Think your street’s drainage is bad? Listen to this: In 2015, Kris Handoyo was heading north on Travis St. in the backseat of a Mazda when the downtown storm drain cover pictured above came loose and punchedthrough the floorboard of the car, severing half of his right foot. Handoyo, a digital content employee of the Houston Rockets, filed a lawsuit against the city asking for up to $1.25 million in recompense. And this morning the city voted to give it to him. Well, some of it: After mediation, the parties had settled on $200,000.
The drain in question — shown above in the Travis St. bus lane just north of Clay St. — is still there, although the particular grate that impacted Handoyo has been removed and patched over with concrete. Many of its relatives remain in their asphalt habitats however, where they’ve been since the late ’90s and early 2000s.
And where neighbors in Downtown and Midtown have been complaining about them for at least a decade:
Mayor Turner announced last Thursday that 115,000 storm drains would be put up for adoption as part of the city’s new Adopt-A-Drain program — already 5 have been claimed downtown by members of the public. (One of them — dubbed the “Director’s Drain” — is cared for by public works director Carol Haddock, reports the Chronicle’s Mike Morris.) The custodians Houston really wants to engage? “Schools,” as well as, “individuals, families, youth organizations, businesses (large and small), civic and non-profit organizations, fraternities, [and] sororities,” according to the website set up for the program. There, prospective adopters can view an interactive version of the map above showing what drains are and aren’t yet spoken for, as well as claim their own.
Then comes the responsibility: “Turner wants Houstonians to clear their drains at least four times a year, particularly when rain is in the forecast,” writes Morris. Although, the city adds, they should: “stop working and call the city’s 311 helpline if they encounter needles, construction debris, animals,firearms or chemicals.”
A LAWSUIT OVER RIVERSTONE’S VANISHED LEVEE
More than 400 residents of Fort Bend County’s Riverstone development — between Hwy. 6 and the Brazos River — are suing the engineering firm that designed their stormwater systems, alleging that the design left one portion of the community flooded by the runoff from the other during Harvey. The roughly 3,700-acre area is divided into 2 Levee Improvement Districts — LID 19 (shaded blue on the map) and 15. “It became very clear when we passed into LID 15 that something was not right,” one LID 19 homeowner said in a press conference. “We were inundated with water in our neighborhood, and just on the other side of the street everything seemed to be perfectly fine.” Both LIDs were designed by Costello, Inc. the company founded by Houston’s flood czar Steve Costello. (He’s said he divested from it in 2015.) That firm’s failure to consider what would happen when a levee that ran between the 2 districts — along Hagerson Rd. — was removed is what downstreamers say is to blame for much of their soggy state. In total, reports the Chronicle’s Rebecca Elliott, about a third of the 1,760 homes in LID 19 flooded. [Houston Chronicle] Map of Riverstone LIDs 15 and 19: Riverstone LIDs
Here’s the pungent wastewater that’s been flowing through a Swamplot reader’s backyard on Stoney Creek Dr. for just over a month, according to the homeowner. The waterway pictured above — dubbed Ditch #W-151 by Harris County Flood Control — parallels Gessner on its way south from Memorial City Mall, passing through portions of Bunker Hill Villageand Whispering Oaks before emptying into Buffalo Bayou. For about 3 quarters of a mile along that stretch, the ditch cuts through the backyards of homes on Stoney Creek, where owners have complained about this and similar movements in the past.
Residents suspect the issue might have to do with the sewer repair work now underway at multiple sites upstream from their neighborhood. The photo below shows a temporary pump conducting liquids across Plantation Rd., just south of Memorial City Mall’s frontage along Barryknoll:
A LOOK AT SOME OF THE LIQUID POO FLOWING ONTO COLQUITT ST. IN MONTROSE A reader wants to be sure Swamplot readers are alerted — as city inspectors, the HPD’s environmental division, and the property manager have already been, the reader says — to the “recurring” problem of raw sewage flowing out from the Takara-So Apartments at 1919 W. Main St. and into neighboring storm drains. The photo at left, taken on Monday, shows the sewage (“you can smell it”) along Colquitt St., pausing for a bit of sun on its way to lower-lying bayous and waterways. [Previously on Swamplot] Photo: Swamplot inbox
How is it that Kyle Naegeli is able to catch so many fish — including bluegills, bass, and catfish — simply by dropping lines into the storm-sewer inlet at the intersection of Carnation St. and Camilia Ct. in Katy? Well, the now-16-year-old has had 4 years of practice fishing in the same sewer, for one thing — as attested to by the many videos demonstrating his more recent exploits, available on his YouTube channel. (His latest bass catch — demonstrating Naegeli’s well-honed long-arm grab technique — is shown above.)
And it doesn’t hurt that the same inlet drains directly into a large pond south of Bartlett Rd. and behind the houses on Carnation St. — where Naegeli regularly fishes as well, and the bass are jumping:
HOW HOUSTON SCAVENGERS STAYED OUT OF GUTTERS AND DITCHES BACK THEN Embedded in a profile of 99-year-old artist Elinor Evans, who taught freshman design at the university in the sixties, seventies, and eighties — and whose exhibition of collages at the Moody Gallery opened earlier this month — is this bit of old-fashioned Houston street smarts: “She retrieved another basket and displayed a most orderly collection of hundreds of aluminum pull-tabs. Decades ago, Houston’s streets sloped inward and the centers provided ripe pickings for Evans, who said she surveyed them for ‘as found’ objects of interest.” [Rice News; exhibition] Still image: Rice News
CITY COUNCIL VOTES TO DRAIN HOUSTON’S DRAINAGE FUND City councilmembers voted 15 to 2 yesterday to pour out $31 million from the ReBuild Houston drainage fund Houston voters put into place in 2010 and use the money “to speed up projects and help resolve smaller neighborhood problems sought by their constituents,” according to Chronicle reporters Mike Morris and Kathryn Driessen. Separately, councilmembers approved an amendment to the measure that would help pay for a $1-million-per-district allocation that would let councilmembers themselves decide how to spend city funds in their own districts, by drawing $6 million from the city’s capital improvement funds. A portion of that money, Mayor Parker said, would likely end up coming from ReBuild Houston reserves — though there would be restrictions on how those funds could be used. The source of funds for the ReBuild Houston program is the monthly drainage fee paid to the city by property owners, which went into effect in 2011. Councilmember Stephen Costello, who championed the ReBuild Houston campaign and voted against yesterday’s measure, tells ABC13’s Miya Shay that passage of the amendment is “going to make my job a little harder as I’m talking to the community, about a lock box for Rebuild Houston.” Supporters of the changes claim they’ll help neighborhoods have a bigger say in what drainage and construction projects get funded. [Houston Chronicle ($); abc13; previously on Swamplot] Photo of drainage inlet installation near Westridge and Linkwood subdivisions: ReBuild Houston
NOW PICTURE HOUSTON’S ASTRODOME REPLACED BY A GIANT WET PIT Simply filling in the 9-acre, 35-ft.-deep hole in the ground where the Astrodome now sits would eat up more than $10 million of the estimated $28 million it would cost to demolish the publicly owned structure, according to county engineers. (Another $8 million of that total has already been approved, for removal of asbestos, ticket booths, turnstiles, grass berms, and ramps, plus all the seats and interior items; that demo work is already taking place.) Which leads county commissioner Steve Radack to suggest that the money be saved and the site be turned into a giant flood-preventing detention pond — “if and when” it is demolished. That’d make for a rather eloquent and down-to-earth symbol to substitute for Houston’s most famous landmark. Judge Emmett, who before the failed bond vote favored preserving the Dome by renovating it, declared after Tuesday’s election defeat that “We’re going to have to do something quick.” But commissioner Jack Cagle says he has no deadlines for a decision in mind. So who’s pushing to have the Dome demolished in a hurry? The same folks who’ve been calling the aging structure an “inconvenience” to Rodeo and Texans game visitors, write the Chronicle‘s Kiah Collier and Nancy Sarnoff: “Reliant Park’s main tenants, the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo and the NFL’s Houston Texans want the county to act as quickly as possible, and certainly before the Super Bowl comes to Reliant Stadium in early 2017.” [Houston Politics; previously on Swamplot] Photo of Brays Bayou detention basin: John Lienhard
All winter this Hermann Park high point has been fenced off while crews have worked on Miller Outdoor Theatre’s heavily used seating (and rolling-down) area to update drainage and irrigation systems, among other hill-improvement-type activities. The project, funded by the city, has a budget of almost $261,000. This photo shows a little patch of progress; though performances start back up in April, the theater warns you not to get your hopes up: the hill could remain closed through May.
LAWSUIT CLAIMS PINEY POINT VILLAGE IS USING HUNTERS CREEK VILLAGE AS DETENTION POND A waterflow restrictor the city of Piney Point Village secretly installed in a new stormwater system it shares with Hunters Creek Village is now the focus of 2 separate lawsuits. The latest, filed last week, includes claims that the bricked-up storm drain — narrowing a culvert under Hedwig Rd. connecting the 2 Memorial villages from 36 to about 8 inches — effectively turns Hunters Creek Village into a stormwater storage facility for its downstream neighbor. Piney Point Village officials claim the restrictor prevents Hunters Creek from draining more water from Kemwood Dr. through the new culvert than the 2 municipalities had originally agreed upon. Rainstorms on January 9th and 25th flooded Kemwood with 4 ft. of water, which backed up into residents’ yards. Hunters Creek’s second lawsuit calls the narrowing of the culvert “deliberate sabotage” put in place to force the city to sign off on a drainage study. [Memorial Examiner] Photo of Kemwood at Hedwig Rd.: Rusty Graham
Whatever your ethnicity, it’s probably not too far off from that of Julie, the Sitepal avatar some fun folks at Rebuild Houston have been using to narrate a series of videos demonstrating how to look up and recalculate the new drainage fee on your property using the city’s Drainage Utility Charge Viewer. Julie’s kinda like you — only maybe she moves and talks a little more stiltingly, and she probably wears more makeup. She’s probably also a little less concerned about the resulting monthly costs, or the imperviousness of the whole thing. Still, Julie’s a trooper: She appears to be standing in the middle of Buffalo Bayou, getting her own feet wet as she processes the script into remarkably natural-sounding speech, blinks occasionally, and convincingly wiggles her lips to the words.