Plans and Maps

 

Destroying the bayou in order to “restore” it.

Updated August 1, 2014, to include the Harris County Flood Control District’s map of the areas to be excavated (yellow) and filled in (orange). Note the huge amount of land and forest to be lost by the River Oaks Country Club, the destruction  of the Hogg Tributary and the magnificent old cliff overlooking it, as well as other prehistoric cliffs and virtually all the riparian forest along both banks of the bayou, as well as the bayou itself, which is to be dredged, channelized, rerouted and reconstructed. This is an historic nature area, and it is to be destroyed, along with the bayou’s natural ecosystem.

Where Buffalo Bayou will be excavated (yellow) and filled in (orange). Map created by the Harris County Flood Control District.

Where Buffalo Bayou will be excavated (yellow) and filled in (orange). Map created by the Harris County Flood Control District.

Updated May 28, 2014. New map and entire permit application now online. See below.

Update June 19, 2014: The HCFCD has apparently changed the link and the size of the full final application to the ACE for a permit to destroy Buffalo Bayou. The link is now http://www.hcfcd.org/downloads/brochures/CompleteFinalIP_MPDP.pdf and the document is now  37MB on 06/13/2014.

Here is what the Harris County Flood Control District says on its website about the necessity to bulldoze the wild riparian forest of Buffalo Bayou in Memorial Park:

“The bayou has experienced severe erosion caused by changes in stormwater runoff rates due to urbanization and the release of high stormwater flows for extended periods of time from the United States Army Corps of Engineers-controlled Addicks and Barker reservoirs in west Harris County. Erosion in the project area has caused bank failures, loss of public and private land, and a reduction in ecological functions, such as water quality and habitat.”

But the fact sheet says nothing about controlling stormwater runoff. And the permit application to the Army Corps of Engineers makes clear that the proposed project will not improve water quality or ecological functions, that a vast amount of habitat will be destroyed, and that even more public and private land will be lost to the county bulldozers.

Here is where you can find what the HCFCD said about its plan in December 2013. It includes a powerpoint demonstration on the virtues of Bermuda grass.

treeinventory

This image from the HCFCD shows an inventory of the types and numbers of trees in the project area. However, only trees larger than 8 inches in diameter at breast height were counted, leaving out a lot of trees, as can be seen on the map. The HCFCD says the vegetation will be removed from 80 percent of the project area. This is riparian forest, which protects the land from erosion, and removing it is exactly the wrong thing to do.

The HCFCD answers Frequently Asked Questions: They want to bulldoze the riparian forest while maintaining its natural state! And they want to continue to use this illogical, controversial method on Buffalo Bayou and other bayous.

From their website:

“Q: What is the project ‘demonstrating’?

“A: The Memorial Park Demonstration Project provides an opportunity to showcase – or “demonstrate” – the benefits of utilizing natural channel design techniques to stabilize a portion of Buffalo Bayou while maintaining the natural state of this iconic Harris County bayou. The natural channel design techniques used in this project could be applied to other segments of the bayou if a decision is made to do so in the future. The project’s intent is also to show property owners along Buffalo and other bayous the long-term benefits of restoring a significant channel reach, as opposed to making individual repairs that only address isolated areas of erosion and do not take into account effects the alteration will have on the opposite side of the bayou and downstream.”

But Natural Channel Design Is Not Appropriate for Buffalo Bayou

Respected bioengineer Robbin Sotir commenting on Natural Channel Design to Harris County Commissioner R. Jack Cagle in a telephone conference call on December 16, 2013:  “At this time I do not think the present plan using the Natural Channel Design approach is appropriate for this reach of Buffalo Bayou. I have come to this conclusion for a number of reasons: (1) consideration of the altered watershed hydrology and associated systemic instabilities, (2) our determination that the underlying problem is related to geotechnical failures (not erosion) and (3) the proposed changes to the channel resulting in a very high amount of disturbance to the riparian forest.”

The HCFD Plan submitted to the Army Corps of Engineers.

Here is a link to the full public notice and the plan submitted to the Army Corps of Engineers by the Harris County Flood Control District.

Update May, 28, 2014: But wait! That isn’t the full plan. Entire permit application now available online!

HCFCD has now posted the entire 719-page plan on its website! No need to drive all the way to Galveston to inspect the permit application in the District Office of the Army Corps of Engineers. Apparently this is the real and true official permit application, unlike the 41-page document posted on the ACE website. And can you imagine the ACE was telling us we needed a Freedom of Information Request to view the proposed plan. Thank you, HCFCD, for doing the right thing.  You can download the full pdf document here: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Individual Permit Application for MPDP  (PDF, 43MB, 05/19/2014)

Update June 19, 2014: The HCFCD has apparently changed the link and the size of the full final application to the ACE for a permit to destroy Buffalo Bayou. The link is now http://www.hcfcd.org/downloads/brochures/CompleteFinalIP_MPDP.pdf and the document is now  37MB on 06/13/2014.

New map showing riparian zone targeted for destruction is bigger than before. Includes forest in the interior of Memorial Park to be bulldozed to provide access for heavy equipment to the bayou.

Note how the “study area” in this map from the Army Corps of Engineers website extends further east than HCFCD’s inventory of trees (the map above with yellow lines).

The dotted red lines show the 14.35 acres of riparian forest to be scraped and bulldozed. According to the HCFCD, 80 percent of the vegetation in the targeted area will be removed. Note the areas to be cleared of trees extends into the interior of Memorial Park towards the maintenance facility. This is for access by heavy equipment to the bayou.

The dotted red lines show the 14.35 acres of riparian forest to be scraped and bulldozed. According to the HCFCD, 80 percent of the vegetation in the targeted area will be removed. Note the areas to be cleared of trees extends into the interior of Memorial Park towards the maintenance facility. This is for access by heavy equipment to the bayou.

3 thoughts on “Plans and Maps”

  1. Tex McFaden says:

    Here is a link to the Virginia Department of Forestry, which explains the importance of riparian forest, not only to the wildlife, but also to the water. It explains how important even as little as a 50-foot wide strip of riparian forest is to the ecosystem and surrounding areas.

    It doesn’t take a rocket scientist, nor an ecologist, to know that this project, which has already been deemed highly suspect, will disrupt the ecosystem for years to come, and may result in the total elimination of a wide variety of the area’s current inhabitants.

    The Army Corps of Engineers surely has more pressing and important matters to attend to at this time, than condemning the Buffalo Bayou to a “Demonstration Project.”

    Quite frankly, the idiot savant that decided to name it a “Demonstration Project” should be fired. When dealing with such a sensitive issue and the people of an area who routinely use it, the first rule of PUBLIC RELATIONS is to make sure you do whatever you can to put people at ease.

    It is obvious that there was no concern over PUBLIC Relations OR THE ECOSYSTEM based on the statements, documents, reports and news articles that have been presented. If there is even one dissenting expert, then it is foolish to push through with a $6,000,000 “Demonstration Project” using a techinique that has proven to be quite inappropriate in a great many situations.

    If an expert is saying that erosion is not the problem, and this technique is best suited for erosion-based problems, as proven over time around the country, then you do not proceed in destroying a habitat just so you can blow $6,000,000 of taxpayer money and still end up with the same, OR WORSE, problem.

    Not everyone agrees on everything, but when it comes to understanding what a riparian forest is and how important it is, I would think that everyone should agree that the solution should have a whole lot more agreement, than disagreement, as to its potential for success.

    Quite frankly, if you’re not willing to carefully relocate and care for the existing trees, and put them back ASAP after this project, then you’re not going to have the same riparian forest that has existed for hundreds upon hundreds of years. I have seen extremely large and OLD trees carefully excavated and moved, in Plano, TX, and it took many weeks and a ton of manpower and equipment and specialists. The owner wanted to expand his home but refused to scrap such old and majestic trees… and he had the money to make it happen. Somehow, I do not see that as a possibility with the ACE, thus the “new” Bayou will never function as it has or as it should. The very important purposes of a riparian forest will not be fulfilled for decades, at a minimum, and based on the purposes of a riparian forest, the entire ecosystem of Houston will be affected, to include migration patterns… which, when it comes to birds, now affects the AIRPORTS in the Houston area.

    I don’t think the ACE understands or cares about the “Butterfly Effect” and we know politicians and affected home owners certainly don’t care… until a flock of birds migrating, on a new flight path because their “layover” has been destroyed, ends up knocking a loaded jet out of the sky, killing everyone on board and everyone on the ground… because such things have happened and can still happen.

    In fact, “anything is possible” is not just some empty mantra for people to use… it is a serious fact to consider when choosing to interrupt the last vestiges of natural, pre-existing ecosystem.

  2. Wonderful, informative comment, Tex. Here is the link to the Virginia Department of Forestry’s very clear explanation of the importance of riparian forest buffers.

    http://dof.virginia.gov/mgt/riparian/index.htm

  3. Martha Smith says:

    Great Response! Worthy of taking into consideration.

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