Commissioners Court Oks Study for Bypasses on Buffalo Bayou Meanders

$350,000 Contract Includes Study of Bridges

Nov. 21, 2018

Harris County Commissioners’ Court has approved a $350,000 contract to study a controversial proposal for installing large concrete culverts through meanders on Buffalo Bayou.

The contract was awarded at a commissioners’ court meeting Nov. 13 to Texas-based engineering firm Huitt-Zollars. It also calls for studying the “hydraulic performance of bridge crossings” on the bayou as well as the “high-flow bypasses” of meanders.

The contract focuses on 33 bridges and 4 pipeline crossings on Buffalo Bayou between Highway 6 in far west Houston and Congress Street downtown. It identifies 13 potential meander bypass locations between Beltway 8 and Shepherd Drive. (pp. 11 and 12)

The meander bypass plan is based on a misunderstanding of the causes of flooding upstream and the beneficial function of meanders in streams. The idea was proposed by neighborhood activists living above Beltway 8 who blame the meanders of the bayou below the beltway for exacerbating flooding of their homes in low-lying floodplains adjacent to a six-mile-long stretch of the bayou that was straightened in the Fifties. That stretch of the bayou is now Terry Hershey Park, owned by the Harris County Flood Control District.

Meanders Not the Cause of Flooding Upstream

A study commissioned by Save Buffalo Bayou found that the bypass plan is likely unfeasible and could increase flooding and erosion of property downstream.  Save Buffalo Bayou is opposed to meander bypasses, which would be highly damaging, counterproductive, and a waste of public funds.

“Preserving old stands of trees, natural swales, wetlands, oxbows, vegetated riparian areas, and meanders; building small weirs, sediment structures, wet gardens, and setback levees; lengthening streams, and accepting large woody debris in the channel are useful techniques. Using these practices to work with the natural motion of the river is more effective – and less expensive – in reducing flood damage and helping us realize benefits from the water.”

Floodplain Management: A New Approach for a New Era, p. 137


Meandering Buffalo Bayou. Looking upstream from a high bank in Memorial Park. Photo Nov. 6, 2018, by SC








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