineering Study

HCFCD is now planning a community meeting to share the results with affected residents before the end of the year.

It’s not clear yet exactly:

  • How much additional detention Woodridge will need
  • How much channel widening Taylor Gully will need
  • Whether any bridges need to be replaced
  • How upstream improvements will affect residents farther downstream.

The preliminary engineering report should address all those questions.

Photos from September and October

In the meantime, a parade of dump trucks visits the Woodridge site most days to haul off dirt from where the sixth basin will go. The sixth basin could double stormwater detention capacity on the site – if Sprint excavates all 500,000 CY.

As of mid-September 2022, Sprint Sand and Clay had removed 57,785 cubic yards (CY). Currently, they have removed a total of 66,094 CY. That means they removed 8,309 CY in the last 6 weeks. And that in turn means the current monthly rate is about 5500 CY.

Sprint’s contract calls for them to remove a minimum of 60,000 cubic yards per year or 5,000 per month.

The September and October pictures below show how far Sprint has come in the last six weeks.

Woodridge Village E&R contract progress end of September 2022
End of September 2022
End of October. Sprint has not gone much farther, but they have gone deeper.

See pictures taken below from the reverse angle. The majority of the work now takes place at the far end.

Extent of excavation on September 24.
End of October 2022.

Groundwater appears to be seeping into excavated areas.

HCFCD did not confirm WHY Sprint appears to be digging shallower. Amy Stone, a HCFCD spokesperson, did say however that the site contains multiple types of soil. The volume removed in a particular location may relate to demand for a particular type.

More news about the community meeting and study findings when it becomes available.

Posted by Bob Rehak on November 1, 2022

1890 Days since Hurricane Harvey

New Woodridge Village Detention Basin About 12% Excavated, Engineering Study Almost Done

A new Woodridge Village Stormwater Detention Basin that could almost double detention capacity on the site continues to move forward slowly as housing starts slow. The trend at Woodridge seems consistent with other excavation and removal (E&R) contracts countywide.

Meanwhile, the first draft of a preliminary engineering study for the Woodridge site and Taylor Gully is complete and going through management review at Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD).

Status of E&R Contract on Woodridge Village Site

As of mid-September 2022, Sprint Sand and Clay had removed 57,785 cubic yards of dirt from a planned detention basin on the Woodridge Village property in Montgomery County. Sprint is working under an E&R contract with HCFCD. The contract calls for them to remove up to 500,000 cubic yards at a minimum of 60,000 cubic yards per year or 5,000 per month.

Looking NE across new basin. Last month, it extended as far as the middle of the far pile of concrete pipes on the right.

So the company, which began work in February, has virtually met its first year minimum after eight months. However, the rate has slowed somewhat in recent weeks as housing starts have slowed due to a rise in interest rates. In the last four weeks for which totals are available (8/22/22 – 9/18/22), Sprint has removed only 3,045 cubic yards. To date, that brings the total excavated to 12% of the contract max.

Housing starts in the South have been especially hard hit. According to the Census Bureau, starts in August fell 13.5% compared to July and 15.4% compared to a year ago. That depresses demand for fill dirt and makes it harder for Sprint to find buyers for it.

Under the terms of its HCFCD E&R contract, Sprint gets only $1,000 for removing up to 500,000 cubic yards, but has the right to resell all the dirt at market rates. That’s how it makes its profit.

Woodridge Vs. Countywide Data

To see whether Woodridge was an anomaly or part of a trend countywide, I asked HCFCD to show readers the bigger picture. Alan Black, Deputy Director of Engineering and Construction supplied the data below. The chart shows the trend in all HCFCD E&R contracts countywide going back 10 years.

Source: HCFCD via FOIA Request

All data is open to interpretation. But I see three main “regions” in the chart above.

  • The first is pre-flood bond – before August 2018. With the exception of a few blips, excavation remained below 5,000 cubic yards per month. That’s roughly equal to the average being removed from Woodridge Village each month.
  • The second is a huge spike that occurred after flood-bond approval. it peaked at almost 35,000 cubic yards per month as HCFCD readied engineering studies on more than 180 projects countywide.
  • Third, HCFCD had a sharp falloff at the start of the pandemic in January 2020. After things stabilized, we see a gradual rebuilding. It coincides with a housing boom and is followed by another gradual drop-off. The latter coincides with rising interest rates and falling housing starts.

Regardless, the trend in the last few months does not bode well for those concerned about finishing the new Woodridge Stormwater Detention Basin quickly.

Looking W. The new Woodridge Village stormwater detention basin at the top of the frame could eventually fill most of the area between the road on the left and the ditch on the right.

Status of Preliminary Engineering Study on Taylor Gully

We should remember, however, that HCFCD always intended the Woodridge E&R contract as a head start on excavation while IDCUS finished its preliminary engineering study on Taylor Gully and Woodridge Village. The study began in mid-2021. IDCUS had 300 days to complete it.

IDCUS submitted the first draft of its results several months ago.

Amy Stone, HCFCD spokesperson

Since then, HCFCD staff has reviewed it and asked IDCUS to take a closer look at some areas, said Stone. At this point, the revised draft is working its way up to HCFCD top management for final review and comment. HCFCD has started preparing a presentation for all those affected in the area and exploring the best dates for a community input session.

Assuming HCFCD management doesn’t ask IDCUS for more revisions, we should know recommendations and next steps this fall. Following a public comment period, more changes may need to be made to engineering plans before design and construction start.

Folks who flooded in Elm Grove and North Kingwood Forest as well as others farther downstream in Mills Branch and Woodstream Village eagerly await the findings. More news when it becomes available.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 9/30/2022

1859 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Imelda’s Third Anniversary Brings Clearcutting into Focus

Today is the third anniversary of the day Tropical Storm Imelda flooded approximately 600 homes in Elm Grove and North Kingwood Forest. A major contributing factor: clearcutting 268 acres immediately upstream. Here are several pictures and videos that people sent me.

Looking NW at Woodridge Village days before Imelda. During the storm, water flowed toward the circle, bottom right, with little to slow it down. Overflow went into surrounding streets. See video below taken from ground level.
September 19, 2019. Sheet flow from the Woodridge Village development flows down Village Springs in Elm Grove.
Family evacuating through North Kingwood Forest.
Car submerged during Imelda at the end of Village Springs adjacent to Woodridge.
People living in campers while restoring their homes from the May 7, 2019 flood were flooded again.
Security cam time lapse footage in Elm Grove on east side of Taylor Gully.
Depth of flood in Elm Grove was about two feet at this house.
Elm Grove debris pile after Imelda flood.
Abel Versa had to grab his car to avoid slipping in ankle-deep muck on Village Springs.
The bridge over Taylor Gully at Rustling Elms in Elm Grove caught debris flowing downstream.

Before the clearcutting, these areas had not flooded – even during Hurricane Harvey.

Lessons Lost

Lawsuits against the Woodridge Village developer and its contractors quickly followed. And flood victims won a major settlement. But the clearcutting lessons learned in court seem to be lost on other developers.

Lately, it seems that developers all around northern Harris, southern Montgomery, and Liberty Counties have employed clearcutting.

These represent just a few of the clearcutting stories I’ve covered in the last few months. So far, they’ve been lucky. We haven’t had any tropical storms like Imelda.

But still, risk remains. You’d think developers would hedge that risk by leaving some trees. They reduce erosion. Suck up rainwater. Slow down runoff. And filter water that may overflow detention basins.

But it’s their property. And your problem if we get another Imelda.

Posted by Bob Rehak on September 19, 2022

1847 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 3 years since Imelda