Texas gulf wetlands face population, development challenges
By Kathryn Eastburn, the Galveston County Daily News
February 1, 2019
GALVESTON, Texas — To a motorist, zipping south through Galveston County from Houston to Galveston Island, the surrounding landscape might look like a whole lot of nothing — flat land, scrubby grass and frontage roads edging up to open prairie.
The Galveston County Daily News reports only the occasional sight of a seabird landing among tall grasses might warrant a glance.
John Jacob, a geoscientist with the state of Texas, professor at Texas A&M University and widely recognized expert on wetlands of the upper Texas Gulf Coast, calls the phenomenon “the burden of flat land.”
“If you live, say, in Colorado and somebody went out to the Garden of the Gods and said, ‘Hey, we’re going to build a strip mall here,’ everybody would say you were crazy,” Jacob said. “It’s very difficult here to engender enthusiasm for the wetlands we drive by and don’t really see.”
Some in Houston are advocating for a massive, multi-billion dollar tunnel to be constructed to carry polluted stormwaters from the west side all the way to Galveston Bay. Can Houston learn from the mistake of Chicago?
Chicago tried to dig its way out of urban flooding decades before climate change made it a national crisis. Did the city, and its imitators, pick the wrong solution?
By Henry Grabar, Slate
CHICAGO—That the Chicago River is reborn, that its tree-shaded promenades are thronged with strolling families, that new buildings turn toward the water and old buildings have opened new windows to face it, that people kayak in what was once an open cesspool in the middle of downtown—all of this is a point of pride here. People laughed when then-Mayor Richard J. Daley said in the ’70s that he’d one day like to see people grilling freshly caught fish on the river’s banks. Though it would have seemed insane in 1980 (or 1880), people do fish in the Chicago River today, and the number of species to be found here has multiplied tenfold in the past four decades.
That’s because Chicago built a second river, an infernal reflection of the first, tracing its course hundreds of feet below ground. On rainy days, this subterranean passage, a conduit that can hold more than 1 billion gallons of wastewater, welcomes a roaring torrent of shit, piss, and oily runoff from the downtown streets. This megasewer, a filthy hidden portrait to the Chicago River’s Dorian Gray, is dynamic enough to create its own wave action if not properly supervised. That’s what happened on Oct. 3, 1986, when a geyser blasted through a downtown street, lifting a 61-year-old woman’s Pontiac Bonneville into the air like a toy, nearly drowning the driver in dirty water.
For more livable cities, landscape architect says answer the call of the wild
Interview with landscape architect Kevin Sloan by Asher Elbein for Texas Climate News
Jan. 4, 2019
With urbanization and sprawl ongoing concerns in Texas cities, the question of how to build in ecological resilience grows more pressing. Kevin Sloan, a landscape architect in Dallas and professor at the University of Texas at Arlington, has been a big proponent of “rewilding,” a practice of designing green space to attract wildlife and reframe cities.
What is rewilding and why is it important?
What I, along with others, have come to use this word to describe is a process for how to approach environmental design. Everyone understands that for centuries architects have tailored building designs for the occupants those buildings shelter. If you’re building a house, there are private spaces, public living rooms. But even though we’ve built great gardens, parks, and exterior environments, we’ve never really asked what kinds of fauna these environments shelter. Of course when we design a park and plant trees, we know that birds will nest in those trees. But we’ve never made it anything deliberate.
We’re coming to realize that any exterior environment can be rewilded for a program of fauna that might include migratory pollinators, butterflies, honeybees, birds, maybe some small amphibians, and that the plant selections and design strategies account for – in a very deliberate way – the accommodation of those species.
Whether it’s a traffic island going into your motor-bank or an urban park or the Trinity River floodway corridor [in Dallas], you just ask the question: What could this area that I am about to affect reasonably accommodate for animals? And then design with that in mind.