The retreat of floodwaters has revealed the extent of the silt that Harvey-triggered flooding deposited along Buffalo Bayou. A beachgoing reader sends Swamplot these pics of the new dust-colored landscapes that have taken shape along Buffalo Bayou Park and adjacent former green spaces.
The silt-covered bench shown above sits across Buffalo Bayou from the Houston Police Officers Memorial, near Glenwood Cemetery. Here’s a view from further back:
Construction began in June, but the new administration of Houston’s Ronald McDonald House chose this past Tuesday — 2 and a half weeks after water spilling over the banks of adjacent Brays Bayou made Holcombe Ave. in front of the property difficult to pass — to hold an official groundbreaking ceremony for its new 3-phase expansion and renovation project. The facility at 1907 Holcombe Blvd., which sits across the Texas Medical Center’s official southern border between Holcombe and the bayou just west of Cambridge St., serves as a temporary home for families with children receiving treatment for serious illnesses.
Now going up: a new 2-story bedroom wing directly to the west of the main building. A complete renovation of the 50-bedroom existing building — dubbed Holcombe House — will follow. The photo immediately above, taken from the third floor of that building, shows the construction site as it looked earlier this week.
The official rendering below is still being used to raise the $22.5 million needed for the project; it shows the new bedroom wing on the left and the existing building on the right:
WHAT THE HARVEY FLOODING DID TO BUFFALO BAYOU PARK “Please know that Buffalo Bayou Park was designed to flood, although we did not anticipate three historic flooding events in 1-1/2 years,” Buffalo Bayou Partnership president Anne Olson remarks drily in an email update this afternoon. So what’s the damage? “The bottom two thirds of the park are still under water, and we expect that they will remain so for several more weeks as water is released from the Addicks and Barker reservoirs. Due to these circumstances, it is difficult for our staff to assess the impact the flowing water has had on the footpaths and landscape in these areas. We do know that the Johnny Steele Dog Park, which is still submerged, will be closed for two or three months.” Water and sediment that flooded the Buffalo Bayou Cistern is still draining, slowly, but the electrical system installed when the long-hidden underground space was made available for tours and art installations appears to be working. The Wortham Fountain and the trail lighting system have been damaged, Olson reports. The Bayou City Adventures kayak kiosk at Lost Lake and the Bike Barn at Sabine St. has been shut down for the remainder of the year at least; areas east of the Sabine St. bridge are mostly still underwater. But Olson reports landscaped areas in the upper areas of the park, where trails have already reopened, survived with only a small amount of damage: “We are extremely fortunate that the Lost Lake and Wortham Insurance Visitor Centers did not take on water. Both facilities are open and the Kitchen at The Dunlavy is operating with normal hours. Food trucks also are back in the entry court at Sabine Street from Thursday-Sunday.” Update: The Bike Barn at Sabine St. has resumed normal hours as of September 9. [Buffalo Bayou Partnership] Photo: Adam Brackman.
The Galveston District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has made public a set of interactive maps — normally used by emergency personnel — that show which areas along the length of Buffalo Bayou are predicted to remain under water or emerge from it as officials continue to release water from the Addicks and Barker reservoirs upstream. Individual interactive map panels cover each day from September 5th through the 16th, but as of this date all rely on data developed on Tuesday, when the maps were created.
The embedded version above mimics the view from a mobile browser; you can zoom in to view the projected water line on any street. To switch days, click on one side or the other of the panel at the bottom of the frame — or choose the date directly from the menu that appears after you click on the icon in the top left corner.
To view the map in its own browser window, click here.
HOW IT LOOKS FROM THE DRY SIDE OF THE BAYOU Chronicle features editor Lisa Gray says her Meadowcreek Village home escaped water damage during the flood, but it was close — and many others weren’t so lucky: “Berry Bayou — the middle of which forms my back property line,” she writes, “received more than 45 in. I’ve seen it in national weather-nerd articles where people are marveling how fast a bayou can rise. My husband says we were half an inch away from the bayou coming out of its bank in our back yard. He sent a graph, showing that on Saturday night, at the monitor I can see from my back yard, it was literally at bank level. But the water broke first on the other bank, into the yard of one of my favorite people in the neighborhood, and up and down the yards on that side. Lots of houses flooded. ‘Dry privilege’: That’s the headline of the essay I ought to write.” [Previously on Swamplot] Graph of Berry Bayou water levels at Forest Oaks Blvd. on August 26th and 27th: Harris County Flood Control District
With water levels on Buffalo Bayou around Shepherd Dr. now forecast to recede, this drone video of one stretch of the waterway — taken yesterday during a lull in the rains — may turn out to be one of the best views available of the extent of flooding at the northwest corner of Montrose. A few video highlights, still visible above the floodwaters: The top floor of The Dunlavy, high above the now-complete-subsumed Lost Lake; the fuzzy treetop semi-circles formed by the twin stands of crape myrtles at Waugh Dr.; the Waugh Dr. bridge itself, now looking like a causeway; and the patterned grounds of the Beth Yeshurun Cemetery.
The folks fighting a longstanding battle to prevent the reconfiguration of a section of Buffalo Bayou fronting the southeast corner of Memorial Park and the River Oaks Country Club have posted a remarkable series of images showing how a section of the bayou’s bank at the Hogg Bird Sanctuary responded on its own over the course of 2 years to a soil collapse suffered during the 2015 Memorial Day flood. The geologists behind Save Buffalo Bayou claim that the promoters of the Harris County Flood Control District’s proposed $12 million Memorial Park Demonstration Project they’re trying to stop have mistaken a natural bayou-bank process called vertical slumping (or sloughing) for erosion, and that attempting to stabilize the bayou banks to fix the supposed erosion will leave the area “a wasteland of denuded and weakened banks.”
But you don’t have to buy or even follow the riverine logic the organization steps through in a lengthy article posted to its website earlier this week to appreciate one of the examples of waterway-bank adaptation exhibited there. The first image (at top) shows the immediate aftermath of the Memorial Day storm or 2 years ago on the high bluff facing the bayou at the Hogg Bird Sanctuary in Memorial Park, which stands at the downstream end of the proposed project area. According to the organization, an HCFCD consultant claims that this is one of 4 spots within the bayou area that suffers from severe lateral erosion. But to Save Buffalo Bayou, this isn’t erosion; it’s just a slump, which is what bayous do naturally, and which on their own create the distinctive bluffs on the bayou’s banks. There’s no way to fix a slump, the organization’s geologists say — if left alone it’ll restore itself.
Here’s their photo evidence. The second photo, also from June 2015, shows the slumping — and downed trees:
WHAT’S BLOCKING THE BRAYS BAYOU TRAIL That sign posted just west of Chimney Rock declaring that the Brays Bayou trail “connects 31 miles of uninterrupted, off-street, multi-use trails and greenspace from the Ship Channel to George Bush Park and the Addicks-Barker Reservoir” is more aspirational than accurate at this point, a Houston Parks Board official admits to David Olinger. (“It got ahead of itself, let’s put it that way.”) Olinger set out to walk the supposed marathon-distance-plus continuum, but found it blocked and interrupted by construction zones, an unidentified fork to a neighboring bayou, and dead ends, including some fronting 7-miles-worth of land adjacent to Arthur Storey Park the parks board is still in the process of acquiring: “I tried walking west from Kirkwood and waded into knee-high weeds. I tried walking north on Kirkwood and found no trail. I drove up and down Kirkwood, searching in vain for Arthur Storey Park. Finally I consulted a map — and found the park about 2.5 miles northeast from the westbound Kirkwood dead end.” The Bayou Greenways trail system is expected to connect that length of Brays Bayou by 2020. [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Photo of Brays Bayou trail: Jan Buchholtz