Some Items of Interest
That We’ve Been Posting on Facebook
Jan. 27, 2021
We’ve been working somewhat behind the scenes, researching flooding and drainage issues and Zooming to meetings. But we’ve been posting items of interest on our Facebook page. We should be posting them here too. So here ya go.
Tree Equity. Trees cool us with their shade, cleanse the air, deflect and absorb rainfall, provide habitat for birds and other creatures, and generally hold the world together. But not everybody has trees.
Housing policies of the past, like redlining, have made trees abundant in wealthy neighborhoods, but scarce for socioeconomically disadvantaged communities of color. That’s why we need Tree Equity.
A plan to plant 4.6 million trees across Houston by 2030 has taken root
The Houston Chronicle
Houston Wilderness, the City of Houston, Harris County, the Texas Department of Transportation and major landscape architects formed a strategy group in November to reach the 4.6 million native trees goal. They are now compiling the first-ever regional, large-scale tree planting manual to help anyone who wants to pitch in, from private developers to individuals
And here is more information about the tree-planting program from Houston Wilderness, including the list of trees studied and their ecosystem benefits, and the list of fourteen super-trees targeted for planting.
Join the Citizens Environmental Coalition (CEC) for a virtual Houston screening of the Wild & Scenic Film Festival on Tour.
A selection of films from the Wild & Scenic Film Festival, North America’s largest environmental film festival, will bring two hours of beautiful, educational, and inspiring films to the comfort and safety of your own home. Preview the lineup on cechouston.org.
Proceeds from the event will be used to support CEC programs.
The CEC has lined up unique experiences and a piece of art for this year’s silent auction which is OPEN FOR BIDS using this Google Form.
Maybe time to rethink those azaleas and camelias?
Yale Environment 360
The impact of introduced plants on native biodiversity has emerged as a hot-button issue in ecology. But recent research provides new evidence that the displacement of native plant communities is a key cause of a collapse in insect populations and is affecting birds as well.
For these reasons, [Doug] Tallamy has proposed a domestic version of Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson’s Half Earth Project. If American homeowners converted half of their lawn to productive native plant communities, he says, they would create a “Homegrown National Park” larger than the Everglades, Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Teton, Canyonlands, Mount Rainier, North Cascades, Badlands, Olympic, Sequoia, Grand Canyon, Denali, and Great Smoky Mountains National Parks combined.
Be like a butterfly. Sting like a bee.
Native Plant Society of Texas
It’s time! The 2020-2021 Bring Back the Monarchs to Texas garden grant season is now in full swing! Find the 2021 application, rules, and other information here.
Applications are due February 15th, 2021. Time flies, so don’t wait too long to start thinking about your application.
Texas Invasives is a collaborative effort among various state and federal agencies and other groups to help manage and prevent the spread of nonnative, invasive species in the state.
An “invasive species” is defined as a species that is non-native (or alien) to the ecosystem under consideration and whose introduction causes or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health. (Executive Order 13112).
An invasive species grows/reproduces and spreads rapidly, establishes over large areas, and persists. Species that become invasive succeed due to favorable environmental conditions and lack of natural predators, competitors and diseases that normally regulate their populations.
This includes a wide variety of plants, insects and animals from exotic places. As invasive species spread and take over ecosystems, they decrease biodiversity by threatening the survival of native plants and animals. In fact, invasive species are a significant threat to almost half of the native U.S. species currently listed as federally endangered.
For more info about the Texas Invasives Citizen Science Program, visit Texas Invasives.
Another related article:
National Academy of Sciences
Many numerically abundant insects provide ecosystem services upon which humans depend: the pollination of fruits, vegetables, and nuts; the biological control of weeds, agricultural pests, disease vectors, and other organisms that compete with humans or threaten their quality of life; and the macrodecomposition of leaves and wood and removal of dung and carrion, which contribute to nutrient cycling, soil formation, and water purification. Clearly, severe insect declines can potentially have global ecological and economic consequences.
[SBB is working on a follow-up about this tax abatement program, including a review of what other cities are doing to slow the flow and reduce flooding.]
The Houston Chronicle
The city last month launched a new property tax abatement program for developers who incorporate green stormwater infrastructure, a type of design aimed at minimizing the downstream impacts of development, into their projects. It also boosted incentives for LEED-certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) projects, an abatement program that has never been utilized, despite being on the city’s books for 10 years.
The stormwater strategies can take different forms, from natural landscapes and gardens with plants and other vegetation that seek to collect or slow runoff, to “green roofs” that apply similar concepts on top of buildings, to permeable pavement that allows water to seep into the ground.
Developers already must meet minimum detention requirements for how much water their projects can detain. Green storm-water infrastructure would not necessarily increase that capacity, but it could retain the water for longer than more traditional projects.
Commercial developers could save as much as 10 percent against their property tax increases when they incorporate green stormwater infrastructure into their developments. The program is open to $3 million projects that include at least an $100,000 investment in the eco-friendly strategy. The maximum abatement is the total cost of the green stormwater infrastructure, effectively reimbursing developers for including it.
Read the rest of this report in the Houston Chronicle.
And speaking of slowing the flow. Here’s how they do it in England:
Slow The Flow is a registered charity working to advance the education of the public in Natural Flood Management, Sustainable Drainage Systems and other renewable methods of managing the environment.
This includes the exploration of alternative practices which safeguard the natural environment and its resources in a manner which best fits the specifics of a local geography.
If you want to know more, visit www.slowtheflow.net
Upcoming Virtual Meetings of Interest
Virtual Meeting February 2, 2021, 6:00 – 8:00 pm
The Buffalo Bayou Partnership wants to hear from you! The development organization recently released its master plan for Buffalo Bayou East, which includes an expansion of Tony Marron Park.The plan was developed after a series of conversations with members of the Greater East End and Fifth Ward communities.
Live or work in Greater East End or Fifth Ward? The Partnership is asking you to please join on Zoom, Tuesday, February 2 from 6-8 pm to learn about the plans and progress on Buffalo Bayou East destinations,specifically the enhancements to Tony Marron Park.
There will be an opportunity for feedback and questions following the presentation. Spanish translation will be offered at the meeting.
Sunday, February 14, 2 -4:30 pm, virtual
Join Lara Cottingham, Chief Sustainability Officer for the City of Houston, to learn about the Houston Climate Action Plan (CAP) and how houses of worship and their members can get involved. Lara will cover the goals of the CAP and strategies and actions to be employed in reaching the goals. The CAP is designed to address climate change, but there are many co-benefits which Lara will also highlight. She will also discuss how faith communities can partner with the City of Houston to achieve the goals, helping to lead Houston to a more sustainable future.
Sponsored by The Houston Seminar, Thursday, Feb. 4, 5-6:30 pm
Please join Eric Berger of Space City Weather and environmental attorney Jim Blackburn for “Galveston Bay and the Storm Surge of Our Nightmares,” a conversation about hurricane storm surges, coastal defense barriers, and the mid-bay gate proposal, known as the Galveston Bay Park Plan.
Thursday, February 4, from 5-6:30 pm via Zoom. Cost is $25.
There are two more events in this series titled “Water, Water Everywhere: Strategies and Success Stories.” Local experts will discuss flood control projects on Feb 11 and low-impact development on Feb. 18.
Sort of related:
From the Biomimicry Institute
This “biomimetic revolution” is now considered to be a major guideline towards more sustainable built environments, meaning that buildings are focused on learning from nature rather than only extracting elements from it.
Zooming on Buffalo Bayou and Addicks Dam
Public Online Meeting, Tuesday, Jan. 19, to Discuss Issues and Alternatives to the Corps of Engineers’ Answers to Dam and Flood Problems
Jan. 17, 2021
Neighborhood activists in the Addicks watershed in west Houston and beyond have organized an informal online meeting Tuesday, Jan. 19, to discuss alternatives to the Corps of Engineers’ much derided proposals to deal with flooding in and around the overburdened Addicks and Barker flood control dams on upper Buffalo Bayou.
Specifically the Zoom meeting was set up to answer Save Buffalo Bayou’s questions about alleged “bottlenecks” or “flow restrictions” in meandering Buffalo Bayou below Beltway 8 in west Houston. SBB has asked for a definition and the locations of these “bottlenecks.”
The Addicks Watershed Flood Mitigation Network, a coalition of property owners and neighborhood associations around Addicks Reservoir, generally opposes deepening and widening Buffalo Bayou. Nevertheless organizers have tentatively included “de-bottlenecking” as one of their remedies for speeding up drainage from the dams.
Save Buffalo Bayou is in favor of slowing drainage into the dams (and into the bayou below the dams). We are also in favor of restoring meanders on the straightened and narrowed stretch of the bayou upstream of Beltway 8. Unfortunately in the last few years, the county has spent millions of dollars reinforcing the channelized section there with riprap and scraping out the forest to build shallow overflow basins.
The Addicks network has graciously made the Tuesday Zoom meeting open to the public. It starts at 2 p.m. Anyone interested in these issues or with expertise to add is welcome to join.
Here is how to join the meeting along with an explanation of the meeting objectives. These objectives also include a discussion of a recent presentation of Houston Stronger’s Buffalo Bayou Community Plan.
Here is a description of the issues from the Addicks Flood Mitigation Network.
As Save Buffalo Bayou has pointed out, the issue of bayou meanders being “kinks” or “bottlenecks” was studied by Harris County Flood Control in 2019. Proposals to build artificial meander “bypasses” or even raise bridges were found to have little benefit. However, SBB also has pointed out the numerous stormwater outfalls, installed in violation of federal and county regulations, that block the flow during high water.
The issue of “de-bottlenecking” has been brought up by the Addicks group as part of their many thoughtful alternatives to the Corps of Engineers’ roundly rejected proposal to deepen and widen Buffalo Bayou and build a dam and reservoir on Cypress Creek and the Katy Prairie.
Led by One Creek West, the network is attempting to build a consensus to present to the Corps and congressional representatives. Most if not all of these property owners were flooded in 2017 by the unprecedented level of the flood pool as Harvey stormwater flowing rapidly into the reservoir through tributary streams backed up behind closed Addicks Dam. (Property owners in the flood pool behind Barker Dam also flooded but this group is addressing only Addicks Dam.)
In the very early morning of Aug. 28, 2017, the Corps, fearing that the stormwaters would overtop Addicks Dam, opened the floodgates. This flooded a great many properties along the straightened and narrowed section of Buffalo Bayou above and around Beltway 8. This stretch runs for six miles or so from the two federal flood control dams in far west Houston to just below Beltway 8.
Further downstream, the disastrous flood peak from Harvey, resulting from stormwater draining too quickly from the paved and built city, had already passed on Aug. 27, flooding many properties. This happened with the dam floodgates closed.
Stop Stormwater Before It Floods. Take Responsibility!
Save Buffalo Bayou believes the focus should be on stopping and slowing stormwater runoff before it enters the reservoirs—and before it floods our bayou, our natural and built drainage system downstream. Stopping, slowing, spreading out and soaking in runoff happens with pervious surface (gravel and dirt), disconnecting downspouts, trees, native gardens, swales, green roofs, prairies, wetlands, greenspace and parks, and more. This also cleanses the water and generally makes for a healthier, cooler, and more attractive community.
Neighborhood associations and individuals need to take responsibility for slowing the flow. Every action counts. The longer it takes for rain to hit the ground and enter the stream, the lower the peak flow in the stream. It’s called lag time.
So think of joining the Zoom meeting, which may or may not include representatives of Houston Stronger and others.
Wild and Scenic Film Festival On Tour
Jan. 17, 2021
The online program features short films about environmental and inspirational topics, including three films from local artists.
The three local films, popular winners of last fall’s Wild About Houston Film Festival 2020, are “Trip Around the Sun” by SETSVN, a documentary film featuring local Houston farmers and growers talking about sustainability; “Adventures with Edu-Katie” from the Delores Fenwick Nature Center in the City of Pearland, and “A Closer Look at Insects” from the Native Prairies Association of Texas, starring katydids, grasshoppers, and walking sticks from the Lawther-Deer Park Prairie in Harris County.
Other featured films of particular local interest are “The Last Call for the Bayou,” about the migratory bird flyway, and “There’s Something in the Water.” about invasive species in Caddo Lake.
Tickets start at $15. Step right here to get your tickets now!