A Misguided Project and Waste of Public Funds

July 19, 2014

Often the best project is to let the river fix itself. — Mathias Kondolf, “Meander Bends, Landscape Preferences, and River Restoration.” p. 51

Mathias Kondolf is one of the world’s leading river scientists. He recently wrote a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers recommending that the corps deny Harris County a permit to bulldoze the wild banks of Buffalo Bayou in and around Memorial Park.

The $6 million project would remove most of the riparian buffer from nearly 1.5 miles of some of the last remaining stretch of natural bayou in our city, demonstrating to landowners up and down the bayou and elsewhere the exact wrong thing to do. By far the most beautiful and healthiest stretch of the bayou, as it flows past Memorial Park and the Hogg Bird Sanctuary this shady, slow-moving wild bayou belongs to all of us. And amazingly, it is right here in the middle of our big city.

The project, promoted by the Bayou Preservation Association and officially a project of the Harris County Flood Control District, has no scientific or any other justification, says Kondolf. He points out that even the HCFCD says in its permit application that the stream is “recovering” (from something) and questions the county’s odd claim that razing the trees and vegetation, excavating and filling in the banks, and realigning the channel would “decrease the time needed for natural recovery.”

Kondolf points out that the existing riparian habitat is of “high quality,” that the erosion rate of the banks in the target area as estimated by the county is “not really problematic,” and notes that the construction project itself would likely dump three times more sediment into the waterway than this area does in a year.

Read Mathias Kondolf’s letter to the Army Corps of Engineers.

The forested banks of Buffalo Bayou as it flows past Memorial Park, on the left, and the River Oaks Country Club, on the right. All this would be razed by the Bayou Preservation Association's plan to "restore" the bayou.

The forested banks of Buffalo Bayou as it flows past Memorial Park, on the left, and the River Oaks Country Club, on the right. All this would be razed by the Bayou Preservation Association’s plan to “restore” the bayou. Photo taken July 13, 2014.

5 thoughts on “A Misguided Project and Waste of Public Funds”

  1. Bill Neuhaus says:

    I have been out if town, where can I find a status update

    1. Bill,

      Look under What to Do Now. At this point we need to continue to raise awareness, contact political representatives, especially Houston City Council Members Steve Costello and Oliver Pennington, who are running for mayor. The public comment period is closed on the permit application from the Harris County Flood Control District to the Army Corps of Engineers, which rarely turns down permits. However, this project violates their own policy, and other wise state and federal policy, of preserving riparian buffer along waterways. The whole project makes no sense. We need to get people to understand that razing riparian forest along the bayou is the exact wrong message our county and city and complicit preservation groups should be sending to local landowners. Property owners on the bayou are harming their property and damaging the bayou ecosystem by cutting trees and removing natural vegetation for lawns and gardens and views.

  2. Rob Martin says:

    I have a similar background to kondolf, civil engineering and dissertation in fluid dynamics and meandering rivers. I work for shell as marine engineer. I am motivated to protect buffalo bayou. I will start my research tonight. Hope I can help in some meaningful way. I am a Houston resident, and use trials for running and biking, and bayou for kayaking. Let me know how I can help.

    1. Rob,

      I am sending you contact information for some supersmart geologists with similar interests who are on the Buffalo Bayou defense team. Thanks for your support. The bayou appreciates your help, and so do the people of Houston who don’t even realize it. Anyone else who wants to join this scientific/athletic group, just let us know.

  3. Melissa Daggett says:

    I read the recent Houston Chronicle article, “The bayou banks we could lose,” and the article resonated with me. Here in Clear Lake we are fighting a similar battle against the Clear Lake City Water Authority which gained control of the Clear Lake Golf Course. Their flood prevention plan is to destroy 90% of the mature trees and in the process decimate the bird population, dig a huge big hole and then pump in effluent water to the tune of $6 million. The plan is fatally flawed with major engineering problems which would easily add another $6 million to correct. Check out savetheogc.org for more details.

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