Leave It Alone: Buffalo Bayou Will Naturally Repair Itself

Opponents of the Memorial Park Demonstration Project Say Buffalo Bayou Is Fine Post-Flood

By Dianna Wray, Houston Press, Wednesday, June 10, 2015

After the rains started coming down on Memorial Day weekend, geologist Bill Heins, an ardent opponent of the Memorial Park Demonstration Project, couldn’t stop thinking about what was happening as the waterway continued to swell and slop over its usual banks along the last natural stretch of Buffalo Bayou that exists in Houston.

The flood waters haven’t fully receded yet, but both those in favor of the project and those against it have been out on the bayou looking for anything to back up their arguments. Project proponents point to signs of erosion on the soggy banks as evidence that we need this project. Those against it, including Heins, argue that the banks are showing signs of only minor erosion and that the evidence so far shows the natural system of the bayou — even during a record-setting flood — is working perfectly, meaning the Memorial Park Demonstration Project is unnecessary.

Read the rest of this article in the Houston Press.

Save Buffalo Bayou Is One of the Top Ten Most Intriguing Ideas of 2014

Jan. 2, 2015


Lisa Gray, esteemed editor of Gray Matters, the Great Ideas section of the Houston Chronicle, has selected Save Buffalo Bayou as one of the Top Ten Most Intriguing Ideas of 2014.

She writes:

In May, when I pitched Gray Matters to the Chronicle, I wrote that it would be “about ideas” — a description that, I realized later, was fabulously broad. Everything worth talking about has an idea in it. I love you is an idea. I want a cookie is an idea. I want to do tequila shots at 9 a.m. is a bad idea. But it is an idea.

Obviously, some ideas are better than others. They’re more original. Or more powerful. More able to transform our lives — or, just as important, the way that we see our lives.

Anyway: In the six months since Gray Matters launched, these are the ideas, big and small, that have rocked my world. Or at least made it wobble on its axis.

Read the rest.

Save Buffalo Bayou on The Radio Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Oct. 7, 2014

Susan Chadwick with Save Buffalo Bayou will be on the radio program Houston Matters at 12:30 p.m. tomorrow, Wednesday, Oct. 8, discussing the project to destroy the last natural stretch of Buffalo Bayou in Houston. Steve Hupp, director of water quality for the Bayou Preservation Association, which helped create and is the primary promoter of the $6 million dredging and channelizing project, will also be on the show, along with Dave Fehling, Houston Public Media’s State Impact reporter for Energy and the Environment.

The show takes questions from callers so call if you have a question, like, “What is the point of this hugely destructive, expensive project?” Or “Why is the Bayou Preservation Association doing this? Isn’t bulldozing the natural banks of the bayou a violation of the organization’s founding purpose?” Or “Does the BPA advocate that stripping the land of riparian forest is the best way for property owners on the bayou to control erosion?”

The number to call is 713-440-8870.

Craig Cohen is the host of the popular KUHF radio show. Tune in to 88.7 around 12:30 p.m. to hear the live discussion. But if you miss that, you can hear the show online anytime by going to the Houston Matters website. Should be a lively debate!

Thunderstorm approaching on Buffalo Bayou Monday morning, Oct. 6,2014. Looking with the forest of the River Oaks Country Club on the left. All this will be bulldozed and a new channel cut for bayou.

Thunderstorm approaching on Buffalo Bayou Monday morning, Oct. 6, 2014. Looking upstream with the forest of the River Oaks Country Club on the left and Memorial Park on the right. All this will be bulldozed and a new channel cut for the bayou.

Gloves Coming Off: The BPA Has Lost Its Way on Buffalo Bayou

June 25, 2014

Our response in the Memorial Examiner to Robert Rayburn, president of the Bayou Preservation Association

Critter den and tracks in a sandy bank of Buffalo Bayou to be bulldozed by Harris County.

Over time, the mission and purpose of citizens’ organizations can erode and change course. Tragically, this is the case with the Bayou Preservation Association, founded in 1966 “to protect the natural beauty” of Buffalo Bayou against the bulldozers of the Harris County Flood Control District.

In a 1984 KUHT documentary, BPA founding member Terry Hershey warned that we must always be vigilant because the HCFCD would always try to find a way to strip and channelize our southern, slow-moving bayou and turn it into a drainage ditch. How shocking that the BPA itself is now promoting a Harris County project to bulldoze nearly 1.5 miles of our last remaining wild bayou in the middle of Houston in order to do just that.

Read the editorial in the Examiner.

Ted Oberg Investigates Project to Destroy Buffalo Bayou: Stubborn Old Cliffs Taking Too Long to Erode

June 25, 2014

Harris County Flood Control District Director Mike Talbott Says He Could “Sleep Just Fine” If Project Doesn’t Go Ahead.

A pretty good report from Channel 13 investigative reporter Ted Oberg that aired yesterday. HCFCD Director Mike Talbott is quoted as saying that those magnificent thousand-year-old cliffs on the bayou are a “scientific sign that the bayou is trying to change course.”

Since those cliffs haven’t changed much in over a century, apparently the bayou is taking way too long to change course and the county is going to speed things up by bulldozing the cliffs, digging new channels in the bayou, and ripping up all those trees that keep falling in the water and “clogging it up.”

Talbott is also quoted as saying the bayou is trying to change course by “eroding the land at the water’s edge” at the bottom of the cliffs while the tv shows what looks like a lot of sand deposited on the bank at the bottom of the cliff. That would be sand from upstream, where most of the sediment comes from (according to the HCFCD’s permit application to the Army Corps of Engineers).

But watch for yourself and decide. And thanks, Ted Oberg, for paying attention.

(Sorry, below is a screenshot of the stubborn bluff from the television report. You can’t punch the arrow to make it move.)

Thousands-year-old cliff taking way too long to erode away. County will bulldoze it instead.

Thousands-year-old cliff taking way too long to erode away. County will bulldoze it instead.


If we don’t destroy Buffalo Bayou now, it will “fall in on itself.”

June 12, 2014

Informative article by David Theis in the Texas Observer June 10 about the project to destroy Buffalo Bayou in order to “restore” it. Includes some wild claims by the executive director of the Memorial Park Conservancy that “the bayou is going to fall in on itself” if we don’t bulldoze it first. Yes, as difficult as it is to believe, not only does the Memorial Park Conservancy officially support this nonsensical plan to destroy the riparian forest in Memorial Park (even if all its members don’t), the organization even helped create it. It’s almost as if they think Memorial Park has too many trees or something.

Please note that the project length is 6,600 linear feet along the bayou, plus another 800 feet in a lovely tributary of the Hogg Bird Sanctuary, not 5,800 feet as reported in the article. (We know it’s hard to keep up: the Harris County Flood Control District keeps changing its plans.) However, the 18,000-year-old bayou will end up 800 feet shorter if the county and its odd allies have their way.

Also that magnificent high bluff in the bird sanctuary is not in any part a result of recent erosion, unless your time frame is several thousand years. The county plan would dig up most of that beautiful tributary you see from the top of the bluff and fill in our amazing high precipice somehow. Why? Because, erosion! Next project: the Grand Canyon.

Below is the county’s map of the riparian areas to be excavated and filled in. Yellow is “cut” and orange is “fill.”

Read the Texas Observer article.

And here is an earlier excellent article from the Texas Observer in 2002 questioning the interests of some of the movers and shakers behind the Buffalo Bayou Partnership’s development of Buffalo Bayou east of Shepherd. Some of those names are familiar. Like Mike Garver, a member of the board of the Bayou Preservation Association and a property owner on Crestwood Drive whose bayou frontage is being “restored” by the taxpayers in this project promoted by the BPA. Garver, former chairman of the Buffalo Bayou Partnership, is CEO of BRH-Garver Construction, whose major clients include, oh, look, surprise, the Harris County Flood Control District, the Army Corps of Engineers, the City of Houston, and KBR, the engineering contractor for the project.

HCFCD cut fill 2013

Harris County’s 2013 map of where they plan to dig out Buffalo Bayou and fill it in. Yellow is excavate. Orange is fill in. On the south bank is the River Oaks Country Club golf course. On the north is Memorial Park, some private homes, and the Hogg Bird Sanctuary.



Save Buffalo Bayou on KPFT Progressive Forum

June 5, 2014

Listen to Evelyn Merz defend Buffalo Bayou from Harris County’s bulldozers with Progressive Forum host Wally James on KPFT. The program aired on 90.1 FM on Thursday, June 5, from 7 to 9 p.m. Merz is conservation chair of the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club. Her segment starts around the 50 minute mark.

Listen to the show.

Buffalo Bayou riparian forest. Photo by Ann Stautberg.

Buffalo Bayou riparian forest. Photo by Ann Stautberg.

Article in The Chronicle This Morning: Add Comments to the Chronicle, Please


Opposition to bayou erosion project grows louder

$6 million Memorial Park project would do more harm than good, opponents say

By Kiah Collier, The Houston Chronicle, May 20, 2014

A $6 million plan to tame a mile-and-a-quarter stretch of Buffalo Bayou is drawing an ever-louder outcry from several prominent environmental and conservation groups who say the project aimed at reducing erosion and improving water quality would only make things worse.

Opposition to the so-called Memorial Park Demonstration Project, targeting a segment of the historic bayou that snakes between Memorial Park’s secluded southern edge and the River Oaks Country Club golf course, has grown more vocal as a deadline to submit feedback to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approaches. The project requires a permit from the Corps.

The agency on Thursday announced it would extend the public comment period by 30 days, until June 30, citing “the complexity of the project studies and stream restoration techniques.”

Borne of a 2010 workshop hosted by the Bayou Preservation Association, the project calls for reshaping the banks of the bayou that wind past the posh country club, the Hogg Bird Sanctuary, a residential neighborhood and the southernmost border of the 1,503-acre park.

The plan calls for the segment of Buffalo Bayou – stressed, both sides agree, by the increased runoff that has come with urban development – to be widened, its course adjusted in some places and its crumbling banks shaped into stable slopes. A mass of vegetation would be stripped away from its banks and trees removed. Replanting would occur toward the end of the project, the cost of which Harris County, the city of Houston and the country club have agreed to share.

“If we strip off 80 percent of the vegetation, if we remove the trees that shade the water, we will actually ruin a mile and a quarter of the main channel of Buffalo Bayou,” said Evelyn Merz, conservation chair of the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club.

The group is proposing an alternative that involves promoting the existing habitat by planting native vegetation. It would impact the area less “because it will be aimed at the areas that most need support,” Merz said.


Anne Olson, president of the Buffalo Bayou Partnership, which oversees the waterway from Shepherd Drive east to the Turning Basin Terminal, said the proposed project will reduce the amount of sediment that ends up on hike-and-bike trails farther east.

“What happens for us downstream is that the silt that sloughs off the banks in Memorial Park ends up down on our trails, and it’s a huge maintenance issue for us, so anything that can be done to alleviate the erosion of those banks is an important thing,” Olson said.

Read the rest.