Flooding, Buffalo Bayou, and Development

Experts’ Report: New Development Increasing Flooding

Storm Surge and Climate Action Plan


April 29, 2019


There are important meetings and events coming up focusing on flooding, Buffalo Bayou and its many tributaries, and local plans for addressing climate catastrophe.

In case you didn’t know, Buffalo Bayou is the main river flowing through the city of Houston. Beginning way out west in the Katy Prairie, the bayou flows for some fifty miles through suburbs, forested parks, including Barker dam and reservoir, past golf courses, high-rises, and downtown, becoming the Houston Ship Channel and emptying into the San Jacinto River and Galveston Bay.

In addition to numerous small creeks and streams, the bayou has thirteen major tributaries and at least five minor tributaries on the north, and two major and seven minor tributaries on the south. These include Greens, Halls, Hunting, White Oak, Bear Creek, South Mayde Creek, Willow Fork, and Williams Gully on the north, and Brays and Sims bayous on the south.

Buffalo Bayou, like most of our other main streams such as White Oak and Brays, is tidal through the city, meaning that at very high tides the flow can stop and even reverse. Buffalo Bayou is considered tidal to about 440 yards upstream or west of the Shepherd Bridge.


Corps of Engineers Public Meetings: Buffalo Bayou and Its Tributaries

So that’s one reason why, when we talk about flooding, drainage, and storm surge, we talk about Buffalo Bayou and its tributaries.

To that end, the Galveston District of the US Army Corps of Engineers is hosting a series of five public meetings in and around Houston in connection with a $6 million study of the causes of flooding along Buffalo Bayou. The study will also consider ways to reduce flood risks upstream and downstream of Barker and Addicks, the two federal dams west of the city, both of which drain into Buffalo Bayou.

The first meeting is Tuesday, April 30, in Katy. For a complete list of dates, times, and locations, you can visit our Calendar of Events or follow this link from the Corps of Engineers.


Development Regulations Allowing More Flooding

The Greater Houston Flood Mitigation Consortium released two new reports last week on drainage and detention regulations and on development regulations.

The bottom line on drainage and detention regulations is that they are “allowing new development to increase downstream flooding.”

Researchers also recommended that new regulations and policies emphasize both green (nature-based) and gray (engineered hard structure) infrastructure to address flooding. They warned against “relying too much on expensive infrastructure projects.”

The Consortium is a collaboration of regional academic institutions with expertise in hydrology, climate science, engineering, coastal resiliency, energy, community development and urban planning.

You can find the reports here.

Save the Date

The Consortium will host a symposium and social hour open to the public on Tuesday, May 14, 2019, from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m.

The free symposium will feature brief presentations on the Consortium’s 2019 body of work by leading researchers and authors. A social Q&A session with authors, funders, and attendees will follow. Refreshments will be provided.

Details on the location to follow.


Storm Surge Protection Alternatives

Harris County Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia is holding a public meeting to learn about and discuss the alternatives proposed for protecting the Houston-Galveston region and the people and industries along the Houston Ship Channel and Buffalo Bayou from a massive tidal surge associated with sea level rise and increasingly powerful storms. That’s flooding coming up from the sea rather than down the bayou into the sea.

The US Army Corps of Engineers will provide an update on their planning process for coastal protection. Texas A&M Galveston will make a presentation of their proposed Ike Dike. And the SSPEED Center at Rice University will present their Galveston Bay Park Plan, a concept for building a bay barrier along the Houston Ship Channel with a mid-bay surge gate.

The meeting will be May 15, 2019, from 6:30 to 8 p.m., at San Jacinto College, Central Campus, Slocomb Auditorium, 8060 Spencer Highway in Pasadena.

More information here.

Read the rest of this post.

Looking downstream towards downtown Houston from the Shepherd Bridge over Buffalo Bayou. Photo taken by SC on August 28, 2017, during flooding from Harvey.


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