Paving, Flooding, and Loss of Wetlands: Making It Easier to Build More Roads

Public Comment Needed by May 7

May 3, 2016

The Texas Department of Transportation wants to make it easier to build roads over our vital prairie wetlands by creating a one-size fits-all statewide stormwater discharge permit. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) is considering the 53-page proposal, known as Permit No. WQ0005011000.

The new permit is opposed by wetlands activists such as Galveston Baykeeper, which would like to see the state Department of Transportation do a better job of protecting wetlands and enforcing federal law.

Highways and paved surfaces are a major source of flooding as they rapidly collect and funnel rainwater that can no longer soak into the ground. Wetlands detain, absorb, and cleanse stormwater, which is why they are protected under the federal Clean Water Act – if they have a connection to a federally protected waterway.

Coastal Prairie Different from Edwards Aquifer

Environmental attorney and Galveston Baykeeper board member Jen Powis says the organization has been watching the state transportation department move toward “one big statewide permit” for about two years. Until now permits were issued based on the specific conditions of each community, Powis told writer Janice Van Dyke Walden in the May/June 2016 issue of Gulf Coast Mariner magazine.

“I’m a strong proponent of local solutions for specific places,” says Powis. “We all know that Houston looks very different from the Edwards Aquifer.”

You can read the proposed Permit No. WQ0005011000 here. And here is how to make a comment about it to the TCEQ. Comments are due by May 7.

Photograph of flooding Buffalo Bayou in Houston between Allen Parkway and Memorial Drive on April 18, 2016. Photo taken for Gulf Coast Mariner magazine by Jim Olive.

Photograph of flooding in Buffalo Bayou Park in Houston between Allen Parkway and Memorial Drive on April 18, 2016. Photo taken for Gulf Coast Mariner magazine by Jim Olive.

 

5 thoughts on “Paving, Flooding, and Loss of Wetlands: Making It Easier to Build More Roads”

  1. Tracy Stephens says:

    Our bayous are land locked because elected officials allowed development too close not having room to expand the bayou systems. This never should’ve happened but flood plains have been moved to allow development which now floods plus TXDOT never likes building elevated roads stating cost but look where we are, were paying for it anyway thru damages and insurance claims, relocating homes, etc. This is a multi- jurisdiction problem.

    1. You are correct. Among other things, commercial and residential development is still being allowed too close to the banks of our bayous and streams, preventing widening of the bayou corridors to accommodate the inevitable overflow into the floodplain.

  2. Kathryn Frazer says:

    No!! Please leave our Buffalo Bayou alone. No, one size fits all plan

  3. Michael Bloom says:

    The proposed permit will be issued under Section 402 of the Clean Water Act, which pertains to the regulation and control of pollutants in storm water runoff being washed off roadways and into our bayous, creeks and rivers. The proposed permit, issued under the authority of the US Environmental Protection Agency, by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, has nothing to do with damaging wetlands or filling wetlands. The filling of wetlands is regulated under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act and requires TxDOT to obtain a Section 404 permit from the US Army Corps of Engineers. This post and the call to action is confusing to totally separate issues. Anyone submitting comments on this proposed permit related to damaging wetlands will be disappointed by the agency response. They will say that comment is not pertinent.

    Michael Bloom, P.E.
    Environmental Engineer

    1. Thank you for your comment. We posted the link to the permit so supporters could express their support for clean water.

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