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.
2 thoughts on “Article in The Chronicle This Morning: Add Comments to the Chronicle, Please”
I am writing in protest of the proposed Buffalo Bayou Demonstration Project. I live at 19 Crestwood and own two townhouses in the condominiums. I have lived in this area since 1996. I have been distraught about the Demonstration Project since I first heard about it. When I have expressed my concerns I’ve been told that we are “outside the scope of the project”, even though I will no longer be able to walk outside the back of my property and watch the birds come down and fish in the river. My concerns have basically been dismissed or ignored or it has even been suggested that if I don’t like the results of the project I can always leave.
We have never been given a choice or alternatives to resolve the issues, we have merely been told that there is only one solution and less environmentally damaging alternatives is no available. At Crestwood on the Park, we brought in experts from Holland to consult with them on how to protect our banks. We planted willows that have held up for over 20 years and all of this for a few thousand dollars.
There’s no question that this project will scare off all the wildlife that has become so visible to us recently and that it will destroy the natural beauty of our complex by removing the bayou out of our view and will reduce the canopy and natural life.
There is no proof or guarantee that HCFCD’s project can sustainably stop erosion. We’ve also been told that the ravine next to our building is not within the scope of their project.
In the application to ACE misrepresentations have been made that the local homeowners as the initiators of the project (it was River Oaks Country Club) and also never evaluated alternatives to their current approach.
At every meeting with HCFCD you can see them compromising with our more influential neighbors to “move the bayou this way to save their view,” or to “dig only that far to save their landscaping” but when it comes to us they won’t even acknowledge that this project has the greatest impact on us and not our neighbors.
I believe the protection of this wilderness area can be done less aggressively with less impact on our environment.
I, too, am a Crestwood Drive homeowner and strongly opposed to destroying Buffalo Bayou. I am also opposed to using taxpayer dollars to benefit private landowners. This project was instigated by homeowners on gated Rainsway at the end of Crestwood Drive, and the River Oaks Country Club who are experiencing erosion issues. My home backs up to Buffalo Bayou within the stretch of area in the Harris County proposal. Yet, my property is curiously outside of the “scope of the project”. Like other homeowners on Crestwood Drive, I have taken measures to plant native plant material to help prevent erosion, unlike some homeowners along Crestwood Drive, Marilane and Rainsway that have clear cut their lots and denuded it of all vegetation. Funny how some of those same homeowners are in support of the proposed Harris County Flood Control District project to destroy Buffalo Bayou. Guess that want golf course lots with unobstructed views.