Sad News

A Beaver Has Died

Boy Scouts Documenting Wildlife on Buffalo Bayou Make Unexpected Find

February 2, 2016

 

A beaver dead of unknown causes on the sandy bank of Buffalo Bayou just east of Loop 610. Photo taken Jan. 30, 2016

A beaver dead of unknown causes on the sandy bank of Buffalo Bayou just east of Loop 610. Tool in front of nose for scale is four inches long. Photo taken  Jan. 30, 2016

A group of Boy Scouts researching wildlife on Buffalo Bayou came across a sad scene on a sandy bank opposite the Arboretum last Saturday, Jan. 30.

Paul Hung is a fifteen-year-old Boy Scout from Bellaire who is working with Save Buffalo Bayou on a project to inventory the wildlife on the 18,000-year-old bayou as it flows past the Arboretum, Memorial Park, and the Hogg Bird Sanctuary. The project is Paul’s Eagle Scout Service project, and he had organized a group of six Boy Scouts with Troop 55, Sam Houston Area Council, to float down the bayou looking for and photographing wildlife tracks on the sandy banks. Paul had carefully organized his float trip, checking first to see that the water level was low enough to see the banks, and accompanied by several adults, the group put in at the recently re-opened boat launch in Memorial Park at Woodway west of Loop 610, a wooded area known as the Old Archery Range.

Boy scouts and guides putting in at the Memorial Park Woodway boat launch Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016

Boy scouts and guides putting in at the Memorial Park Woodway boat launch Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016

The group floated round a bend and another, passing under the West Loop 610 bridge, working in pairs in canoes to identify and photograph tracks and record their locations. But on a sandy south bank below a high-rise parking lot, the group encountered something surprising: the corpse of what appeared to be an otherwise healthy beaver.

According to witnesses, the deceased beaver showed no signs of trauma and there were no tracks surrounding the beaver’s final resting place in the sand, which was near an area of willows known for beaver activity.

Deceased beaver on Buffalo Bayou. Photo by Paul Hung, Jan. 30, 2016

Deceased beaver on Buffalo Bayou. Photo by Paul Hung, Jan. 30, 2016

Otherwise, he and his fellow scouts had a “great trip,” reports Paul. They saw an “amazing” amount of wildlife.

“I was surprised by how many animal tracks we found on the Bayou,” he writes in an email.  “My partner and I alone found over 30 tracks. We saw Great Blue Heron, Coyote, Turtle, Raccoon, Beaver, and Great White Egret evidence.

“This gives us a better appreciation of the Bayou, because it is right in the middle of Houston. This is the first of many expeditions on the Bayou. It will take 6 to 8 months to complete [the wildlife inventory], and I hope this will be helpful for Bayou education.”

Save Buffalo Bayou and Paul plan to publish the results of his Eagle Scout Service project as a pamphlet in order to educate the public about the abundance of wildlife living on Buffalo Bayou.

 

 

 

 

Woodway Not-a-Boat-Launch Now a Boat Launch Again

Maybe the Best Boat Launch on the Bayou

Jan. 20, 2016

Yes, the boat launch in Memorial Park on Woodway at 610 Loop is finally open, and it’s maybe the best boat launch on Buffalo Bayou in the entire city.

This official Texas Parks and Wildlife Paddling Trail access to the river has been closed for more than three years while the City of Houston Parks Department and the Galleria-area Uptown TIRZ razed the forest and put in a huge drainage outfall for stormwater runoff from Post Oak Road. They used our public parkland, even denying for a time that the boat launch was a boat launch, and according to some legal experts, under state law they probably should have given notice and had a Chapter 26 hearing to change the use of our parkland like that.

But the City rarely holds such legally required hearings when it comes to our public parkland.

Read the rest of this story.

 

The not-quite-finished entrance from the rebuilt parking lot to the boat launch recently reopened in Memorial Park on Buffalo Bayou at Woodway. Photo taken Jan. 20, 2016

The not-quite-finished entrance from the rebuilt parking lot to the boat launch recently reopened in Memorial Park on Buffalo Bayou at Woodway. Photo taken Jan. 19, 2016

What’s Going on With the Memorial Park Demonstration Project?

The permit is still under evaluation.

[SBB Note: The “erosion control” methods to be demonstrated in Memorial Park have already failed in Buffalo Bayou Park and Fonteno Park.]

By Dianna Wray,  Houston Press, Jan. 4, 2016

The Memorial Park Demonstration project has been a point of contention since the plan was first proposed back in 2013. Since then there have been strident public disagreements and arguments over how the bayou should be handled — or if it should be altered at all — but the ultimate decision on whether to approve the project has been in the hands of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. And so far, even though it’s been more than two years, the Corps has yet to actually choose whether to approve a permit that will give Harris County Flood Control the right to alter one of the last natural stretches of Buffalo Bayou running through the city.

At this point, we’re starting to wonder if the Corps is ever going to make a decision at all.

“The permit is still under evaluation. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Galveston District staff is working to finalize a decision in the coming months,” Dwayne Johnson, regulatory project manager for the Galveston District office of the Corps, stated in reply to our inquiries about where things are in the permit process.

Read the rest of this story in the Houston Press.

Cut Fill Map

A Bend in the River

Photographs of Buffalo Bayou through the Seasons

Dec. 23, 2015

These lovely photographs document the changes in the seasons on Buffalo Bayou, and in the dynamic river itself. Taken (with one exception) by Houston photographer Jim Olive, they were shot from the same high bank in Memorial Park looking downstream with the River Oaks Country Club on the right. This bend in the bayou is in the stretch proposed for destruction and “restoration” by the Harris County Flood Control District and the Bayou Preservation Association, with the support of the Memorial Park Conservancy and the City of Houston.

  • This first summer photo was taken by Susan Chadwick in July 2014. Proponents of Flood Control's destruction/restoration project claimed there was no overhanging tree canopy in the area.
  • Late fall at sunrise from the same bend of Buffalo Bayou. Taken on Dec. 9, 2014, by Jim Olive from Memorial Park looking downstream.
  • Early spring on Buffalo Bayou at high water. Photo by Jim Olive on March 25, 2015.
  • Summertime view of the same bend in Buffalo Bayou from Memorial Park on August 1, 2015. Photo at low water (base flow) by Jim Olive.
  • Looking at Buffalo Bayou from Memorial Park from the same high bluff on Nov. 24, 2015. Photo by Jim Olive.
  • Sun rising over a bend of Buffalo Bayou at low water on Dec. 10, 2015. Photo taken by Jim Olive from a high bluff in Memorial Park looking downstream with the River Oaks Country Club on the right.

Why Mowing Grass on Streambanks Is Bad

Grass Cut Short Can’t Grow Long Roots, and Long Roots Protect Against Erosion

Dec. 20, 2015

Short roots can’t hold the soil in place, let alone do their job of feeding soil microorganisms, creating a sponge to hold water, and pulling carbon from the air deep, deep into the soil where it can be sequestered.

This article from On Pasture magazine explains it all, with great photos of amazing grass roots. Though it’s written about grazing, the facts are true for mowing grass along our bayous and streams. Yes, even in parks.

Great “Grass Farmers” Grow Roots

By   /  November 9, 2015  /  5 Comments

- See more at: http://onpasture.com/2015/11/09/great-grass-farmers-grow-roots/#!prettyPhoto

Great “Grass Farmers” Grow Roots

Graphic from On Pasture magazine.

Graphic from On Pasture magazine.

By Kathy Voth. On Pasture, Nov. 9, 2015

If you go to enough workshops about grazing, you’re bound to see an illustration that shows how biting off the tops of plants impacts their roots, and how if you graze short enough the plants won’t have enough roots to rebound and produce more leafy material.

Read the rest of this article in On Pasture.

If you go to enough workshops about grazing, you’re bound to see an illustration that shows how biting off the tops of plants impacts their roots, and how if you graze short enough, the plant won’t have enough roots to rebound and produce more leafy material. In fact, if you’ve been with us at On Pasture for any length of time, you’ll have seen a version of that illustration. It looks like this: – See more at: http://onpasture.com/2015/11/09/great-grass-farmers-grow-roots/#!prettyPhoto
short roots can’t hold the soil in place, let alone do their job of feeding soil microorganisms, creating a sponge to hold water, and pulling carbon from the air deep, deep into the soil where it can be sequestered. – See more at: http://onpasture.com/2015/11/09/great-grass-farmers-grow-roots/#sthash.jQYZ3qFB.dpuf
short roots can’t hold the soil in place, let alone do their job of feeding soil microorganisms, creating a sponge to hold water, and pulling carbon from the air deep, deep into the soil where it can be sequestered. – See more at: http://onpasture.com/2015/11/09/great-grass-farmers-grow-roots/#sthash.jQYZ3qFB.dpuf

The Waters of Our Lives

The fight for Texas’ prairie wetlands

They’re crucial to our water quality and flood control. But we’re losing them fast.

 Save Buffalo Bayou Note: Riparian areas, the trees and plants and soil along our bayous and streams, serve the same function as wetlands.

To Texas developers, a coastal prairie wetland looks like profit waiting to be made: The expanses of grassland are easily bulldozed, easily platted and paved. So it’s no wonder that they’re disappearing quickly: According to a report from Texas A&M University, of the Texas coastal prairie wetlands that existed in Harris County in 1992, more than 30 percent have been lost.

If you’ve lived in the Houston area awhile, you know what that means: The more we develop, the more we flood. Our wetlands serve as natural detention basins, absorbing and holding stormwater that would otherwise rush through our houses and streets.

And that’s not all that those wetlands do. While wetland plants and soil retain that water, they also filter it, cleaning it before releasing it. They keep Galveston Bay healthy and fishable, and provide major habitat for the migratory birds that crisscross our area. The more scientists study Texas’ coastal wetlands, the more important we realize they are.

Read the rest of this article in The Houston Chronicle.

John Jacob is board chair of Galveston Baykeeper. Jen Powis is a Galveston Baykeeper board member and an environmental attorney.

 

What Do The Candidates Think?

We Asked Them

Yellow-crowned Night Heron by Frank X. Tolbert 2.

Yellow-crowned Night Heron by Frank X. Tolbert 2.

Election is Saturday, Dec. 12, 2015

Dec. 10, 2015

What do the candidates think about spending $4 million in public funds to destroy and “restore” one of the last natural stretches of Buffalo Bayou in Houston?

What do the candidates think now in light of the failing banks of Buffalo Bayou Park downstream, a signature $53.5 million project long touted by the Harris County Flood Control District and that park’s landscape designer SWA Group as a model for what should be done upstream in Memorial Park?

We asked them. And if they did not respond to our email, we called them today (Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015) to make sure that they received the email and asked again for a response.

The runoff election is Saturday, Dec. 12. Here are the responses we received. Maybe their answers or non-answers will help you decide how to vote.

Read the rest of this post.

Valuable Insight About Stormwater Pollution of Our Bayous

Houston Gets a C- for Flood Control and Storm Drainage

November 19, 2015 Updated: November 20, 2015 9:38am

Last month, more than 2 million gallons of raw sewage overflowed across Houston, the result of Halloween weekend rains swamping the sewage system.

The sheer volume of stormwater transmitted by roads and parking lots into sewers overwhelmed the capacity of the system and sewage was released to nearby bayous and ultimately to Galveston Bay.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t an isolated incident – there are more than 40,000 sewer overflows every year in the United States. These events, along with other pollution picked up by stormwater, contribute to 80 percent of the major waterways in Greater Houston not being safe for swimming or fishing.

In addition to bacteria and pathogens, stormwater carries litter, heavy metals and construction debris into our waterways. In its 2015 Galveston Bay Report Card, the Galveston Bay Foundation gave the Bay a “D” for overall pollution and identified stormwater-carried litter and spilled motor oil as threats to its overall health.

Read the rest of the story in the Houston Chronicle.

Raw sewage bubbling up through storm drain in downtown Houston during Halloween weekend 2015. Photo KHOU/USA Today.

Raw sewage bubbling up through storm drain in downtown Houston during Halloween weekend 2015. Photo KHOU/USA Today.

Buffalo Bayou Doesn’t Like Sidewalks, It Seems

Buffalo Bayou Park Was Supposed to Be More Stable

Nov. 16, 2015

Updated Nov. 17, 2015

Well, we can’t help but wonder if constantly scraping and repairing the sidewalks, forever reinforcing the collapsing banks somehow, and repeatedly replacing the trees and landscaping is fully covered by the $2 million annual maintenance budget for Buffalo Bayou Park paid by Houston city taxpayers.

The popular, much praised, and much needed park on the banks of the bayou between Allen Parkway and Memorial Drive is suffering from some serious erosion problems. And that matters to us not just because of the expense and waste. This $53.5 million project, a boon to adjacent property owners and those who live and work nearby, was touted as a successful example of what the Harris County Flood Control District, egged on by the Bayou Preservation Association, wants to do to our healthy, historic wild bayou further upstream in and around Memorial Park. Buffalo Bayou Park was supposed to be more stable! The flood control district calls it Natural Stable Channel Design, but it always looked to us like they were doing everything you’re not supposed to do on the banks of streams: dig up the banks, run heavy equipment over the banks, remove the trees and vegetation (yes, they did a lot of that), build concrete and asphalt sidewalks on the banks, plant grass and mow it.

Let’s Work With Nature, Not Against It

Once you’ve done all that, and the banks and channel start falling apart, it’s pretty difficult to fix it. Best to let the bayou do what it will do anyway. (And eventually the bayou will rebuild and replant it all.) But it seems unlikely that the City and the Buffalo Bayou Partnership are going to sit back and patiently let millions of dollars worth of sidewalks, lamps, and bridges collapse into the bayou. Can they stop it? Time will tell.

In the meantime, it does make one wonder about all those concrete trails they are carving out of the banks and floodplains of the bayous for the Bayou Greenways project. A nice idea, but is that going to work?

Here’s what we’re talking about. What this slide show of photos of Buffalo Bayou Park between Shepherd and Montrose taken on Nov. 15, 2015.

  • Deposition, erosion on north bank and never-ending drainage project on south bank at Shepherd Drive. There were trees here once.
  • Slumping in south bank downstream from Shepherd.
  • Lone cottonwood still standing on south bank after parts of it were downed last winter.
  • Slumping south bank near Dunlavy threatening sidewalk.
  • Sidewalk threatened on north bank.
  • Detail of sidewalk about to collapse on north bank.
  • The boat launch at the Dunlavy on the south bank.
  • Another section of sidewalk about to collapse on the north bank.
  • Jogger on another section of sidewalk threatened by collapsing bank on north side of the park.
  • Collapsing south bank east of the Dunlavy.
  • Collapsing south bank threatening sidewalk east of the Dunlavy.
  • Vegetation destroyed and bank covered with sediment on north side of park.
  • Bank collapse threatening to take out sidewalk on south side of park just west of Rosemont Bridge.
  • Deposition on south bank of Buffalo Bayou in the park near Montrose.
  • Sediment collected on north bank of the park, possibly scraped from sidewalks.
  • Sediment on south bank scraped out of the dog park.
  • Deposition and erosion on north bank near Montrose.
  • Looking upstream at sunset west of the Rosemont Bridge.
  • North bank of Buffalo Bayou in Buffalo Bayou Park moving upstream towards Dunlavy.
  • Collapsing bank threatening sidewalk on south bank west of Montrose.
  • Runner gazing into same bank collapse on south bank of the bayou.
  • The upstream section of the same collapsing bank on the south bank moving upstream towards the Dunlavy.

Fighting For Our Public Forests on Buffalo Bayou

On the Radio

Forests Work for Us

Oct. 28, 2015

Listen to Susan Chadwick of Save Buffalo Bayou and Landrum Wise of Save Our Forest talk about community campaigns to protect public forest along some twelve miles of Buffalo Bayou in Houston.

They spoke with Pat Greer and H.C. Clark on Eco-Ology on KPFT 90.1 Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2015, about efforts to keep the City of Houston and the Harris County Flood Control District from destroying woodlands on Buffalo Bayou in Memorial Park in the center of Houston and in Terry Hershey Park in far west Houston.

In addition to their great social value and benefit to our health, well-being, and quality of life, the trees and vegetation that grow naturally along the bayou perform vital ecological services and are a key part of the bayou’s living system. Known as riparian zones or buffers, these specially adapted trees and plants cleanse and filter pollutants from the water. They protect the banks from erosion, absorb and slow storm water runoff and provide natural flood detention. They shade us and cool the stream, and provide wildlife habitat.

Legally Required to Conserve Harris County Forests

The Harris County Flood Control District, according to its 1937 charter, is charged by state law with conserving forests in the county. But for decades the district has been razing forests to build storm water detention basins on our bayous, creeks, tributaries, and elsewhere, and to re-engineer channels and banks. Detention basins are used to hold or slow temporarily surface runoff or high flows in a stream during storms.

The flood control district’s project on Buffalo Bayou in Memorial Park, known as the Memorial Park Demonstration Project, would raze some 80 percent of the trees and vegetation along more than 1.25 miles of the bayou and its tributaries in Memorial Park and the Hogg Bird Sanctuary. The Army Corps of Engineers, which enforces the federal Clean Water Act, is currently considering whether to issue a permit for the controversial $6 million project, which is described by flood control as an “erosion control” and “bank stabilization” project. The project violates Best Management Practices for riparian areas. Virtually every federal and state resource agency has policies and regulations protecting riparian zones, which perform essentially the same function as federally-protected wetlands.

Recent Success for Save Our Forest

The City of Houston recently withdrew a project to cut down the majority of trees and understory on some 42 acres of public forest and excavate up to six large detention basins on the south bank of Buffalo Bayou in Terry Hershey Park between Beltway 8 and Wilcrest Drive. The Capital Improvement Project was to have cost the taxpayers between $3.5 and $8.5 million.

However, the flood control district appears to be continuing with its widely-opposed “Charting Buffalo” study that proposes as many as 24 storm water detention basins along some 10.7 miles of both banks of Buffalo Bayou in the forests of Terry Hershey Park between Beltway 8 and Highway 6 at Barker and Addicks dams. On Nov. 12, 2013, despite public opposition, Harris County Commissioners Court approved flood control’s request for $250,000 for a vegetation and topography survey in the park.

The headwaters of Buffalo Bayou are on the Katy Prairie west of Houston, and the 18,000-year-old “mother bayou,” fed by numerous tributaries, flows for some 53 miles east through the city and the ship channel into Galveston Bay. Buffalo Bayou, unlike major bayous like White Oak and Brays, which join Buffalo Bayou just west and east of downtown, has never been covered with concrete, though parts of it have been channelized.

Listen to the radio broadcast.

The banks of Buffalo Bayou in Terry Hershey Park in West Houston. Straightened and channelized by the Army Corps of Engineers in the 1940s to speed storm waters, the bayou has since restored itself but remains threatened by public projects to slow storm waters.

The banks of Buffalo Bayou in Terry Hershey Park in West Houston. This 10.7-mile stretch of the bayou downstream from Barker and Addicks dams was straightened and channelized by the Army Corps of Engineers in the 1950s to speed storm waters. The bayou in this park has since restored itself but remains threatened by public flood control projects. Photo Oct. 6, 2015 by Susan Chadwick

 

 

 

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