Yes, We have Rocks in Houston. And No, That’s Not a Problem: That’s a Beautiful Pleistocene Cliff.

 

Floating down Buffalo Bayou past Memorial Park with only clear ground springs trickling through the fine sand and bright red clay banks. We put in last Friday morning under the Woodway bridge, as they were spraying turf grass on the ugly drainage project that replaced the nature trail that used to exist downstream of the bridge. Led by a small white egret, with mockingbirds and cardinals calling in the trees and graceful herons crisscrossing in front of us, we floated with Memorial Park on our left all the way to the Shepherd Bridge.

This is a short video of the riparian forest the Harris County Flood Control District plans to destroy so that they can “restore” it.

What you can see when they are not flushing the 18,000-year-old mother bayou with sediment-laden water from the failing Addicks and Barker dams is: rocks. Yes, we do have rocks in Houston. Beautiful gray stone tables and ledges, huge slabs of ancient flat sandstone, mostly broken, alas, in a purposeful, barbaric act of destruction by the Harris County Flood Control District. Some years ago they drove a huge-wheeled crushing machine down the banks. Why? Who knows? Maybe they thought breaking up gajillion-years-old stone slabs would slow the water. Maybe they just don’t respect the bayou or our natural history.

But enjoy while you can the intricate, woven roots of boxelders, towering sycamores, and willows holding the historic banks together; the sparkling, natural springs surrounded by tiny green liverwort, seeping out of the layered red clay.

And regard the high Pleistocene cliffs we have here on the prairie. And no, that hard-packed cliff is not about to collapse or fall in the water. That’s what nature looks like, ladies and gents. According to the people who know this bayou well, that old cliff has been there like that for more than forty-five years, or maybe thousands.

See for yourself. This video is just under eight minutes long. If you want to watch a longer, fifteen-minute movie with informative dialog and text, you can find it here. Watch both!

Red clay bank and riparian forest on Buffalo Bayou by Memorial Park.

Red clay bank and riparian forest on Buffalo Bayou. Memorial Park on the left.

Sign the Petition to the Army Corps of Engineers

 

Here’s an easy, fast way to make a comment to the Army Corps of Engineers before the June 30 deadline.

Buffalo Bayou riparian forest. Photo by Jim Olive.

Buffalo Bayou riparian forest. Photo by Jim Olive.

A friend of Buffalo Bayou named Jamie Campbell has started a MoveOn petition that you can sign.

It’s titled “Stop the Bulldozers on the Wild Banks of Buffalo Bayou in Houston’s Memorial Park.” It will be sent to the Army Corps of Engineers and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality before the June 30 deadline for comments on Harris County’s application for a permit to bulldoze the bayou.

You can sign the petition here. Pass it around. Tell your friends. We can stop this bad idea!

 

A Good, Lively Meeting

 

We had a good, lively, informative meeting on Thursday, May 22, about Harris County’s plan to bulldoze 14.35 acres or almost 1.5 miles of riparian forest on both banks of Buffalo Bayou as it flows past Memorial Park, the River Oaks Country Club, and the Hogg Bird Sanctuary. Around 200 people attended, including Harris County Flood Control District Director Mike Talbott, who was accompanied by his communications manager, Kim Jackson. It was a diverse crowd in St. Stephen’s Pecore Hall and included worried residents who live along the north bank of the bayou between the bird sanctuary and the 1,500-acre public park. Also birdwatchers, tree huggers, lawyers, engineers, academics, mountain bikers and poets, landscape architects and urban planners, a uniformed employee of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, and people from across the political spectrum. This is an issue that is drawing passionate support from conservatives and liberals and people who are neither or some of both

As one conservative activist has commented: “If there is anything that upsets me more than destroying the environment, it’s doing it with taxpayer money.”

Mr. Talbott was called to take the mic when a member of the audience asked the question that is perplexing many people: Why? What is the point of this hugely destructive project?

Read the rest.

Study area ACE.jpg

The dotted red lines show the 14.35 acres of riparian forest to be scraped and bulldozed. According to the HCFCD, 80 percent of the vegetation in the targeted area will be removed. Note the areas to be cleared of trees extends into the interior of Memorial Park towards the maintenance facility. This is for access by heavy equipment to the bayou.

Article in The Chronicle This Morning: Add Comments to the Chronicle, Please

 

Opposition to bayou erosion project grows louder

$6 million Memorial Park project would do more harm than good, opponents say

By Kiah Collier, The Houston Chronicle, May 20, 2014

A $6 million plan to tame a mile-and-a-quarter stretch of Buffalo Bayou is drawing an ever-louder outcry from several prominent environmental and conservation groups who say the project aimed at reducing erosion and improving water quality would only make things worse.

Opposition to the so-called Memorial Park Demonstration Project, targeting a segment of the historic bayou that snakes between Memorial Park’s secluded southern edge and the River Oaks Country Club golf course, has grown more vocal as a deadline to submit feedback to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approaches. The project requires a permit from the Corps.

The agency on Thursday announced it would extend the public comment period by 30 days, until June 30, citing “the complexity of the project studies and stream restoration techniques.”

Borne of a 2010 workshop hosted by the Bayou Preservation Association, the project calls for reshaping the banks of the bayou that wind past the posh country club, the Hogg Bird Sanctuary, a residential neighborhood and the southernmost border of the 1,503-acre park.

The plan calls for the segment of Buffalo Bayou – stressed, both sides agree, by the increased runoff that has come with urban development – to be widened, its course adjusted in some places and its crumbling banks shaped into stable slopes. A mass of vegetation would be stripped away from its banks and trees removed. Replanting would occur toward the end of the project, the cost of which Harris County, the city of Houston and the country club have agreed to share.

“If we strip off 80 percent of the vegetation, if we remove the trees that shade the water, we will actually ruin a mile and a quarter of the main channel of Buffalo Bayou,” said Evelyn Merz, conservation chair of the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club.

The group is proposing an alternative that involves promoting the existing habitat by planting native vegetation. It would impact the area less “because it will be aimed at the areas that most need support,” Merz said.

….

Anne Olson, president of the Buffalo Bayou Partnership, which oversees the waterway from Shepherd Drive east to the Turning Basin Terminal, said the proposed project will reduce the amount of sediment that ends up on hike-and-bike trails farther east.

“What happens for us downstream is that the silt that sloughs off the banks in Memorial Park ends up down on our trails, and it’s a huge maintenance issue for us, so anything that can be done to alleviate the erosion of those banks is an important thing,” Olson said.

Read the rest.

 

 

Comment period extended to June 30!

 

Pettibone Buffalo Bayou copy 2

Pettibone inspects improvements to Buffalo Bayou west of Shepherd Drive. Drawing by Kirk Farris.

Some good news. The Army Corps of Engineers has extended the public comment period on the project to bulldoze our beautiful banks of Buffalo Bayou in Memorial Park and the Hogg Bird Sanctuary. The new deadline is June 30. Get those comments rolling in! It’s not enough to just say you hate it, don’t understand it, and someone needs to be run out of town for this horrible, senseless plan. Although you can make as many comments as you like so go ahead and say how you feel. See here to find out how to comment and where to send it.

Defense Team on KPFT Today, Tuesday, May 20, 3-4 p.m.

 

Members of the Save Buffalo Bayou defense team will be on the Eco-Ology radio show on KPFT Tuesday, May 20, from 3 to 4 p.m. Listen to Olive Hershey, Brandt Mannchen, and Frank Salzhandler talk about why bulldozing the riparian forest on both banks of Buffalo Bayou as it flows through our historic Memorial Park and the Hogg Bird Sanctuary is an appalling idea. Hershey is a poet, novelist, and environmental activist. Mannchen is chair of the Forestry Committee of the Houston Sierra Club. Salzhandler is a former All-American UT swimmer, rabble rouser, director of the Endangered Species Media Project and chair of the Natural Heritage Program for the Harris County Historical Commission.

Beautiful photo of Buffalo Bayou by ©Geoff Winningham. Taken in the area targeted for destruction. Thanks, Geoff.

GW BB1

 

Defense Team on KPFT Tuesday, May 20, 3-4 p.m.

Members of the Save Buffalo Bayou defensive team will be on the Eco-Ology radio show on KPFT Tuesday, May 20, from 3 to 4 p.m. Listen to Olive Hershey, Brandt Mannchen, and Frank Salzhandler talk about why bulldozing the riparian forest on both banks of Buffalo Bayou as it flows through our historic Memorial Park and the Hogg Bird Sanctuary is an appalling idea.

Hershey is a poet, novelist, and environmental activist. Mannchen is a biologist and chair of the Forestry Committee of the Houston Sierra Club. Salzhandler is a former All-American UT swimmer, rabble rouser, director of the Endangered Species Media Project and chair of the Natural Heritage Program for the Harris County Historical Commission.

Houston Chronicle Outlook Editorial: Plan Could Ruin Buffalo Bayou

 

Invasive Erosion Control Plan Could Destroy Buffalo Bayou

Memorial Park plan would reduce unique waterway to a ditch

Reprinted from The Houston Chronicle.

By Olive Hershey and Frank Salzhandler, Houston Chronicle OUTLOOK, May 18, 2014 Section B

A Harris County plan to alter Buffalo Bayou as it runs through our publicly owned Memorial Park would destroy one of the last remaining river forests in Houston, an ecologically important riparian wilderness that cannot be replaced.

The county intends to bulldoze both sides of the bayou – up to 100 feet from the water’s edge in places and including a tributary in the Hogg Bird Sanctuary – stripping wide swathes of native trees, vines and undergrowth from the bayou’s natural sandy banks.

Vital habitat for hundreds of species of birds, animals and water creatures will be lost. The slow-moving bayou’s shady banks will be denuded and replanted as a sun-baked lawn.

Read the rest.

 

Killing A Riparian Forest – Our Last Urban Wilderness

treeinventory

This is a map from the Harris County Flood Control District describing the rare and native tree species that the county plans to cut down. The yellow lines represent the area in which the forest and banks of Buffalo Bayou  will be bulldozed — areas widening to as much as 100 feet from the water’s edge.

We have only until June 30, 2014, to tell the Army Corps of Engineers not to allow the bulldozing of one of the last urban wildernesses in the United States. Virtually all the native habitat will be lost. Here’s how to contact the Army Corps of Engineers.

We urge Houstonians to oppose the current plan. Join us to learn more at a public meeting of concerned citizens on May 22, 2014, at St. Stephen’s Pecore Community Hall, 1805 W. Alabama, beginning at 6:30 p.m.

WHAT IS A RIPARIAN FOREST?

A riparian forest is a buffer area along a river or stream. Riparian forests along with native understory and wetlands are critical to storm water management—absorbing runoff.  Riparian areas protect the quality and quantity of our water resources. They trap sediment and other pollutants from overland runoff before they have a chance to enter our streams and bayous. They also function to reduce the magnitude and velocity of floodwaters and help to maintain base flows in streams by slowly releasing floodwaters back into the stream channel. Riparian areas provide breeding and foraging habitat for wildlife and serve as corridors between critical habitat areas.

They sustain us and our connection with the wonder and beauty of nature.

 

This is their plan for Buffalo Bayou.

barebanksfuture

Tell the Army Corps of Engineers you oppose the proposal to bulldoze the natural ecosystem of our last urban wilderness. You have only until June 30 to tell the government it’s better to restore the native habitat than to destroy it.

Restore. Don’t destroy.

A riparian forest cannot be replaced.

Join us to learn more at a public meeting of concerned citizens on May 22 at St. Stephen’s Community Hall, 1805 W. Alabama, beginning at 6:30 p.m.

 

Images of Buffalo Bayou Now.

 

And this is what they want Buffalo Bayou to look like when they are done scraping it bare, stripping the native habitat, and planting it with grass.

A photo of Cypress Creek after "restoration" by the Harris County Flood Control District.

A photo of Cypress Creek after “restoration” by the Harris County Flood Control District.