Public Meetings About the Streams Flowing Into Addicks and Barker Reservoirs
Sept. 27, 2019
Update Oct. 12, 2019:
The Harris County Flood Control District is holding public meetings in the next two weeks to talk about dredging and clearing channels and streams, including Buffalo Bayou, that flow into Addicks and Barker reservoirs in west Houston.
Addicks and Barker are the federal flood-control reservoirs behind the dams constructed by the US Army Corps of Engineers in the 1940s. They both feed into Buffalo Bayou, and they are both parks, normally empty, with the dam floodgates standing open, unless there are heavy rains downstream.
Streams flowing into Addicks Dam, which is north of Interstate 10, include South Mayde Creek, Bear Creek, Horsepen Creek, and Langham Creek. Buffalo Bayou and Mason Creek flow into Barker Reservoir south of Interstate 10.
Upstream of the boundaries of the federal reservoirs, these streams, including Buffalo Bayou, have been largely stripped, straightened, and channelized (as well as the six-mile long stretch in Terry Hershey Park below the dams). But inside the reservoirs they have remained relatively wooded and natural.
Dredging streams for the purpose of reducing flooding is controversial, as the practice can lead to increased flooding and erosion, increased sedimentation and therefore increased maintenance.
Too much stormwater flowing too quickly into the reservoirs, particularly Addicks Reservoir, forced the Corps of Engineers to open the floodgates during Harvey, causing additional disastrous flooding downstream. Modern flood management practice focuses on slowing and stopping stormwater before it floods a stream.
Flood Control’s Community Engagement Meeting for the Addicks Reservoir Watershed will be Thursday, Oct. 3, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Richard and Meg Weekley Community Center, 8440 Greenhouse Road in Cypress.
The District invites interested citizens to view the presentation online through a live feed hosted at www.facebook.com/hcfcd. An open house will follow the presentation, where interested citizens are invited to review informational exhibits, discuss the Addicks Reservoir Watershed Channel Rehabilitation Project with Harris County representatives, and provide comments to the Harris County Flood Control District.
For questions, contact the Flood Control District at 713-684-4000, or fill out the comment form online http://www.hcfcd.org/F53 by October 17, 2019, for inclusion in meeting documentation.
The Community Engagement meeting for the Barker Reservoir Watershed will be Monday, Oct. 7, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the James E. Taylor High School Main Cafeteria, 20700 Kingsland Blvd., in Katy.
Interested citizens are also invited to view this presentation online through a live feed hosted at www.facebook.com/hcfcd.
For questions, please contact the Flood Control District at 713-684-4000, or fill out the comment form online http://www.hcfcd.org/F52 by October 21, 2019, for inclusion in meeting documentation.
And The Winner Is: The Yellow-Crowned Night Heron
Sept. 25, 2019
The Houston Audubon Society has announced the winner of the Bird of Houston contest. The winner, of course, is the Yellow-crowned Night Heron.
The handsome heron beat out the Attwater’s Prairie Chicken in the final round for the win.
You can read all about it on the website of Houston Audubon, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary with Bird Week, a week-long schedule of special bird events that continues through Saturday, Sept. 28.
Kontribution Kickball Benefiting Save Buffalo Bayou
Sept. 22, 2019
A local running club with a long and interesting history is hosting a benefit for Save Buffalo Bayou in Memorial Park next Saturday.
The Houston Ankle Biters Hash House Harriers is a social group, open to all ages, that meets monthly for non-competitive runs through woods, tunnels, parking garages, or wherever their leader, known as the hare, takes them.
They regularly hold benefits and this time they are honoring Save Buffalo Bayou with a Kontribution Kickball event on Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in a field next to the rugby pitch south of Memorial Drive on the southside of the park.
The event is free and open to the public, with beer and grilled food. All donations benefit Save Buffalo Bayou.
The Hash House Harriers is an international organization formed by British officers in 1938 in what is now Malaysia. Members of these clubs, who use pseudonyms, traditionally refer to the group as “a drinking club with a running problem.”
Sounds like great fun. Come join us and meet some very fit, interesting, and jovial people.
Encouraging Green Stormwater Infrastructure for New Private Development
City of Houston report recommends permeable pavement, green roofs, vegetated strips, rain gardens, rainwater harvesting, and urban forest
Aug. 20, 2019
The City of Houston’s Chief Recovery Office has released a report recommending incentives to private developers to incorporate nature-based engineering, otherwise known as Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI), in their projects.
The types of green infrastructure identified by the year-long study, funded by the Houston Endowment, include bioretention (raingardens), permeable pavement, green roofs, rainwater harvesting, soil amendments, urban forests, and vegetated filter strips to slow and absorb runoff from parking lots and other areas.
Recommended incentives to developers include property tax abatements, a program of awards and recognition, a streamlined permitting process, and offering alternative development rules, such as reduced parking requirements, if incorporating green stormwater infrastructure.
R. G. Miller Engineers, Inc. in association with Asakura Robinson, Corona Environmental Consulting, and Neptune Street Advisors conducted the study, which began in May 2018 and ended in May 2019.
Image from the report “Houston Incentives for Green Development.”
Vote for the Bird of Houston: Yellow-crowned Night Heron!
Aug. 19, 2019
Houston Audubon is in the final round of selecting the Bird of Houston. Deadline to vote is Friday, August 23.
Obviously we are for the Yellow-crowned Night Heron.
Here’s the way Houston Audubon explains it:
“While the graceful Great Blue Heron came in a close third with hundreds of votes, you’ve spoken! The final round pits two very different species against one another in competition for the coveted title. The endangered Attwater’s Prairie-Chicken, though no longer found in the wild within the city, has had great support by several Houston conservation groups that are instrumental in its protection and continued survival in the wild. This species not only reminds us of the tallgrass prairies that once graced our landscape but has grabbed the imagination of many who fight for their recovery. The Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, on the other hand, has sparked interest in those who have caught a glimpse of them in local greenspaces, waterways and even some backyard trees. This species not only nests and raises its young here, but it engages Houstonians who notice its unusual plumage and propensity for fishing along our bayous.”
Wide range of strategies address Houston flooding risk
By Matt Dulin, Editor
Community Impact Newspaper, Heights-River Oaks-Montrose Edition, Volume 1, Issue 5
Aug. 7-Sept. 3, 2019
Part of a series exploring efforts to make Houston a flood-resilient city.
Flood researcher Sam Brody is not ashamed to admit he keeps a broom in the trunk of his car at all times. If he spots a clogged street drain across Houston, he puts it to work.
“I’ll sweep those drains out,” said Brody, the director of Texas A&M University’s Center for Texas Beaches and Shores. “If these neighborhoods and associations knew how important it was, they’d be out there doing it, too. We need to make sure what we have is working before we spend billions on projects.”
Inside the heavily developed Inner Loop, the flood control district’s options are limited. There are virtually no buy-out candidates and very little opportunity for large detention ponds. But other opportunities exist, said Christof Spieler, a researcher with the Greater Houston Flood Mitigation Consortium, such as the North Canal project, which would create a bypass where White Oak and Buffalo bayous meet.
“That could reduce flooding in that area by several feet alone,” Spieler said.
That project, at an estimated $100 million, is one of the priciest on the district’s bond-funded capital plan.
With large tracts of land unavailable, another solution is to think smaller.
“With microdetention, you could have several little pieces of land rather than one large pond,” he said. “Existing development, such as schools and service centers, could be retrofitted with this approach—another opportunity that has not yet been looked at fully.”
Greenways—And New Ways Of Thinking
Solutions inside the Loop will have to be outside the usual toolbox, said Susan Chadwick, the president of Save Buffalo Bayou. “What is it that makes a project? Unfortunately, most of it is designed for engineering companies to come in and solve … but we could be thinking more about the natural environment,” Chadwick said.
“All water has a perfect memory and is forever trying to get back to where it was.”
August 6, 2019
“You know, they straightened out the Mississippi River in places, to make room for houses and livable acreage. Occasionally the river floods these places. ‘Floods’ is the word they use, but in fact it is not flooding; it is remembering. Remembering where it used to be. All water has a perfect memory and is forever trying to get back to where it was. Writers are like that: remembering where we were, that valley we ran through, what the banks were like, the light that was there and the route back to our original place. It is emotional memory–what the nerves and the skin remember as well as how it appeared. And a rush of imagination is our ‘flooding.’” — The Site of Memory, 1995
Let’s utilize nature to reduce the flood risk
By Mary Anne Piacentini, The Houston Chronicle
June 20, 2019
Having lived through devastating floods over the last four years, Houstonians have rallied to rebuild and recover. That includes looking for new ways to reduce flood risk.
One of the most promising involves using nature to fight flooding. Those measures include creating more parks and open spaces; making ample room for water in our bayous; conserving natural areas; restoring grasslands and forests; and smaller-scale projects such as permeable parking lots, green roofs and new lawn grasses with longer, water-absorbing roots.
No, nature-based solutions alone will not eliminate flooding. But combined with more traditional engineering projects — levees, constructed detention ponds and drainage-improvement structures — they can do a great deal to manage and diffuse the effects of flooding while also providing major side benefits: scenic and recreational amenities, improved water quality, boosts to tourism and locally grown food from community farms.
Not to mention that nature-based solutions also are highly cost-efficient, often several times more so than traditional flood-control public works. A National Wildlife Federation study indicated that every $1 spent in preventive measures saves $4 in disaster recovery costs. The study also noted that protecting open space and existing natural habitats are among the most cost-effective ways to reduce risks to communities.
Read the rest of this editorial in The Houston Chronicle.
Mary Anne Piacentini is the president and chief executive officer of the Katy Prairie Conservancy.
Summertime on That Bend in the Bayou
And the Living is Uneasy
July 21, 2019
Well, Jim was back in town, so we hiked out to that high bank in Memorial Park to take our summer shot for the series, A Bend in the River, documenting the same location on Buffalo Bayou throughout the seasons since 2014.
We went with some trepidation. Jim hadn’t seen the ongoing destruction of the south bank by the River Oaks Country Club.
It was unusually hot, even in the woods. The temperature was about six degrees above average for July. We’re also behind on rain. Flow in the bayou was way down and continues to be very low. On that Monday when we were there, it was about 100 cubic feet per second. Median or base flow is about 150 cfs this time of year.
Drowning Out the Sounds of Nature
Usually the woods are filled with bird song, the calls of courting frogs, the rattling of cicadas and the splash of turtles sliding off into the water. But mostly what we heard when we arrived at our usual overlook was the growling of heavy machinery and the banging of concrete riprap into the opposite bank. From there we could see upstream to Area 1 of the club’s three-part “slope repair” project as well as downstream to Area 2 in the distance.
And here is Jim’s wide shot showing Areas 1 upstream and 2 downstream with the pile of dirt in between.
The good news is that the bank we were standing on in Memorial Park continues to rebuild and revegetate, despite the removal of so much large woody debris by maintenance contractors working for Harris County Flood Control. A certain amount of woody debris against the bank helps protect and restore the bank, helps collect sediment from the stream, and provides habitat.
But the hardening of the opposite bank is going to deflect more erosive force onto our natural banks. In fact, this has already been happening with the concrete riprap and other debris that the club, as well as other property owners upstream, have been dumping onto the bank.
We have filed complaints with the Corps of Engineers about the irregularities in the permit the Corps issued for this thoughtlessly damaging and largely unnecessary project. We are also hoping to persuade the City of Houston to stop issuing construction permits for these kinds of projects, since everybody, including the City, the Corps, and Harris County Flood Control, knows that they fail, increase flooding and erosion, and damage nearby property, including our beautiful public park.
Jim’s Summer 2019 photograph of that Bend in the River:
Let Rivers Flood: Communities Adopt New Strategies for Resilience
Making Room for the River
July 8, 2019
In February 2017, when managers released water out of Lake Oroville [in California] to prevent the dam from failing, it went raging down the Feather River, a tributary of the Sacramento River. Another disaster could have occurred downstream where the Feather River’s channel narrows and the levee has failed before.
But the Three Rivers Levee Improvement Authority completed a project in 2010 to set the levee back along six miles of this dangerous stretch of river, which gave more room for high flows to pass through without the risk of levee damage or failure, while also creating 1,500 more acres of riparian habitat.
Previous flood plans have been mostly about building infrastructure — levees, dams and flood walls, says [John Cain, director of conservation for California flood management at the nonprofit American Rivers]. This new plan still allows for strengthening levees in some places, such as around the cities of Sacramento and Stockton, but there’s also more focus on restoring floodplains and setting levees further back from the river.
That’s not always as easy as it sounds when much of the area you want to allow to flood already contains housing developments, shopping malls or prime agricultural land.
“Private landowners can be reluctant, so coming up with some incentive package is a hurdle,” says Cain. “You’ve got to find the funding and the political will to do that. That’s a very big challenge.”