Engineers Caused the Flood That Led to Creation of Flood Control District

A Fact-Based Response to “Engineers’ View” in the Texas Tribune

March 6, 2017

A few weeks ago the Texas Tribune published an editorial comment written by engineers Michael Bloom and Steve Stagner responding to the excellent investigative work on flooding in the Houston region, “Boomtown, Floodtown,” published by the Tribune and ProPublica on Dec. 7, 2016. See our summary of the report here.

In their TribTalk editorial “Boomtown, Floodtown Reconsidered, An Engineer’s View,” Feb. 6, 2017, Bloom and Stagner repeat a couple of erroneous statements commonly used by representatives of the Harris County Flood Control District in support of the district’s shaky position that paving over the prairie, i.e. development, is not contributing to flooding.

According to this point of view, our native tallgrass prairie and its associated wetlands are hardly better than concrete when it comes to slowing and absorbing rainwater. These deep-rooted grassland prairies, with water-absorbing root systems that can reach 12-15 feet into the ground or more, once existed around and upstream of Buffalo Bayou, in Katy, west of Houston, for instance, source of Buffalo Bayou, as well as up and down the coastal plain. Practical people are trying to preserve and restore what remains.

In support of their argument, Bloom and Stagner summon up a point commonly made by members of the local engineering community: that the 1935 flood on Buffalo Bayou that devastated downtown Houston and led to the creation of the Harris County Flood Control District happened even though the Katy Prairie way upstream was then a big natural tallgrass prairie.

This argument is wrong on two points. Read why in this fact-based response by Save Buffalo Bayou to an “Engineers’ View” published as a comment in the Tribune’s TribTalk.

Or continue reading to find out the answers. With links!

Prairie switchgrass with root system. Photo by Sky Lewey

2 thoughts on “Engineers Caused the Flood That Led to Creation of Flood Control District”

  1. Kim Jackson says:

    Here’s a novel idea for HCFCD and the authors of the editorial: Instead of the spending so much time trying to show why you are right and everyone else is wrong, why doesn’t the Harris County Flood Control District and it’s engineering consultants buckle down and start LISTENING to the public it serves and searching for new and better ways to do drainage. That includes working with other agencies to make sure systems are designed and work together, and placing priority on projects in the most flood-prone areas rather than those that have only a minimal impact on the surrounding community.

    Here’s a news flash: It’s 2017 and it’s no longer the age of “good old boy” politics and hide your head in the sand communications. People bear a heavy tax burden and want to know and see evidence that those hard-earned dollars are being spent wisely, particularly on an issue that affects us all. We KNOW Houston is flood-prone and we will have to endure it to some extent and be responsible for our families and property. But, COME ON! Enough of the reliance on outdated regulations and statistics and good old boy excuses. Listen to your constituents, tell us what you are doing and why it is the best option and, for PETE’s SAKE, respect the public you serve instead of looking down on it.

    1. Thank you, Kim. Great insight.

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