Deadline Extended to Comment on Proposal to Deepen, Widen Buffalo Bayou

New Deadline Nov. 20. How to Comment.

Nov. 2, 2020

[Update: The Corps sent out an email notice at 5:15 p.m.]

[Incorrect and duplicate links about dredging updated. Sorry about that.]

The Corps of Engineers hadn’t exactly announced an extension of the deadline to comment on their controversial report proposing to strip, dredge, deepen, and widen Buffalo Bayou from the dams to downtown, among other ideas. But they did tell the Chronicle, which on Saturday, Oct. 31, included the information in an op-ed by members of Houston Stronger criticizing the report. Unfortunately, the Chronicle mixed up the date, describing Friday, Nov. 20, as a Tuesday, leading to further confusion.

But now, midday Monday, Nov. 2, with the official deadline looming this evening and after some prompting, the Galveston District of the Corps has changed the date on their webpage for the interim study. They also posted about it on Facebook.

So officially the new deadline for commenting on the Corps’ Buffalo Bayou and Tributaries Interim Report is end of the day Nov. 20.

Note, however, that Col. Timothy Vail, Galveston District Commander of the Corps, stated in a virtual public meeting Oct. 26 that there would be “no cutoff,” and that the public should “keep those comments coming.”

Tentatively Selected Plans

The next stage in the process is for the Corps to complete a “draft feasibility report” and environmental impact statement and propose a “tentatively selected plan,” according to a graphic supplied by the Corps during public meetings.  The Corps expects to have this done and ready for further public comment by late next spring, according to statements made at their virtual public meeting. Ultimately it would be up to Congress to approve and fund the final recommended plans.

Short red line is the very approximate channel width of Buffalo Bayou just upstream from the Gessner Bridge: about 110-112 feet across the top of the bank. Longer red line is the proposed widening to 230 feet.

The interim report suggests deepening Buffalo Bayou by about 11 feet and widening the top of the channel to some 230 feet for some 22-24 miles from the federal dams to downtown Houston. For a very rough comparison, according to Google Earth, the top of the bayou channel from upper bank to bank at Gessner is about 110-112 feet across. Downstream in Memorial Park the top of the channel is about 220-230 feet. Far upstream just below the dams in Terry Hershey Park just below Wilcrest the top width is about 75 feet.

The Corps also proposes lining the bayou channel bottom and banks with articulated concrete block in areas of “high erosion.” However, articulated concrete block in Buffalo Bayou only worsens bank collapse.

In addition the Corps also proposes a dam on Cypress Creek and a 22,000-acre reservoir on the Katy Prairie. During heavy rains, Cypress Creek naturally overflows south across the prairie into Addicks Reservoir.

The Corps owns and operates the flood-control dams, Barker and Addicks, and during and after Harvey stormwater flow into the normally empty reservoir parks was so high and so fast the Corps was forced to open the floodgates, inundating properties on the straightened stretch of the bayou below the dams for some six miles to just below Beltway 8.

The proposed boundaries of a dam and reservoir on Cypress Creek in northwest Harris County. Image from the Galveston District, Corps of Engineers

A Better Solution

The problem is too much rain running off the impervious ground, through pipes, streams and creeks, and flowing too fast into reservoirs that are too small behind sinking, cracking earthen dams.

So why does Harris County Flood Control continue to spend public funds on projects to speed up the flow of stormwater into Addicks and Barker reservoirs? And why does the Corps propose doing the same by widening and deepening Cane Island Branch, a tributary of Buffalo Bayou upstream of Barker Reservoir? (p. 127)

Conveying stormwater to Galveston Bay as fast as possible is a “national value,” said Col. Vail at a recent virtual meeting, contradicting all current science about the futility of trying to do that.

(See also here and here and p. 50)

Vail didn’t explain (and neither does the interim report) what happens when that massive surge of fast-moving polluted stormwater racing out of Buffalo Bayou during major storms meets a potential tidal surge from the bay. Or what the impact on the bay would be from all that toxic freshwater (much of which would otherwise sink into, sit on, or drain slowly from the ground if it weren’t covered with impervious surface, like roads, buildings, parking lots, etc.).

Buffalo Bayou is tidal through downtown past the Shepherd Bridge. (p. 65) (See also this report on tides during Harvey.)

Oddly, the Corps refers to Buffalo Bayou as “naturalized,” as if it weren’t natural once. (p. 197)

We think the focus should be on managing flooding in place, on slowing, stopping, spreading out and soaking in rainwater before it floods our streams. Nature-based, green. Trees, prairies, wetlands, wooded parks, meandering natural streams; rain gardens, swales, vegetated ditches, porous surfaces, green roofs, etc. See our page of Books and Articles about Buffalo Bayou, Rivers, Flooding, and Nature for more information. See also the City of Houston’s Resilient Houston report and Harris County’s Harris Thrives resolution.

And maybe, if the issue is so pressing and vital, there ought to be a moratorium on new development out there until we figure it out. (p. 92)

Related posts:

Managing Flood Risks: What to Do? Interviews with Bob Freitag, lead author of Floodplain Management: A New Approach for a New Era and Susan Chadwick, President and Executive Director of Save Buffalo Bayou. Oct. 26, 2020

Pushback Against Deeply Flawed Plans for Buffalo Bayou, Katy Prairie, Oct. 22, 2020

Outrageous Plan to Deepen, Widen, Kill Buffalo Bayou, Oct. 13, 2020

Comments to the Corps from the Katy Prairie Conservancy on the Interim Report, Nov. 2, 2020

Katy Prairie Conservancy’s alternatives to the Corps’ Interim Report   

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2 thoughts on “Deadline Extended to Comment on Proposal to Deepen, Widen Buffalo Bayou”

  1. Thomas G Diaz says:

    We nee to provide all on your email database a Form Letter that can be addressed to our local representatives detailing our opposition to the BBTRS interim report.

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