Flood Control Scrapes, Bulldozes Healthy Banks of Buffalo Bayou

Heart-Breaking Violation of County, City Mandates. Appropriate Use of Federal Funds?

Sept. 30, 2020

We were hoping they wouldn’t do it. That Harris County Flood Control would see it wasn’t necessary. The bayou banks were healthy and stable, lush and green.

But the private consulting engineers had planned it. So Flood Control did it: scraped away the young trees and deep-rooted native plants holding the bank together, bulldozed what nature had successfully engineered, built, and planted in Buffalo Bayou Park.

They left bare dirt, disturbed, compacted, dead. Violated every established principle of good management of a riverbank, as noted by one of the federal agencies funding the project. (p. 14)

And the bare dirt washed away in the rains that followed.

Without the anchor of the surrounding network of deep-rooted plants, the remaining lone trees on the banks likely will soon fall, as happened as a result of Flood Control’s previous work.

The south bank of Buffalo Bayou in Buffalo Bayou Park just downstream from the Dunlavy after razing and grading by Harris County Flood Control. Photo taken looking upstream from the Jackson Hill Bridge on Sept. 17, 2020, before Tropical Storm Beta.

They did it with public funds, spending over $2,000 per linear foot, claiming the purpose was to “contain erosion and bank failures caused by Hurricane Harvey.”

These particular banks weren’t failing. We know because we climbed out of our canoes and up that gently sloping bank through the tall goldenrod and horseweed below the Dunlavy a couple of times in recent months. Flood Control’s federal grant was supposed to be used to “reshape and protect eroded streambanks.” But none of these areas was eroded. The bank shape was fine. Maybe steeper after bulldozing, with less of a beach, but pretty much the same. Though bare and unprotected.

The same location on Sept. 9, 2020. Note the north bank in the distance which had just recently been bulldozed.

Designed to Fail? Do It Anyway

Not even the private contractors paid to scrape it all away thought it was a good idea. In response to the observation that the denuded bank would fail as a result, one worker commented, “That’s what we told them.” He added, “But that’s the way Flood Control wanted it.” We responded that Flood Control had just destroyed a healthy bayou bank. The guys nodded.

Read the rest of this post.

The same bank on Sept. 29, 2020, after Storm Beta. Water was still high from releases from the federal dams far upstream.