Wide range of strategies address Houston flooding risk
By Matt Dulin, Editor
Community Impact Newspaper, Heights-River Oaks-Montrose Edition, Volume 1, Issue 5
Aug. 7-Sept. 3, 2019
Part of a series exploring efforts to make Houston a food-resilient city.
Flood researcher Sam Brody is not ashamed to admit he keeps a broom in the trunk of his car at all times. If he spots a clogged street drain across Houston, he puts it to work.
“I’ll sweep those drains out,” said Brody, the director of Texas A&M University’s Center for Texas Beaches and Shores. “If these neighborhoods and associations knew how important it was, they’d be out there doing it, too. We need to make sure what we have is working before we spend billions on projects.”
Inside the heavily developed Inner Loop, the flood control district’s options are limited. There are virtually no buy-out candidates and very little opportunity for large detention ponds. But other opportunities exist, said Christof Spieler, a researcher with the Greater Houston Flood Mitigation Consortium, such as the North Canal project, which would create a bypass where White Oak and Buffalo bayous meet.
“That could reduce flooding in that area by several feet alone,” Spieler said.
That project, at an estimated $100 million, is one of the priciest on the district’s bond-funded capital plan.
With large tracts of land unavailable, another solution is to think smaller.
“With microdetention, you could have several little pieces of land rather than one large pond,” he said. “Existing development, such as schools and service centers, could be retrofitted with this approach—another opportunity that has not yet been looked at fully.”
Greenways—And New Ways Of Thinking
Solutions inside the Loop will have to be outside the usual toolbox, said Susan Chadwick, the president of Save Buffalo Bayou. “What is it that makes a project? Unfortunately, most of it is designed for engineering companies to come in and solve … but we could be thinking more about the natural environment,” Chadwick said.
“All water has a perfect memory and is forever trying to get back to where it was.”
August 6, 2019
“You know, they straightened out the Mississippi River in places, to make room for houses and livable acreage. Occasionally the river floods these places. ‘Floods’ is the word they use, but in fact it is not flooding; it is remembering. Remembering where it used to be. All water has a perfect memory and is forever trying to get back to where it was. Writers are like that: remembering where we were, that valley we ran through, what the banks were like, the light that was there and the route back to our original place. It is emotional memory–what the nerves and the skin remember as well as how it appeared. And a rush of imagination is our ‘flooding.’” — The Site of Memory, 1995