Removing Trees for Detention on Buffalo Bayou

Commissioners Court to Vote Tuesday on Trees, Stormwater Detention on Buffalo Bayou


Nov. 13, 2017

Harris County commissioners will vote Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017, on whether to authorize the negotiation of contracts for removal of trees and excavation of detention basins in Terry Hershey Park on Buffalo Bayou.

The controversial detention project has long been opposed by homeowners near the forest on the bank of the bayou, many of them recently flooded out of their homes during Hurricane Harvey. Under pressure from their group, Save Our Forest, the City of Houston in September 2015 withdrew a plan to build a large detention basin on the bayou in the park. However, the vote Tuesday includes negotiating with the City for detention on the bayou along the length of the park.

“It makes me mad,” said one displaced and distracted homeowner active with Save Our Forest. “They’re taking advantage of the flood to ram things through.”

Harris County Flood Control District 2012 proposal for detention basins on the banks of Buffalo Bayou in Terry Hershey Park.

The plan in 2013 was to destroy forest in order to create 280 acre-feet of stormwater detention in a series of basins on the banks of Buffalo Bayou between Highway 6 below Barker Dam and Beltway 8.

Removing trees and vegetation for stormwater detention makes little scientific sense. Trees and vegetation are powerful natural devices for slowing and holding rainwater runoff, not to mention their role in cleansing our polluted urban runoff and other valuable ecological services. A study by American Forests found that a single front-yard tree can intercept 760 gallons of rainwater in its crown. Vegetation can reduce runoff from a site by as much as 90 percent, according to a study by the University of Arkansas. While it would take a whole lot of trees to store as much water as even a small detention pond, it still seems like a better idea to create artificial detention where there are no trees.

Save Our Forest, the Briar Forest Super Neighborhood, and other neighborhood groups supported an alternative plan to create larger regional detention basins, in particular the Clodine Ditch Detention Basin, which would have created some 1,600-acre feet of detention.

The Harris County Flood Control District last year spent over $1.25 million to fill and “repair” parts of the north bank in the park where the bayou was attempting to recover its former meanders. The US Army Corps of Engineers stripped and straightened the 6.2 mile stretch of the bayou in the park and directed the flow into an artificial channel, cutting off the meanders in the 1940s.

The flood control district is legally bound by its 1937 charter to conserve forests. (p. 6)

The five county commissioners will vote at a session that begins at 10 a.m. in the commissioners’ courtroom, 1001 Preston Street., Suite 934.  The long agenda includes consideration of whether to approve negotiating contracts with:

R.G. Miller Engineers, Inc., for design, bidding, and construction phase engineering services for construction of linear detention on Unit W100-00-00 in the Buffalo Bayou Watershed in Precinct 3.

The City of Houston for additional linear stormwater detention along Buffalo Bayou between SH-6 and Beltway 8 on Unit W100-00-00 in the Buffalo Bayou Watershed in Precinct 3.

Buffalo Bayou is Unit W100-00-00.

The public can sign up to speak during the meeting for up to three minutes.

Buffalo Bayou in Terry Hershey Park. Left (north) bank is site of repairs completed in the spring of 2017, prior to Harvey. Photo Oct. 20, 2017, by SC.



7 thoughts on “Removing Trees for Detention on Buffalo Bayou”

  1. The city is wrong with this plan
    It will not stop flooding of our neighborhood
    Or othes down stream
    It is ploy to lower your prices on your home and expand the flood plain
    Has not the city and Corp of engineers done enough

    1. Rae Ann McCanse says:

      Thank you. I hope people understand this would not have stopped our homes from being flooded. I’m still educating myself about White Oak Buffalo and Buffalo Bayou and why “they” want to do this. Is it so more development can take place downtown?

      1. Thank you. No, it would be about more development upstream in west Houston that would cause more runoff into Addicks and Barker Dams, as well as the development that has already occurred. Not that this backwards project would help.

  2. greg says:

    The City and Developers have cut down too many trees. Find another solution.
    The mindset of this plan is the same kind that has created our flooding problems.

  3. G Cerise says:

    Stripping the vegetation out in those areas would NOT have prevented any of the flooding caused by the reservoir release. That vast flooding might would have been prevented if they had not allowed concreting and development in Katy prairie and had better retention areas upstream. Look at Emmitts 15 point plan !!! And. Get a clue– they are trying to make these low cost and devastating changes to show that they are doing something. (Even if it doesn’t do a darn thing)

    1. Free Tubbs says:

      You are wrong. Allowing the detention would have saved dozens of houses that got 2-4 inches of water in the reservoir release. Dozens of families saved from the destruction and despair. The detention basin would have saved our homes. To hell with the forest.

  4. Diane Masterson says:

    To remedy what is happening today, you have to look at the past. I am making several maps with overlays showing historic original topography in comparison to what is proposed to take change. You should not take private lands away from neighborhoods, either and any private golf course should be made public and engineered to flood as they were designed. It can be dug out, bunkers put in for retention ponds, then the golf courses put back on top. Monies can be generated through use of golf courses by schools, and nearby residents. To conclude, too much water goes into Buffalo Bayou from managed streams, and this should be curtailed. As well, everyone has a driveway, we should all be required to dig out our driveways and put in basements for water retention. A big mistake was made long ago ignoring the south-easterly flow of creeks, managing them to the extent the natural gravity flow was ruined, and Galveston Island, a barrier island suffers from over engineering of Houston, too. We should be enjoying life and recreation. Life should be elegant rather than tearing down as we have done for the last 4 years.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *