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.”
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.