Encouraging Green Stormwater Infrastructure for New Private Development

City of Houston report recommends permeable pavement, green roofs, vegetated strips, rain gardens, rainwater harvesting, and urban forest

 

Aug. 20, 2019

 

The City of Houston’s Chief Recovery Office has released a report recommending incentives to private developers to incorporate nature-based engineering, otherwise known as Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI), in their projects.

The types of green infrastructure identified by the year-long study, funded by the Houston Endowment, include bioretention (raingardens), permeable pavement, green roofs, rainwater harvesting, soil amendments, urban forests, and vegetated filter strips to slow and absorb runoff from parking lots and other areas.

Recommended incentives to developers include property tax abatements, a program of awards and recognition, a streamlined permitting process, and offering alternative development rules, such as reduced parking requirements, if incorporating green stormwater infrastructure.

R. G. Miller Engineers, Inc. in association with Asakura Robinson, Corona Environmental Consulting, and Neptune Street Advisors conducted the study, which began in May 2018 and ended in May 2019.

Read the report here

Image from the report “Houston Incentives for Green Development.”

Vote for the Bird of Houston: Yellow-crowned Night Heron!

 

Aug. 19, 2019

Houston Audubon is in the final round of selecting the Bird of Houston. Deadline to vote is Friday, August 23.

Cast your ballot. The final contenders are the Attwater’s Prairie Chicken versus the Yellow-crowned Night Heron.

Obviously we are for the Yellow-crowned Night Heron.

Juvenile yellow-crowned night heron pondering whether to fly or stay in the nest as long as possible. Photo on May 20, 2016, by Allison Zapata.

 

Here’s the way Houston Audubon explains it:

“While the graceful Great Blue Heron came in a close third with hundreds of votes, you’ve spoken! The final round pits two very different species against one another in competition for the coveted title. The endangered Attwater’s Prairie-Chicken, though no longer found in the wild within the city, has had great support by several Houston conservation groups that are instrumental in its protection and continued survival in the wild.  This species not only reminds us of the tallgrass prairies that once graced our landscape but has grabbed the imagination of many who fight for their recovery. The Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, on the other hand, has sparked interest in those who have caught a glimpse of them in local greenspaces, waterways and even some backyard trees. This species not only nests and raises its young here, but it engages Houstonians who notice its unusual plumage and propensity for fishing along our bayous.”

 

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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 flood-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.”

Space Race

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.

Read the rest of this report in the Community Impact Newspaper.

 

Image courtesy of Community Impact Newspaper

“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

Toni Morrison, February 18, 1931 – August 5, 2019