Failed Natural Channel Design in Harris County

Disastrous Results for Flood Control on Big Gulch in Fonteno Park

Oct. 7, 2015

Updated Jan. 9, 2016 with current Google Earth photo (See below)

Updated March 13, 2017, with photo of current results of “natural stable channel design restoration” project that replaced forest of large trees with mowed grass. (See below)

Another failed Harris County Flood Control District project, initially described as “natural channel design” but now unmentioned by the district, is the $1.05 million plus $200,000 or so Big Gulch project on a tributary of Greens Bayou adjacent to Fonteno Park and two public schools in northeast Harris County.

As announced by the flood control district in July 2014, “stormwater runoff has severely eroded the tributary’s streambanks and channel bottom, causing trees to fall into the creek and an excessive amount of sediment to be deposited into the waterway. The erosion and tree loss affects the District’s ability to maintain the system and can adversely affect flooding. Sediment deposition also impacts water quality and aquatic habitat, which affects fish and other aquatic life.

“The overall goal of the project is to restore the stream banks and channel bottom to a stable condition using natural channel design techniques, while introducing water quality enhancement features to improve stormwater quality and to protect aquatic habitat.”

The result has been a disaster. Geologist Richard Hyde has been documenting this catastrophe for several months. The flood control district bulldozed a large amount of riparian vegetation and forest, including mature, tall trees. Hyde reports on the results. What follows is a slide show of his annotated photographs from May 2015 and earlier. The text in gray is from the flood control district’s description of the project.

 

And that ugly, bare earth gash in the middle of the image below is the current January 2016 state of Flood Control’s Natural Channel Design project on Big Gulch in what was formerly mature forest in Fonteno Park. Note that the flood control district is required by state law to conserve forests. It’s part of their 1937 founding charter. Thanks to reader Bill Owens for the image.

The current state of Flood Control's Natural Channel Design project on Big Gulch. There were once huge, mature trees on these banks of Fonteno Park. Google Earth view taken January 2016 and supplied by Bill Owens.

The current state of Flood Control’s Natural Channel Design project on Big Gulch. There were once huge, mature trees on these banks of Fonteno Park. Google Earth view taken January 2016 and supplied by Bill Owens.

And here is a photo taken February 17, 2017, of the “restored” channel where a forest of large trees once stood.

Mowed turf grass on a tributary of Big Gulch next to Fonteno Park. Photo Feb. 17, 2017, by Susan Chadwick

 

2 thoughts on “Failed Natural Channel Design in Harris County”

  1. Bill Owens says:

    The current view of the “lost forest” area on google maps shows an huge area of total destruction. Take a look: https://www.google.com/maps/@29.8027056,-95.199202,841m/data=!3m1!1e3. We can only dread that kind of result along Buffalo Bayou.

    1. Wow, that’s awful. Thanks, Bill Owens.

      Richard Hyde has some updated photos of Flood Control’s devastation of Big Gulch along Fonteno Park that we hadn’t posted yet. But I hadn’t seen anything this recent. That Google image is AFTER Flood Control did some $200,000 worth of repairs.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *