09/18/17 11:15am

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:

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Silt Deposits
09/07/17 4:30pm

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.

Map: USACE Galveston District

Inundation Levels, Day by Day
08/28/17 11:00am

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.

Video: Evan Mallett

Dunlavy to Waugh
08/18/17 12:30pm

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:

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A Bayou Demonstration Project
07/28/17 12:30pm

BUFFALO BAYOU PARTNERSHIP NOW LOOKING EAST OF DOWNTOWN, MAKING PLANS The landscape architecture firm that rejiggered the grounds of the Menil Collection and has put forward a new plan for Hermann Park will now be turning its attention to Buffalo Bayou east of Downtown, where the waterway widens ahead of the Houston Ship Channel and Galveston Bay. Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates will lead an effort to create a new master plan for the bayou’s “East Sector” — the section between Hwy. 59 and the Turning Basin — the Buffalo Bayou Partnership announced yesterday. Also on the team of consultants the nonprofit waterway overseers has selected to create the plan: the firm formerly known as Morris Architects, which a few months ago switched its name to that of its parent company, Huitt-Zollars. The partnership says it wants a plan that reflects the cultural and industrial background of the area, that will help connect surrounding neighborhoods to the bayou, and that creates green spaces that can help revitalize that part of Houston. [Buffalo Bayou Partnership] Photo: Buffalo Bayou Partnership

03/07/17 11:00am

Tree drama at Allen's Landing, Downtown, Houston, 77002Tree drama at Allen's Landing, Downtown, Houston, 77002

The ongoing saga of the Allen’s Landing trees coming down recently in bits and pieces — apparently the handiwork of an elusive Buffalo Bayou beaver or 2 — has come to a likely end with the non-rodent-assisted removal of the final stumps, Swamplot’s semi-regular Franklin St. correspondent and wildlife tipster notes. But life around the White Oak-Buffalo confluence goes on! Spring is here, which means the ducks have been out and about, while the cranes are busy pulling fledgling parking garage superstructures up into the air:

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Didn’t Leave It To Beavers
02/14/17 5:30pm

Beaver traces by Buffalo Bayou, Allen's Landing, Houston, 77002

More splinters and shredded bark are the latest clues turned up by Allen’s Landing beaver scrutinizer Christine Wilson. The most recent denudation (shown above) occurred off the park’s walking trail, not far from the aftermath of the last rodent-related incident Wilson documented, just east of the Travis and Milam street bridges over Buffalo Bayou. Another shot from over the weekend provides a wider view of the increasingly sparsely-forested bank:
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Mammals of Allen’s Landing
01/19/17 5:15pm

TERRY HERSHEY, 1922-2017 Terry Hershey Park, from Save Buffalo BayouThe stretch of Buffalo Bayou running between the Addicks and Barker reservoirs and Shepherd Dr. looks the way it does today in large part because Terry Hershey and some friends spotted the unannounced work to pave and reroute the bayou — and raised some hell about it with the county, the Corps of Engineers, and others. The early actions of Hershey and her associates stopped the pave-over, led to the founding of what became the Bayou Preservation Association, aided the passage of the National Environmental Policy Act (which requires public involvement in projects that could impact the environment), and helped to catalyze Houston’s environmental movement. Hershey’s legacy includes founding, laying groundwork for, and participating in many other organizations to protect green space and environmental quality in Houston and throughout the state, many of which are still active today; the 6-mile park along Buffalo Bayou between Hwy. 6 and Beltway 8 is named for her. Hershey passed away today at age 94. [Houston History, Houston Chronicle] Photo of Terry Hershey Park: Save Buffalo Bayou

01/19/17 1:00pm

WHERE YESTERDAY’S SEWAGE OVERFLOWS FLOWED 69th St. Wastewater Treatment Plant, Magnolia Park, Houston, 77011Yesterday’s floodwater caused diluted sewage releases from the 69th St. Wastewater Treatment Plant, located near the crossing of 69th St. over Buffalo Bayou (just upstream from the new Buffalo Bend Nature Park and the Port of Houston Turning Basin). Houston Public Media notes the city’s rundown on where and how much: “The estimated volume of released wastewater as of 6 p.m. Wednesday was approximately 500,000 gallons at Halls Bayou at US 59 at Parker Rd.; approximately 160,000 gallons at White Oak Bayou Near Interstate 45 N. at Wrightwood St.; and approximately 500,000 gallons at Buffalo Bayou near the University of Houston Downtown, officials said.” The city also says anybody using their own private water wells in those areas should get them checked out (and boil water in the meanwhile). The 69th St. plant is the city’s largest wastewater facility, as well as a production site of Hou-Actinite fertilizer. [Houston Public Media; previously on SwamplotPhoto of 69th St. Wastewater Treatment Plant: Webber

11/21/16 1:00pm

Brewery Tap, 717 Franklin St., Downtown, Houston, 77002

Brewery Tap, 717 Franklin St., Downtown, Houston, 77002Ghost-story hub and beer bar Brewery Tap reopened this weekend, after about nearly 11 months of remodeling in the wake of a January ownership swap. The bar is located in the building at 717 Franklin St., preivously part of Houston Ice & Brewing Co.’s Magnolia Brewery complex on the edge of Buffalo Bayou. Down the slope beneath the Franklin St. bridge is the mid-1800’s crypt previously occupied by the remains of 3 members of the Donnellan family; the early Houston settler and his wife and son were moved west to Glenwood Cemetery around 1903, after which the crypt was incorporated into the structure of the Franklin St. bridge:

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Digging Up Downtown History
11/02/16 11:00am

2iPM009 rendered in Buffalo Bayou Cistern

The Cistern, Buffalo Bayou Park near Sabine St. at Memorial Dr., Houston, 77007The rendering up top shows the sort of scene that visitors can expect if they wander into the 1920’s leaking-water-reservoir-turned-public-art-space buried alongside Buffalo Bayou after December 10th (and before next June): Venezuelan artist Magdalena Fernández’s 2iPM009 projection, adapted from flat-walled origins to fill the 2-acre space (and going by the name Rain). As for what they’ll hear — that’d be an accompanying soundtrack of snaps, claps, and other meteorologically-inspired noisemaking from Slovenian choir Pertuum Jazzile. The original piece is part of the Museum of Fine Arts’s permanent collection; the adaptation will be the first temporary art installation in the column-studded space, which opened for tours in May.

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Only Light Flooding Expected
09/28/16 1:00pm

Buffalo Bayou drainage outlet at Woodway Dr., Memorial Park, Houston, 77024

The folks at Save Buffalo Bayou send over some before-and-after photos of the Memorial Park boat launch and companion drainage structure just east of where the stream crosses beneath Woodway Dr. The group says the canoe and kayak put-in spot, on a 30-acre section of the park once used as an archery range, had been slowly greened back up by native river plants following the area’s multi-year closure and workover by the Uptown TIRZ, which involved some de-treeing work and the planting of some contractor-friendly non-native grasses on the newly reshaped slope.

Memorial Park director Jay Daniels told the group that the mowing was not planned, as park groups are currently trying to promote native plant growth in the park. Daniels said that he talked to a work group clearing some bayou access paths this weekend about removing some invasive Johnsongrass at the site; the conversation apparently led to some confusion, which led to mowing, which led to many folks being given a stern talking to.

Here’s a post-op look from July 2014 at the drainage setup (also intended to control bank erosion), partially covered in what appears to be eroding dirt and deposited sediment:

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Trimming the Johnsongrass
09/06/16 12:00pm

STOP TRYING TO FIX BUFFALO BAYOU, SAYS SAVE BUFFALO BAYOU Buffalo Bayou Bank Shift The waterway enthusiasts at Save Buffalo Bayou just issued their report on their recent tours of the waterway, with an eye toward how the scene has changed in the wake of the Tax Day flooding and the extended high flows from the try-not-to-make-things-worse paced drainage of the Addicks and Barker reservoirs. The photo above, taken during the organization’s scouting, shows an area of the bayou where the river channel dug through a curve and moved over, such that some landmarks previously on the north bank are now on the south side. The authors take issue with a number of current and proposed plans to keep the bayou’s banks in place, and suggest that the best way to end up with a relatively stable channel is to step back and let geology do the job: “When the bayou’s banks slump or collapse, the brush and fallen trees left in place collect sediment during subsequent high waters, gradually rebuilding naturally reinforced banks. These new nature-built banks are better able to withstand subsequent floods as well as the more powerful flows being released from the dams . . . The bayou itself then reseeds these and other sandy areas with the proper succession of plants that first colonize then stabilize the sediment, turning sand into soil, preparing the way for seedlings of trees. It’s part of the natural function of riverine flooding that we rarely have opportunity to observe, especially in the middle of a city where we have dug up and covered in concrete most of our bayous and streams.” [Save Buffalo Bayou; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Save Buffalo Bayou

08/30/16 11:15am

Allen brothers' Houston sales ad

It’s that time again — Houston’s birthday celebration, observed traditionally on the anniversary of the publication of the Allen brothers’ newspaper ads offering land for sale in the area in 1836. Among the more eyebrow-worthy claims put forward by the founders: that the “beautifully-elevated” area (depicted nestled amid a clutch of towering hills) was already the site of regular steamboat traffic (the Laura wouldn’t make the first steamboat run up the sandy twists of Buffalo Bayou to Allen’s Landing until the following year), and that the area “[enjoys] the sea breeze in all its freshness” and is “well-watered” (that part, at least, is likely undisputed).

The ad text also claims that “Nature appears to have designated this place for the future seat of Government,” though Lisa Gray suggests this morning that a few well-timed gifts to members of the newly-minted Texas Legislature may have been responsible as well. Gray writes that the city hosted the Texas government from 1837 until the legislators, tired of the heat and mosquitoes, voted to move elsewhere in 1839.

Here’s the ad in its entirety, as it appeared 180 years ago today in the Telegraph and Texas Register:

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