The final page of the Harris County Flood Control District’s final report on Hurricane Harvey includes the map above, with orange indicating where bayous, rivers, creeks, and gullies set new high water marks between August 25 and 29. Aside from Sims Bayou and a handful of smaller waterways, every other liquid landmark in the county outdid itself along some portion during the storm. Several — such as Cypress Creek and Carpenters Bayou (shown in detail above) — set new flood records along their entire lengths.
Less distinguished are White Oak and Little White Oak bayous, which broke records along only tiny stretches near Buffalo Bayou:
Remember that North Canal that showed up in Plan Downtown’s maps and drawing last year and included a island in Buffalo Bayou? Well, TxDOT’s latest schematics for its planned I-45 reroute include a bypass and island as well — but in an entirely different location. The highway agency’s map above — with west facing up — indicates a new waterway draining into Buffalo Bayou right underneath the section of I-45 it plans to build in place of a portion of the Houston Housing Authority’s Clayton Homes neighborhood. How the canal gets there is obscured, but a straight course northwest appears to shoot the gap between 2 planned detention ponds and cross under the existing section of 59 (shaded gray), before linking up with the bayou again east of Elysian St. Marooned on TxDOT’s version of the make-believe, bayou-banked island the canal would create: a few of the houses in Clayton Homes.
As TxDOT’s caption makes clear, it’d be up to someone else to actually build the waterway. Doing so wouldn’t preclude the previously proposed North Canal from being dug further upstream. Plan Downtown’s less technical map at top shows that waterway beginning at White Oak Bayou and emptying into a bend of Buffalo Bayou just westof Elysian. In doing so, its course creates an exclusive new landmass home to the Harris County jail.
FUNDING FOR DOWNTOWN HOUSTON’S NEW ISLAND
Houston’s flood czar Steve Costello tells the Chronicle’s Mike Morris that the city plans to apply for FEMA resiliency grants in order to build the North Canal Bypass — the long-whispered diversion channel that would relink White Oak and Buffalo bayous between Main and Elysian streets. The waterway concept bubbled up last year in Plan Downtown where its course formed an island northwest of Allen’s Landing indicated in the imagined map above. By bypassing the bayou’s oxbow, the channel is expected not only to reduce flooding downtown — it could also “help lower the water level in White Oak Bayou all the way to the 610 Loop and in Buffalo Bayou as far west as Gessner,” according to a county study. The result: “A little more than half of the 854 structures in the 100-year floodplain along White Oak and an adjacent tributary, Turkey Gully, would be removed from the floodplain.” [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Map: Plan Downtown
There’s more damage to the areas along Buffalo Bayou than just the collapsed segment of trail pictured at top between the Travis and Milam street bridges. The photo above taken east of Travis shows where Spaghetti Warehouse’s former parking lot is eroding as well and transforming into a new set of cliffs on the water.
Heading west down the trail, more obstacles appear near Montrose Blvd. where the northern trail cuts past the closed Johnny Steele Dog Park:
COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE REAL REASON WHY BUFFALO BAYOU SMELLS AND LOOKS THE WAY IT DOES “If Buffalo Bayou stunk so much, then no one would have built a bunch of expensive homes all along it (west of downtown). Most of the Houston area’s waste water effluent flows into the Bayou east of downtown anyways. The Clinton/69th plant (the largest in the city) is just east of downtown, and the Sims and Braes plants don’t enter until well past downtown. With that said, I don’t think the treatment plants are the big contributors to the overall unpleasantness of the Buffalo Bayou water (flood events not withstanding). Most of the effluent (when the plants are properly operating) is nearly clear and usually only has an ‘earthy’ odor to it if any at all. I think the big issue with the bayou’s water quality is the regular runoff and trash that flows into it and eventually lines the shores of it all along downtown.” [nmj, commenting on The North Canal, a New Downtown Island, and Other Secret Plans for Downtown Houston’s Future] Photo: Swamplot inbox
Construction is almost complete on a missing link between the bike paths lining Buffalo Bayou Park and the Heights Hike and Bike Trail,according to passer-by Christopher Andrews — who snapped the above photo from the southern span of the Main St. bridge, looking towards the back of the UH–Downtown campus. The purple curve just north of Allen’s Landing marked on the map below is the segment of the bayou trail that’s in the works. You can see where that portion will intersect the Heights trail, marked below in gray, after it crosses White Oak Bayou’s southerly meander to the east of UHD:
More new features are imagined for the center of Houston than just the new Green Loop highlighted in the just-released Plan Downtown proposal. There’s also a mysterious new Downtown island. Where did it come from?
It’s the result of digging the long-whispered North Canal Channel Bypass, a re-linking of White Oak and Buffalo Bayous north of Downtown. Existing bends and narrow banks along the 2 bayous just east of Main St. restrict the flow of stormwater during flooding events. According to reports, engineering studies have estimated that cutting a straighter diversion channel to bypass the oxbow could reduce flooding Downtown by 3.5 ft.
But digging a new canal while maintaining the existing path of the bayou would create an island out of the area just north of Commerce St. An imagined map of the area in Plan Downtown’s report (rotated so North is aimed down and to the right) shows what car and pedestrian bridges might link it to the mainland:
Is Houston ready for yet another loop road? Here’s the proposed Green Loop, a 5-mile network of parks, trails, and other public spaces that the neighborhood supergroups behind Plan Downtown imagine ringing in Houston’s bicentennial — if it’s completed by 2036. One of 10 separate proposals in the plan, the city’s littlest loop is meant to take advantage of TxDOT’s proposed rerouting of I-45 to the east side of Downtown — by wrapping the district tightly with a transportation and recreation circuit that could attract adjacent development and help link the city center to adjacent neighborhoods.
Plan Houston’s new report flags ideas and renderings for 3 spots along Downtown’s proposed Emerald Choker: At Buffalo Bayou, on top of I-69 and I-45 once they’re sunk behind the George R. Brown, and on Pierce St. at the Midtown border.
New buildings at the northwest corner of Downtown would face Buffalo Bayou as well as the surrounding streets, lining the waterfront with flood-worthy attractions:
It’s coming a little late for many homes in Meyerland, but excavation crews are once again at work widening the segment of Brays Bayou just downstream of that flooded neighborhood. Work on the segment between Buffalo Speedway and S. Rice Ave.began this past summer. The widening is a part of the decade-plus-old Project Brays, begun before but accelerated as a result of flooding during Tropical Storm Allison in 2001.
Water levels on the bayou have returned to a manageable level; this photo, sent in by a Swamplot reader, shows an excavator at work on its south bank just west of the inlet between Timberside Dr. and Bevlyn Dr.
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: