Flood Control’s Destructive Bayou Maintenance Will Lead to More Erosion, More Maintenance

Practices Fall Behind Standards Elsewhere

June 3, 2018

For months we have been receiving complaints about the damage the Harris County Flood Control District is doing to Buffalo Bayou.

Citizens have been sending us video and photographs of contract workers dredging, banging, mucking, bulldozing, slamming and damming the channel and banks; dragging, cutting, and removing large trees, live trees, trees fallen against the banks, trees fallen in the woods.

And now we have reports that they’ve done the same to Cypress Creek in northern Harris County.

The “maintenance” they have done – virtually clearing out the channel and banks — will lead to greater erosion and instability, more sediment and more flooding. And more costly maintenance.

A trackhoe on a barge stuck in the sandy channel bottom of Buffalo Bayou at that bend below the high bank in Memorial Park. Maintenance contractor with Flood Control was removing fallen trees from the banks and channel. Photo by SC, May 19, 2018

Harvey and the flooding that followed left a huge amount of woody and other sorts of debris in our bayous, our natural drainage system. Buffalo Bayou, our main river, flows from its source in the Katy Prairie for some 75 miles east through the center of Houston, becoming the Houston Ship Channel and emptying into Galveston Bay. For much of that route, the 18,000-year-old bayou remains one of the few relatively natural streams in the city. It accumulated a lot of debris, logjams and snags during Harvey, as did Cypress Creek.

The Importance of Fallen Trees

There are trees along Buffalo Bayou, great tall trees in places, and they sometimes fall into it. Trees have been doing this on rivers for over a hundred million years. Trees, before and after they fall, are a crucial part of the river’s natural system. Overhanging trees shade the water, regulating the temperature. Their extensive roots, together with the roots of riparian plants, anchor the bank, protecting the bank from washing out. When trees fall into the channel, they continue to provide stability to the stream and its banks, trapping sediment, fortifying against and deflecting heavy flows, helping the channel to maintain a healthy width and depth and to form riffles and pools, helping the stream to restore itself more quickly after a flood, and providing food and habitat for the diversity of creatures large and small that sustain the bayou’s ecosystem.

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