Hot Summer on the Bayou

Raindrops Falling on Our Heads

June 24, 2024

It was a misty morning just after dawn. The summer solstice had occurred at 3:50 p.m. the day before. The drive along the Picnic Loop in Houston’s Memorial Park was so darkly lush and green it was almost unrecognizable. The sandy footpath through the bayou woods was mucky. The shadowy woods were wet, the trees and bushes dripping. A squirrel shook a branch overhead and showered us with sparkling raindrops. We laughed. We were headed to that spot on the high bank overlooking Buffalo Bayou to take our summer photo of the bend. (See the entire series throughout the seasons of the last ten years.)

Looking downstream from the same high bank on Buffalo Bayou in Houston’s Memorial Park. Photo June 21, 2024, by SC

The muddy river was flowing slightly above base flow at around 750 cubic feet per second. But stopping at one of our usual vantage points, we could hardly see the water through the thicket of greenery. Also, the photographer had slightly miscalculated the sunrise. Rather than arriving late as usual with the sun rising and shining high overhead, we were too early. The sun was lingering behind the trees.

Looking upstream from the high bank of Buffalo Bayou. Photo June 21, 2024, by SC

So we amused ourselves observing a blue damselfly, checking out the still green beautyberries, and listening to the songs of the cardinals, wrens, and cicadas overhead. We slid-stepped down the sandy bank to the nearby creek to watch the clear stream trickling slowly towards the bayou. A small ghostly-white sycamore had fallen. No sign of wild chives or violets on the banks. Likely it was too late in the season. But we did see an abundance of feathery foxtail, sedges, and dayflowers.

Eventually the sun began peeking through and over the tangled woods, lighting up the opposite bank of bayou.

We couldn’t help but think about how hot the previous summer had been, and how hot and humid this summer is already. Last year was the hottest year on record for Houston and the world. This year is likely to be even hotter.


First State Flood Plan Draft Released

Comments due by June 17

June 14, 2024

Hundreds of Texans have been volunteering their time and expertise in the last several years to analyze flooding in Texas and come up with solutions. They found that there’s a lot of flooding, that there’s a lot they don’t know, and that most of the people and buildings, including critical facilities like hospitals, will still be at risk even after implementing recommended flood projects. (p. 217)

Out of a total population of 30 million people in Texas, nearly 6 million live in flood hazard areas. Almost a third of those live in the Houston region. (pp. 99-100) These are some of the findings included in the draft of the state’s first flood plan recently issued by the Texas Water Development Board.

Notably, the planners could not determine the functionality of some 1.3 million existing flood infrastructure features, both natural and constructed, such as dams. (p. 26)

The draft plan is heavy on structural solutions such as channelizing streams and building stormwater detention ponds. Non-structural solutions include buying and preserving land for natural stormwater detention, removing people and buildings from a floodplain, conservation easements, and more.

The flood planning project was set up in 2019 by the state legislature, which divided the state into fifteen regions based on watersheds. The Houston metropolitan area is in Region 6, known as the San Jacinto Region. It extends from Galveston Bay to Huntsville in the north. Members include 15 voting members representing municipalities, the environment, water and electric utilities, industries, agriculture, and more; plus 11 non-voting members drawn from various public agencies such as Texas Parks and Wildlife, the Houston Galveston Area Council, and Port Houston.

The goals of the flood plan are to identify where flooding occurs, reduce that flooding and/or remove people and critical structures from those areas, educate people about flooding and give warnings when flooding is going to occur. The planning groups delivered their regional plans to the board in January 2023. The first state flood plan is to be delivered to the legislature by Sept. 1, 2024. The process will continue every five years.

Region 6 has the highest population living in flood hazard areas and by far the highest number of critical facilities (hospitals, emergency medical services, fire and police stations and schools) in flood hazard areas. (pp. 100-101) However, the most vulnerable communities are in the far west of the state and along the border.

The Region 6 projects ranked at the top by the state board include $20 million for further study  by the Harris County Flood Control District of the proposed stormwater tunnel along Buffalo Bayou and $500,000 to look at City of Houston properties that could be turned into stormwater detention basins. Oddly the draft plan recommends $30,000 for a Benefit/Cost Analysis for a detention basin on Clear Creek that is already underway. (p. 6) In fact, there will be a virtual public meeting about the Clear Creek detention basin on June 20 at 6:30 p.m.

Clear-cutting a pine forest for a Harris County Flood Control stormwater detention basin on Clear Creek in Friendswood. Photo March 19, 2024, by SC

The top recommended flood mitigation project, and the most costly, is the $24 billion Galveston Bay Surge Protection Plan, also known as the Coastal Texas Project. (p. 90)

Region 6 has only half a dozen projects considered nature-based or non-structural, most of them proposed by the Coastal Prairie Conservancy, formerly known as the Katy Prairie Conservancy. These include projects to restore coastal prairie (p. 90), preserve floodplain and restore habitat on Willow Creek (p. 106) and Mound Creek and restore agricultural and natural land along headwater streams flowing into Barker Reservoir. (p. 144) Harris County has asked for funding to help owners move out of flood prone areas (p. 128) and both Brazoria County and League City have submitted projects to buyout and remove property from floodplains, turning the land into recreation areas. (p. 131)

Recommended studies also include examining neighborhood flood risk on the San Jacinto River, Brays, White Oak, and Sims bayous; Spring, Cypress, and Clear creeks; and Addicks and Barker reservoirs.

Notably the City of San Antonio, which is not in Region 6, is doing a study of the benefits of nature-based flood management.

Because several planning groups “noted challenges” in incorporating nature-based components in their flood-risk reduction plans, the “TWDB is implementing a flood priority research project (expected to be completed April 2025) to consolidate guidance on the use of nature-based flood mitigation solutions into a single, statewide manual for Texas.” (p. 245)

Other difficulties the planning groups encountered were calculating benefit-cost and low-public participation.

The draft plan noted that Harris County has no floodplain regulation and the City of Houston has little or none. (pp. 142-143)

The Texas Water Development Board is seeking public feedback on the draft plan. The board is accepting comments until 5 p.m. on June 17. To comment on the draft flood plan, go here.


What’s that Munching Sound?

Spring on that Bend in the Bayou

April 28, 2024

(Updated May 1, 2024. Errors identifying caterpillars are solely the fault of the editor.)

We were standing on that high bank in the woods of Memorial Park looking up and down at Buffalo Bayou flowing round the bend, preparing to take our spring photo for our years-long series documenting the same bend in the bayou through the seasons. The muddy river was rolling slowly at about 200 cubic feet per second, slightly above its very low normal flow of about 150 cfs.

Looking downstream on that bend in Buffalo Bayou on a foggy spring morning. Photo by SC, April 19, 2024

The woods seemed a little thin still for springtime. Skeletal branches stuck their dark, woody fingers in front of us, likely victims of the severe drought last summer and fall followed by the hard winter freeze.

Down by the sweet, winding creek that empties into the bayou slightly downstream, a tall sweetgum had fallen across the stream, still festooned with ropes for swinging and climbing.

But what was that munching sound? We looked around, looked closely. We were surrounded by an army of hairy white caterpillars, gnawing their way through the leaves of just about everything, young box elder and ash. On the sandy trail a fuzzy black one inched along, testing, tasting anything In its path.

Some of them appeared to be fall webworm caterpillars, according to bug and butterfly expert Nancy Greig, founding director of the Cockrell Butterfly Center at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. Others were salt marsh caterpillars. They would soon wrap themselves in a cocoon, spend a week or more metamorphosing, and emerge as moths, pale white or yellow, wet in the wings. After drying out for a few hours, if they survive the birds and other predators waiting for them, they might live for a few months, until they lay eggs, starting the cycle all over again, and die.

Kinda confusing. What’s the point? Other than providing sustenance to other creatures.

But then, what’s the point of us?

Greig wasn’t sure why this spring seemed to be “completely crazy” with caterpillars. But she was sure they were eating up her backyard cabbages, artichoke, mullein, and Dutchman’s pipevine.


Alice in Wonderland, seeking advice from the caterpillar. Arthur Rackham, 1907

Why Houston Floods, According to Flood Control

It Rains a Lot! What Can Flood Control Do?

March 3, 2024

For years the Harris County Flood Control District has been giving public presentations that include a slide purporting to explain “Why is Harris County Flood Prone.”

According to Flood Control, the reasons Harris County floods are:

  1. It rains a lot.
  2. The landscape is flat.
  3. Soil doesn’t soak up the rain fast enough.

Strangely missing from this list is arguably the number one cause of flooding in our city: it’s covered in concrete, asphalt, and roofs, otherwise known as impervious surface. (p. 182-183) That means artificial hard stuff that doesn’t allow the rain to soak into the ground but instead increases runoff, sending stormwater really fast into our streets and overwhelming our drainage systems, natural and built. The built city also absorbs a lot of heat, influencing rain patterns, among other problems. (See “Cities Depaving for a Cooler Future.”)

Here are a few further references for the role of impervious surface in Houston’s flooding:

Buildings Partly to Blame

More Pavement, More Problems

Houston’s Urban Sprawl Increased Rainfall, Flooding During Hurricane Harvey

Houston’s Flood is a Design Problem

What Causes Floods

The Rapid Urbanization of Houston: How It Happened and Why It Matters

Why Not Mention Impervious Surface?

We asked Flood Control why their explanation doesn’t include impervious surface. A representative graciously responded:

“You are correct that impervious surfaces are a cause of flooding in our area. However, in our ‘Why is Harris County Flood Prone’ slide we are focusing primarily on the sources of flooding that our capital and maintenance projects can directly address. As you know the Flood Control District does not have regulatory authority over development and the amount of impervious surface added each year.”

Well, true. But the slide is about the reasons Harris County floods, not what Flood Control can do about it. And the flood control district doesn’t have authority over rainfall or the topography or soil type either.

But what about Flood Control’s claim that the landscape is flat and covered in “clay soils that do not soak up excess rainfall quickly”? Actually since most of it is covered in impervious surface, these points would almost seem irrelevant. But they are also not exactly true.

Is the Houston Region Really Flat? Not So Much

A 2022 study from the University of Texas confirmed what anyone who grew up around here already knows: the seemingly flat landscape is in fact sculpted with numerous sloping hills carved out by the many branching channels, otherwise known as gullies or creeks, that feed into our major streams, such as Buffalo Bayou.

Read the rest of this post.

A creek flowing towards Buffalo Bayou through a deep, wide gully in Houston’s Memorial Park. Photo Feb. 19, 2024, by SC

Changes in the New Year

That Bend in Winter. Happy Trails!

Jan. 8, 2024

The piles of tree trunks, forbidding wire and “No Entry” signs are gone! What a delight to see that, after more than four years, the entrance to the trails through the bayou woods on the southeast side of Memorial Park is now open.

The sandy paths through the enchanting wild woods, regularly cleared by anonymous volunteers, were used by park lovers anyway. Hikers and runners have been scrambling over stacks of logs and wire fencing. The “unofficial” trails appear in grey on the parks’ trail map. They connect to the green and blue trails.

Winter sunrise over that bend in Buffalo Bayou. Looking downstream from the same high bank in Memorial Park with the River Oaks Country Club golf course on the right. Photo Dec. 31, 2023 by SC

It’s true that high banks on the bayou should be treated with caution and respect. Not so much because they are dangerous but because putting weight on the bank stresses our vertically slumping banks.

We were there to take our winter photo of that Bend in the River, part of our seasonal series documenting the same bend for almost ten years now. As usual, the sun rose faster than we did. But miraculously, with a helping hand, we were still able to get decent shot.

Looking upstream along the path on that high bank. It is recommended that hikers and runners use another, more stable path to the north through the woods.

The Memorial Park Conservancy is the private nonprofit organization the runs our great public park. We asked them for comment on the removal of the obstructions and signs but have not yet received a response. According to a frequent user of the trails, the obstacles apparently were removed within the past month.


The newly opened gate leading to the unofficial path through the bayou woods on the southeast side of Memorial Park.

Ditch Mystery Solved

Origin of False Idea That Property Owners Must Maintain Open Stormwater Ditches

Plus: Earthen Ditches Still Way Better Than Concrete Curbs, Buried Pipes

Nov. 15, 2023

A big misunderstanding about who’s responsible for maintaining open stormwater ditches in Houston is still flowing around. We figured out the source. So maybe it’s time to clear it up.

The City of Houston has always been responsible for digging out, de-silting and regrading thousands of miles of roadside drainage ditches within the city. But for years now the idea has been circulating that due to a policy change some twenty years ago, the City stopped doing this. This alleged new policy supposedly left property owners with the extraordinary burden and expense of having to hire heavy equipment and properly scrape out ditches that, like underground pipes, connect to a community drainage system.

This is false and absurd on its face. But it’s an idea that refuses to die, repeated uncorrected in our leading local news media, cited over and over again. Circulating along with it is the false idea that humble earthen ditches are less effective than costly curb and gutter systems draining into buried concrete pipes. Wrong.

Based on this false idea, journalists even mis-reported an attempt by City Council to change this alleged policy. (Not giving links in the interest of decorum.) It’s possible though that not even the mayor and city council members are fully informed about this situation, although individual council members have discretionary budgets to spend restoring ditches in their districts through the City’s Stormwater Action Teams.

Graphic from City of Houston Public Works

Truth Confirmed by Director of Public Works

So finally we deduced what actually happened back in 2001. And our conclusion was verified by the director of Public Works herself, Carol Haddock, at an October conference on flooding sponsored by the Severe Storm Prediction, Education, and Evacuation from Disasters (SSPEED) Center of Rice University. Haddock, an engineering graduate of Rice, was a little miffed that our leading media refuse to correct this issue. So we’ll do it, without naming any names.

What happened back in 2001 was that the City instituted the 311 Service Helpline system, a “consolidated call center designed to make city government more user-friendly and responsive.” Citizens were to call 311 anytime of the day or week to report any problems “from traffic fines and sewer concerns to pothole problems and neighborhood complaints.” (See also here.)

At the same time, the City apparently stopped regularly sending out teams to inspect drainage ditches, relying instead on citizen reports. Or, as Haddock told the conference, the system “changed to being reactive rather than proactive.” However, the City was still responsible for grading and desilting clogged ditches, including driveway culverts, reported by citizens. This process generally requires heavy equipment like a backhoe as well as calculation of flow direction, and so on.

After several years of much publicized and largely inaccurate concerns about open ditch maintenance, the City in August 2023 reinstituted its regular inspection program. (p. 7)

This was not changing maintenance responsibility from property owners to the City. It was reestablishing inspection teams. The City, once again, has always had the responsibility of grading and desilting stormwater ditches. Property owners are responsible for raking out light debris, leaves, trash, Frito bags, etc. (See also p. 6)

Open Ditches More Effective. Streets Flood with Buried Pipes

Open drainage ditch on the south side of Houston’s Memorial Park.

Houston, as well as unincorporated areas and independent municipalities within the city,  has earthen drainage ditches in neighborhoods rich and poor all over the place. (Think wealthy Memorial Villages, Tanglewood etc.) Open ditches are, in fact, more effective, carrying ten times the volume of rainwater than underground concrete pipes. They are cheaper to build and maintain, more ecological, in essence a form of nature-based flood management helping to absorb, disperse, and cleanse stormwater. (See also here.)

Yes, rain can pond in open ditches for hours. That’s normal. Stormwater also backs up from underground pipes and fills streets lined with concrete curbs. That’s normal too, part of the design. Which would you prefer? A flooded street or a rain-filled roadside ditch? Residents clamoring to replace their grass-lined, frog-filled open ditches with concrete curbs and buried pipes may be surprised to find out that the street in front of their house will now flood.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency actually recommends replacing curb-and-gutter systems with open ditches. Among other things, curb-and-gutter systems are more likely to promote mosquitos.

But locally tens of millions of dollars are being spent to replace open ditches with concrete curbs and gutters.

Concrete curbs and stormwater gutters recently installed by Harris County along a street in northeast Houston. Previously rain ran off the street into open drainage ditches.


Indigenous People on Buffalo Bayou and Beyond

“The Atakapa-Ishak are not extinct”

Reposting Nov. 13, 2023, in Honor of Native American Heritage Month

Oct. 11, 2021

Updated Oct. 13, 2021

Thousands of years before land speculators like the Allen Brothers arrived in 1836 or slave traders Jim Bowie and Jean Lafitte set up shop on Galveston Island around 1817 or even the Spanish conquistador Cabeza de Vaca shipwrecked on the island in 1528, there were people living around Buffalo Bayou and the prairies, forests, rivers, and bays of the Texas Gulf Coast.

At least 13,500 years ago, predecessors of the Akokisa people were living in what is now coastal Texas. At the time the coast, along with major rivers flowing across it, extended a hundred miles further out, land and channels now covered by water. Sea level then was hundreds of feet lower.

Major Native American Cultural groups of the Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast, c. 1700, Worrall, A Prehistory of Houston, p. 436

But inland, Buffalo Bayou and other rivers and streams were flowing along the same winding, forested paths that now carry their waters to the gulf (unless they’ve been stripped and channelized). Incised into the landscape by the drainage of the sea at the end of the last glaciation period some 20,000 years ago (no glaciers in Texas), “basically these rivers and creeks are where they were in the late Pleistocene (some 12,000-20,000 years ago),” said geologist/author Dan Worrall at a recent talk on the lifeways of the Akokisa at the Houston Botanic Garden.

We know this in part because Early Paleoindian Native American artifacts have been found along the banks, showing that the streams were there at least 13,000 years ago, he said.

Living Well on the Land

The Akokisa were a branch of the Atakapa-Ishak, who lived (and still live) along the upper coast of southeast Texas and southwestern Louisiana. The Atakapa spoke a unique language that was distinct from the Karankawa, for example, the people who lived further down the coast. Like the Karankawa, the Atakapa were divided into different groups, communities organized in large part around the different river basins.

Around 1700, the native people of southeast Texas were thought to number some 4,000-5,000. But by 1800 the Atakapa population in Texas had suffered a catastrophic collapse, largely due to disease brought by Europeans. Spanish missionaries tried to teach them agriculture, despite the fact that the native people were healthy and thriving, doing just fine hunting and gathering a rich, varied diet, and lightly managing the prairies and forests with controlled burning. (In fact recent research shows that Native Americans were healthier before the introduction of agriculture.)

“They lived on the land very well,” said Worrall.

Worrall’s big new book, A Prehistory of Houston and Southeast Texas: Landscape and Culture, documents in extensive technical detail the evolution of the landscape and the people who lived here long before European settlement.

The Akokisa and their predecessors ate seasonally and locally, of course: oysters and clams, alligators, turtles, and fish, seabird eggs, wild grapes and berries, persimmons, pecans and acorns, the tuberous roots of cattails, arrowheads, and greenbriar, among many other flowers and plants, edible and medicinal. They left behind vast middens of shells and fish bones. As well as bison kill sites along creeks and bayous.

In the fall and winter they moved inland to hunt bison and deer on their traditional hunting grounds on the Katy Prairie at the headwaters of Buffalo Bayou in what is now northwest Harris County. The bison migrated seasonally during the winter from the interior Texas plains, moving through the tallgrass prairie on their way south to the coast to graze on the lush salt grass (except during dry periods, points out Worrall).

Buffalo Bayou, along with other bayous and streams, was surrounded then by vast riparian and flatland forests, particularly extensive north of the bayou. European settlers in the nineteenth century cut down much of the timber to create cropland on the fertile floodplains. Beyond the forest to the south of the bayou was tallgrass prairie. Further to the west there was prairie and savannah dotted with oak trees.

Read the rest of this post.

Portrait of an Atakapa man, Alexandre de Batz, 1735

A Strange Fall on Buffalo Bayou

Stuck Truck Gives Up

Oct. 23, 2023

It was a beautiful, clear morning on Buffalo Bayou in Houston. We were a little late in the day  to take our fall photo of that Bend in the River. The sun had risen faster than we had and was smiling down at us high above the treetops when we arrived out our spot, the same high bank in Memorial Park from which we have been documenting the changes in the river throughout the seasons for the last nine years.

Looking downstream on a beautiful fall morning from that same high bank in Memorial Park. Photo by SC, Oct. 16, 2023

The tangled woods seemed unusually bare and transparent as we made our way down the winding, sandy path from the Picnic Loop south of Memorial Drive. Remnant piles and pieces of cement drainage pipes and blocks from the World War I Camp Logan were more visible than ever. Even more visible were the rotting logs pecked and hammered by a variety of critters seeking insect sustenance.

A rotting log smorgasbord for critters in the woods. Photo Oct. 16, 2023 by SC

Perfectly natural rotting and pecking but it still somehow reeked of desperation after months of drought and record heat. However this morning was cool enough for us to be concerned about whether we were properly dressed. Weirdly discordant amongst the nearly leafless cherry laurel was the abundance of plump purple American Beautyberries. Why were they not being eaten by birds and other creatures? An ancient medicinal plant, also long used as a mosquito repellent, the berries have a peppery, somewhat bitter taste.

American Beautyberries in the woods of Buffalo Bayou, an ancient source of medicine and food. Photo Oct. 16, 2023

Nature’s Construction

We managed to get a shot of the bend through the ever-changing greenery, despite the high sun beaming and poking at the camera. For some reason, as we looked around, we were newly struck by nature’s engineering: the crisscross beams of long, sturdy roots installed along the high bank and across the path leading like stair-steps down to the nearby creek. All of which holds the bank together.

We then headed upstream along the winding path towards the distant spot where contractors with Harris County Flood Control were attempting to pull a pickup full of mud out of the bayou. Munching on beautyberries, we encountered numerous hikers and runners, as well as their happy dogs, and passed through lovely bowers of fresh sunlit greenery. However, one couple recounted how in early December they had witnessed the sad scene of the family gathered on the bank as the Houston Police recovered the body of the young driver.

Read the rest of this post.

Mayor Appoints New Public Parks Board

An Unusual Reliance on Private Funding for City Parks

Public meeting Thursday, Sept. 7, 9:30 a.m. at United Way, 50 Waugh Drive. Notice and Agenda. Sign up by noon Wednesday to comment.

Sept. 4, 2023

So the Mayor of Houston has finally appointed new members to the public Houston Parks Board, a local government corporation (see also here), in an apparent effort to fill expired and empty positions and comply with the Open Meetings Act.

The board has also announced its first public meeting in almost a year.

However, there may still be a problem.

For one thing, there are still only 18 seats filled out of 20 positions on the public board. And 9 of those seats are occupied by people who are also members of the private parks board foundation, which does not have public meetings. (Another 2 public seats are filled by former members of the private board.) So it seems that if all nine of those public board people met in a closed meeting of the private foundation, that would be a quorum of the public board and a possible violation of the Open Meetings Act.

Yes, it’s confusing. But we’ve been reporting about this issue for several years, advocating for more transparency, accountability, and broader community involvement in the public board. The parks boards, public and private, have done good work (with notable exceptions). The board members, many of them wealthy philanthropists, are dedicated people with a history of public service, including many years of service to the park boards and other worthy causes.

But it is a long-accepted fact that park development favors real estate interests, among the many other benefits to public health and well-being (including reducing flood risk and increasing biodiversity) that green spaces provide.

Heavy Reliance on Private Funding for Parks, Yet Still Below Average Funding Per Capita

Houston has an unusual reliance on private funding for its parks, which may be why our public parks board has been so decidedly private compared to other major cities. It could also be a reason why park development in Houston seems to have favored more affluent areas.

A 2019 study of ten major US cities found that park area in Houston was narrowly spread and skewed towards higher income, higher educated people, a finding reinforced by the city’s 2023 Park Score from the Trust for Public Land. (Note that we are not enthusiastic about the Trust’s use of “living within a ten-minute walk” of a park since in a high-density neighborhood a lot of people could live near a tiny park. Neither do they distinguish between concrete slabs and nature parks.)

Private funding for our city parks is seven times greater than the national average for the top 100 most populous cities, according to the 2023 Trust report. Public funding is two-thirds the national average, with city funding a mere one-third the national average.

Overall the City of Houston spends far below average per capita on parks and recreation.

Graphic showing relative Houston spending sources from Trust for Public Land 2023 Parks Report

The open meetings issue was that so many people on the 20-member public parks board were also on the private parks board foundation. So whenever the foundation board met in private they often had a quorum of the public parks board. Which meant the public board was illegally meeting in private. It’s been happening routinely, even intentionally, for many years.

Houston’s public parks board is supposed to have regular public meetings, with public notice, public agendas and public minutes. Among large cities, some of which even televise their parks board meetings, Houston is exceptionally un-public.

Appointed Months Ago

In fact, Mayor Sylvester Turner nominated the new public board members (and renominated some old members) to the city council back in May. On May 31, to be exact. The law requires that the city council approve (or not approve) the nominations.

We don’t closely follow the city council agendas so we missed the nominations, despite the fact that we had written to the mayor’s office in October and in February inquiring about this issue and in March communicated with the mayor’s director of boards and commissions, Olivia Lee, about it. There was no announcement, no polite heads up. However, back in March Lee did send us the link to check the city council agenda for ourselves every week.

When we did finally notice that new board appointments had been made with terms starting May 31, we called Lee’s office to ask for the resumes of those appointed. Those resumes were sent to the city council members with the agenda notice back in May but left off of the agenda published online.

Lee’s helpful suggestion was that we file a Public Information request. Which we did.

Here is what we received from the City about the newly appointed or reappointed members of the public Houston Parks Board, LGC.

The new members and the old members are all highly successful and dedicated people. They include 8 people who are either wealthy philanthropists and/or work in the nonprofit industry, including in economic development, one of them an environmental scientist active in conservation and research; 4 commercial or public finance lawyers, a government lobbyist and 3 former or active public officials, an academic (women’s studies), and 2 in construction or real estate investment and development.

Some have been on the board for nearly a decade or more.

Here is the public board’s financial statement from 2022.


That Truck in the Bayou

A truck has been stuck in Buffalo Bayou for nine months. Here’s why.

The white Dodge has been lodged in the bayou since November.

The truck has been stuck in Buffalo Bayou since it mysteriously plunged into the water in late November 2022. A body was later found downstream. Image from Google Earth showing truck south of Memorial Park.

By Brittanie Shey, Houston Chronicle, Aug. 30, 2023

A white Dodge pickup truck has been stuck in the section of Buffalo Bayou that runs through Memorial Park for nine months, and nobody knows when it will be removed.


But Susan Chadwick, president and executive director of Save Buffalo Bayou, said it’s the responsibility of Harris County Flood Control to remove any obstacles within waterways. Chadwick’s organization is dedicated to preserving the waterway, the only completely unpaved bayou in the city. She expressed concern that the truck was still in the water and wondered what pollutants might be leaking into the bayou, or what might happen if a big flood dislodges the vehicle and sends it downstream, toward the bridges that cross the bayou at Allen Parkway.

Jeremy Phillips, director of asset management for Harris County Flood Control, said he shares Chadwick’s concerns and confirmed that Flood Control has taken over removal of the truck. Flood Control has been working for a few weeks to get access to the bayou from private property holders, which include the Houston Parks Department and CenterPoint Energy. Flood Control hopes to use a tow truck and the Centerpoint power easement that intersects with the bayou, which is several hundred feet upstream of where the Dodge truck is located.

Phillips said removal of the truck is a top priority, and that Chadwick’s calls helped reignite Flood Control’s efforts to coordinate removal with the city. He expects access to the property to be approved within the next few weeks. Then it’ll only be a matter of days before the truck is pulled out.

Phillips said they’re taking the easement route in an effort to preserve as much parkland as possible. He also said there will be crews on-site during removal to constantly monitor whether chemicals from the truck are leaking into the water or parts of the truck become dislodged from the body.

Read the rest of this report in the Houston Chronicle.

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