Virtual Public Meeting Tuesday, Oct. 13. Comment Period Now
Oct. 13, 2020
The US Army Corps of Engineers has come up with an outrageous plan to strip, deepen and widen Buffalo Bayou and line it in places with concrete block for 22-24 miles all the way from Highway 6 in far west Houston to 1,500-feet downstream of Montrose in Buffalo Bayou Park downtown.
Is this the 1930’s? The 1960’s? The plan is so backwards and outdated it’s difficult to believe they are serious.
The Corps even admits the project could kill all aquatic life in the bayou. (p. 178-180) And that there are no positive net benefits. (pp. 19 and 149) The cost is estimated to be from $1 billion to $4 billion, not including future continuing maintenance.
Modern flood risk management focuses on stopping stormwaters before they flood streams. On managing flooding in place, stopping raindrops where they fall, on slowing down, spreading out, and soaking in rainfall. And getting out of the way. Sponge cities. Green infrastructure. Wetlands, greenspace, trees. Both the City of Houston and Harris County have emphasized this, as have cities around the state and around the world.
Creating capacity to convey more and faster rainwater runoff encourages the production of more and faster runoff. As the excellent Greater Houston Flood Mitigation Consortium reported in 2018, “conveyance projects can make flooding worse.” (p. 17)
Note that Harris County Flood Control just spent nearly $10 million reconfiguring the banks in Buffalo Bayou Park downtown. (See here and here.) In 2017 the agency also spent millions “repairing” the north bank in Terry Hershey Park between Beltway 8 and Highway 6, and in 2019 spent millions more clearing trees and scraping shallow detention basins out of the park’s south bank.
Also note the Corps’ report complains that in places the bayou is naturally deepening and widening itself (p. 67-68) and this problem will have to be fixed. But at the same time the bayou needs to be deeper and wider so we are going to do that with bulldozers and billions of dollars.
Attend a Virtual Public Meeting, Send Comments
The Corps is holding virtual public meetings on the report, known as the Buffalo Bayou and Tributaries Resiliency Study Interim Feasibility Report. The first virtual meeting is today, Tuesday, Oct. 13, from 6 to 8 p.m., followed by meetings on Oct. 15, 22, and 26. Here is how to join the meetings.
The public comment period opened Oct. 2 when the Corps’ Galveston District released the 210-page report. Public comment ends on Nov. 2. Here is how to send your comments to the Corps.
Purpose and Alternatives
The purpose of the study is to figure out what to do about too much stormwater flowing too fast into Addicks and Barker reservoirs, the flood control dams in far west Houston that drain into Buffalo Bayou. (Note that the Harris County Flood Control District has been busy speeding up the flow of stormwater through tributary streams into Addicks and Barker reservoirs.)