The Mission, The Permit, The Cost
Save Buffalo Bayou was founded in 2014 to prevent the Harris County Flood Control District or anyone else from bulldozing the forested banks of Buffalo Bayou in and around Memorial Park and the Hogg Bird Sanctuary in the middle of Houston. Currently they are planning to do that, with the support of the City of Houston, the Bayou Preservation Association, and the Memorial Park Conservancy. On April 19, 2017, nearly two years after the close of the second and final public comment period, despite several hundred critical comments opposing the project as well as a petition with more than 3,000 signatures, the Army Corps of Engineers granted the flood control district an exception to the federal Clean Water Act for the project. The initial $6 million cost has now doubled to at least $12 million. Taxpayers have already contributed $4 million and now will be asked to contribute much more. The River Oaks Country Club, which in the meantime has installed environmentally-damaging concrete riprap on its banks in two places, was to contribute $2 million. The club owns the entire south bank of the project, much of it riparian forest that until recent decades had been largely undisturbed since the club’s founding in 1923 among the oaks for which it was named.
The Fight Continues
We must now intensify our efforts and prepare to go to court if necessary. We hope that doesn’t happen, and that instead our civic and political leaders belatedly recognize the value of this rare natural asset running through the middle of the city. Perhaps through the power of our logic and science-based arguments, and the voices of the people of Houston, we can persuade the authorities not to raze the forest and vegetation so vital for cleansing the water, not to drive heavy equipment through the woods and into the channel to dredge, excavate, fill, and reroute the meandering bayou, leveling its high banks, grading its sandy beaches, blocking its springs and tributaries. This shady stretch of the bayou, home to a wide variety of wildlife including beaver and otter and the threatened alligator snapping turtle, is some of our last, best publicly-accessible southern bayou in the city. It’s an outdoor classroom, one of the few places in the city where we can see the geology and natural history of Houston, witness the natural functioning of a living river, and contemplate the serenity of the forest. Containing prehistoric sandstone and high Pleistocene bluffs hundreds of thousands of years old, this is a historic nature area and should be preserved for future generations. Destroying riparian forest buffer, a type of wetland, is a violation of current state and federal land management policy and laws regarding protection of waterways.
Expanding our Mission. Working With Nature, Not Against It
Our larger focus is to spread awareness and understanding of how rivers work and how they benefit us even in urban areas. We advocate for the protection and restoration of all our bayous and tributaries. Our general mission is to educate the public and our public officials about beneficial land management on our many streams, drawing on the best modern science and the most enlightened practice around the nation and the world. We aim to encourage government agencies to develop enlightened flood and erosion control and drainage policies and practices that respect the natural process of our local bayous and creeks, their floodplains and watersheds, the trees and vegetation growing on their banks that are so vital for the health of our waters, our environment, and us. We support natural or “green” solutions to flooding because they are more effective, cheaper, and better for our health and our environment. Rather than endlessly widening and deepening the channels of our vital waterways, we believe in slowing down, spreading out, and soaking up stormwater before it hits our streams. We also advocate for public access to our public streams and the protection of our forests and prairies.
Our ultimate goal is to have our bayous and tributaries running clean and clear all the way to Galveston Bay, shaded and protected by native vegetation, and to restore to a more natural state those that have been stripped .