Zooming on Buffalo Bayou and Addicks Dam

Public Online Meeting, Tuesday, Jan. 19, to Discuss Issues and Alternatives to the Corps of Engineers’ Answers to Dam and Flood Problems

Jan. 17, 2021

Neighborhood activists in the Addicks watershed in west Houston and beyond have organized an informal online meeting Tuesday, Jan. 19, to discuss alternatives to the Corps of Engineers’ much derided proposals to deal with flooding in and around the overburdened Addicks and Barker flood control dams on upper Buffalo Bayou.

Specifically the Zoom meeting was set up to answer Save Buffalo Bayou’s questions about alleged “bottlenecks” or “flow restrictions” in meandering Buffalo Bayou below Beltway 8 in west Houston. SBB has asked for a definition and the locations of these “bottlenecks.”

The Addicks Watershed Flood Mitigation Network, a coalition of property owners and neighborhood associations around Addicks Reservoir, generally opposes deepening and widening Buffalo Bayou. Nevertheless organizers have tentatively included “de-bottlenecking” as one of their remedies for speeding up drainage from the dams.

Save Buffalo Bayou is in favor of slowing drainage into the dams (and into the bayou below the dams). We are also in favor of restoring meanders on the straightened and narrowed stretch of the bayou upstream of Beltway 8. Unfortunately in the last few years, the county has spent millions of dollars reinforcing the channelized section there with riprap and scraping out the forest to build shallow overflow basins.

The Addicks network has graciously made the Tuesday Zoom meeting open to the public. It starts at 2 p.m. Anyone interested in these issues or with expertise to add is welcome to join.

Here is how to join the meeting along with an explanation of the meeting objectives. These objectives also include a discussion of a recent presentation of Houston Stronger’s Buffalo Bayou Community Plan.

Here is a description of the issues from the Addicks Flood Mitigation Network.

Not Bottlenecks

As Save Buffalo Bayou has pointed out, the issue of bayou meanders being “kinks” or “bottlenecks” was studied by Harris County Flood Control in 2019. Proposals to build artificial meander “bypasses” or even raise bridges were found to have little benefit. However, SBB also has pointed out the numerous stormwater outfalls, installed in violation of federal and county regulations, that block the flow during high water.

The issue of “de-bottlenecking” has been brought up by the Addicks group as part of their many thoughtful alternatives to the Corps of Engineers’ roundly rejected proposal to deepen and widen Buffalo Bayou and build a dam and reservoir on Cypress Creek and the Katy Prairie.

Led by One Creek West, the network is attempting to build a consensus to present to the Corps and congressional representatives. Most if not all of these property owners were flooded in 2017 by the unprecedented level of the flood pool as Harvey stormwater flowing rapidly into the reservoir through tributary streams backed up behind closed Addicks Dam. (Property owners in the flood pool behind Barker Dam also flooded but this group is addressing only Addicks Dam.)

In the very early morning of Aug. 28, 2017, the Corps, fearing that the stormwaters would overtop Addicks Dam, opened the floodgates. This flooded a great many properties along the straightened and narrowed section of Buffalo Bayou above and around Beltway 8. This stretch runs for six miles or so from the two federal flood control dams in far west Houston to just below Beltway 8.

Further downstream, the disastrous flood peak from Harvey, resulting from stormwater draining too quickly from the paved and built city, had already passed on Aug. 27, flooding many properties. This happened with the dam floodgates closed.

Stop Stormwater Before It Floods. Take Responsibility!

Save Buffalo Bayou believes the focus should be on stopping and slowing stormwater runoff before it enters the reservoirs—and before it floods our bayou, our natural and built drainage system downstream. Stopping, slowing, spreading out and soaking in runoff happens with pervious surface (gravel and dirt), disconnecting downspouts, trees, native gardens, swales, green roofs, prairies, wetlands, greenspace and parks, and more. This also cleanses the water and generally makes for a healthier, cooler, and more attractive community.

Neighborhood associations and individuals need to take responsibility for slowing the flow. Every action counts. The longer it takes for rain to hit the ground and enter the stream, the lower the peak flow in the stream. It’s called lag time.

So think of joining the Zoom meeting, which may or may not include representatives of Houston Stronger and others.

Meandering Buffalo Bayou. Memorial Park on the right. Photo by Jim Olive.

2 thoughts on “Zooming on Buffalo Bayou and Addicks Dam”

  1. Janice Bezanson says:

    I would have joined the online meeting and encouraged some others to do so, but I couldn’t find the time and link in the email that was sent. Did I just miss it? Thanks.

    1. So sorry we didn’t see your comment earlier. It was a long and interesting meeting with lots of discussion.

      The link to join the discussion was embedded in “Here is how to join the meeting.” Apologies if that was difficult to find.

      We hope to have more discussion down the road. Thanks for your interest.

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