Construction to Begin on Stormwater Basins in Forest of Buffalo Bayou

Flood Control Sends Notice to Residents Adjacent to Terry Hershey Park


Jan. 29, 2019

The Harris County Flood Control District has notified residents living on upper Buffalo Bayou in west Houston that construction of controversial stormwater detention basins on the forested south bank will begin soon.

The district sent an email, including a flyer about the project, to neighborhood leaders last Thursday, Jan. 24, asking them to spread the word that construction would begin in late January on three initial basins between Eldridge Parkway and Dairy-Ashford Road. The shallow linear detention basins require the clearing of trees and vegetation near the bank of the bayou. They would capture and temporarily hold about 100-acre feet of overflow from the bayou during a storm.

The district says in the flyer that it will attempt to preserve some trees and vegetation between the basins and neighboring property as well as along the water’s edge.

Looking downstream on the straightened channel of Buffalo Bayou in Terry Hershey Park in west Houston. Photo June 9, 2018

The district owns some 500 acres of land along the bayou for a little over six miles below Barker and Addicks dams. The bayou there was stripped and straightened by the Corps of Engineers in the late Forties. An analysis by Save Buffalo Bayou showed that straightening and narrowing the bayou there actually reduced its capacity, making future residents more vulnerable to flooding. At the time, the land—other than the natural riparian forest along the banks of the meandering bayou—was mostly agricultural.

Trees grew back, and the flood control district purchased the land from the Corps in the Sixties, leased it in the Nineties to Harris County for a public park named after environmentalist Terry Hershey, and began stripping trees again on the north bank for linear detention basins similar to those planned on the south bank. In the meantime, trails through the south bank woods became popular with hikers and bikers, and by 2012 local residents had formed a committee called Save Our Forest to fight plans to remove forest and excavate detention basins there.

Save Our Forest was largely successful until Harvey, after which the district revived its plans for a series of linear basins temporarily holding some 280 acre-feet of bayou overflow on the south bank between Highway 6 and Beltway 8.

Let the Bayou Expand Itself

In line with modern practice, Save Buffalo Bayou is in favor of slowing and holding stormwater before it floods a stream, not after. A better, more effective, less expensive approach would be to allow the bayou to restore its natural meanders, naturally lengthening and increasing the capacity of the stream, which is what it will keep trying to do anyway, eating away at the banks long ago weakened by artificial straightening as well as by ongoing digging and compressing by heavy equipment. Instead the county and the district spend millions repairing the unstable channel in order to keep it straight.

The district has already spent millions on the south bank linear detention basin project, including paying engineering firms for vegetation surveys and design. Lecon, Inc. has the $1.8 million contract to construct the initial basins scheduled to begin any day now.

Planned detention basins in Terry Hershey Park on south bank of Buffalo Bayou. This plan is to compensate for MORE stormwater that the City plans to drain eventually into the bayou. Image courtesy HCFCD







9 thoughts on “Construction to Begin on Stormwater Basins in Forest of Buffalo Bayou”

  1. Becky Pate says:

    Is there nothing that can be done to stop this? I had not heard this previously.

    1. You can try writing or calling immediately Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, Precinct 3 Commissioner Steve Radack, and Harris County Flood Control Executive Director Russ Poppe.

    2. Cody says:

      Hi Becky,

      Do you know if anyone is organizing a protest? I am part of the biking/hiking community that uses these trails daily and I am willing to fight. I think we could get a large group together and impede construction.

      1. Excellent idea. We can help get some media attention.

  2. Cody says:

    There is a Facebook group (Anthills MTB (official)) with a large number of people that are willing to help in anyway they can. I spoke with Matt Lopez who is in charge of public communications for this project and he mentioned that once they finish construction with phase one (Eldridge to Dairy Ashford) they will analyze result and move to the area west of Dairy Ashford. The largest hurdle that we will face is the fact that Harris County Flood Control owns the property and can do what they want with it. I made it very clear to Matt that they have the power to save a park and protect the environment for future generations and if they choose not to there is no going back, we will not have another park like Terry Hersey. Matt was very polite and well spoken but is also well aware that these retention cells will not actually stop flood water from making it downstream in the case of another catastrophic flood. He has support from the HOA leaders in the area and that gives them lots of power. The HOA leaders want to be seen protecting the houses in their neighborhoods and this is the easiest and possibly only solution that has been brought forward to them. Matt mentioned that there is a planned path through the “park” once the cells are built but they will be paved and resemble something like White Oak Bayou (nothing you would want to run or bike on a hot day). One small thing we can all do is contact Precinct 3 and ask for natural surface trails their number is (713) 755 6306. If anyone has any ideas let me know and I am willing to help.

    1. Thanks, Cody.

      The Anthills group is well aware of this. We have been in contact with them. Check out the comments on our Facebook page. There are people who want to organize, but also people who believe (mistakenly) that this will help them from flooding, especially downstream.

      1. And definitely natural surface trails would be better.

  3. Lynn says:

    I’m interested in a protest. Please post a web link
    This is so sneaky how they are doing this with hardly any notice to the adjoining neighborhoods. These neighborhoods were severely impacted by Harvey and folks are doing everything in their power just to put their homes back together. The tragedy is this project will cost millions and have very little impact on flooding. But instead the wildlife, nature and trails will be gone forever. One more thing taken away from folks that have been suffering emotionally and financially already. The HOAs are blindly believing the powers that be that have already decided to force this project thinking that it will improve drainage and cause less flooding. It won’t ! They’re just adding more water into the bayou from other areas so they had to make more room.

    1. Apparently the Homeowners Associations are aware, though, and mistakenly believe the detention basins will help. Everyone wants to look like they are doing something. Anything.

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