02/17/17 12:30pm

INWOOD FOREST GOLF COURSE NEXT IN LINE FOR STORMWATER DETENTION BASIN TREATMENT One of the next spots up for retrofitting as a series of flood detention ponds: the rest of the Inwood Forest Golf Course, which the city bought in 2011 after that lawsuit over whether it could be developed as anything else. The Chronicle’s Mike Morris reports that a set of 10 new ponds were approved by city council on Wednesday for the former fairways, which sprawl on either side of Antoine Rd. between Victory Dr. and W. Gulf Bank Rd. interspersed with bits of residential neighborhood. (A pair of basins was previously dug out on the site; the new project could increase the course’s water feature storage volume from 56 to more than 1000 acre-feet, potentially.) The former clubhouse for the course, at 7603 Antoine Dr., has also found new employment as the White Oak Conference Center, and currently houses some operations of the Near Northwest Management District. Inwood Forest isn’t the first golf course in Houston being put to new flood-conscious uses — across town, an ongoing project in Clear Lake has been converting the former Clear Lake City Golf Course into a series of detention basins and park spaces going by the name Exploration Green. It potentially isn’t the last, either — the Sims-Bayou-side Glenbrook Park Golf Course may eventually be converted into the Houston Botanic Garden, the Seussical early renderings of which include large sections designed to flood.  [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Photo of former Inwood Forest Golf Course green near White Oak Conference Center: White Oak Conference Center

02/15/17 5:15pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHERE THE RUNOFF TAX FLOWS MATTERS LESS THAN COLLECTING IT City of Houston Public Works Project Map“Just collecting the tax on impermeable surfaces is valuable on its own. It makes landowners think twice about creating (or even keeping) flood-worsening pavement. Where the money goes sort of morally determines whether the fee is a form of legally-imposed direct responsibility for flood costs, or just pure financial disincentive that helps the city with flood costs or whatever else — it would be better with the spending restriction, but I’ll gladly take either one.” [Sid, commenting on City Loses Latest Appeal on 2010 Drainage Fee ElectionMap of past, ongoing, and planned drainage and street projects: ReBuild Houston interactive map

02/15/17 4:30pm

glen-forest-detention-site

glen-forest-stormwater-detention-basinJust south of the Earthman Resthaven Funeral Home and Cemetery on I-45 — and just north of Greens Bayou — the Harris County Flood Control District is in the process of digging up more than 2 million cubic feet of soil from the Glen Forest Stormwater Detention Basin-to-be. (That’s the purple shaded area in the map shown here, right upstream from the cluster of bayou-side apartment complexes that flooded on Tax Day and helped spur the pre-dawn conversion of Greenspoint Mall into an emergency shelter.) If the name “Glen Forest” strikes you as a bit mid-century-suburban-neighborhood, that’s because it is: the 160-acre site is named after the sixties-era Glen Forest subdivision formerly constructed on the property. The neighborhood was purchased and demolished as part of HCFCD’s buyout program in the early 2000’s, but the roadways and signs had mostly stuck around, at times serving as a convenient backdrop for unsanctioned motor sports, as demonstrated in the video below:

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Greens- and Grave-side Digging
01/24/17 1:45pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WATER BORDER PROS AND CONS Find Your Watershed map, 2016“Abolishing arbitrarily-bounded entities with taxing powers like the HCFCD and instead creating entities that are specific to individual watersheds seems like it might make some sense. I do worry that certain areas, especially less affluent ones, would suffer from poor or corrupt leadership; and you can’t simply merge watersheds as the T.E.A. would merge school districts. However, that’d certainly be more democratic and accountable. That’s a trade-off which might be worth making.” [TheNiche, commenting on Group Petitions for 13-County Flood PlanningWatershed boundaries superimposed across Houston-area county boundaries: Galveston Bay Foundation and Houston Area Research Council’s Find Your Watershed map

01/05/17 12:45pm

JUST HOW MUCH FLOODING IS TOO MUCH FLOODING FOR HOUSTON? Flooding around The Halstead 4620 N Braeswood Blvd., Meyerland, Houston, 77096We pretty much know what we would have to do to stop most Houston flooding, writes Dylan Baddour as the calendar flips to 2017.  Potential paths to drier ground for the city include a multitude of complex region-wide tasks, including changes to waterways across the county, adding thousands of acres of detention space, and potentially addressing the cumulative impacts of seemingly minor small-scale building practices.  The cost of upgrading the whole system, including buyouts, bayou widenings, and utility rerouting, is estimated by the county flood control folks at around $27 billion — and that’s just to get protection up to so-called 100-year storm levels; Houston has had 8 such storms in the past 27 years, and the Tax Day flood was fueled by a much larger event. “What needs to be decided,” Baddour writes, “is how far taxpayers are willing to go. Cars don’t have airbags to absorb a hit from a train. Should Houston have a drainage system to contain a biblical storm? Where does the city draw the line?” City flood czar Steve Costello tells Baddour that the city has to do something, however, to avoid passing on a “potentially insurmountable problem” to future Houstonians. [Houston Chronicle] Photo of N. Braeswood Dr. at 610 on April 17, 2016: Chris Klesch

10/13/16 11:00am

Brays Bayou from Buffalo Speedway to Bevelyn, Linkwood, Houston, 77025

A mobile reader sends some fresh shots of not-quite-green-yet redone greenway along Brays Bayou, looking west from Buffalo Spdway. along S. Braeswood Blvd. The Harris County flood control folks have been widening this section of the channelized stream this fall as they work their way through the Project Brays checklist; the stretch seen above and below is about 2 miles downstream of some of those more submersion-prone areas of Meyerland near the Brays crossing under 610.

The new trail is a fair bit wider and smoother than the one it’s replacing — for some soggy comparison, here’s a view of the trail from around noon on Tax Day, just up past the next bend near where Ilona Ln. meets S. Braeswood:

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Widening Greenways and Waterways
09/08/16 2:30pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: ONE SET OF HOUSE RULES FOR ALL HOUSTON LOCATION GAMBLES Buffalo Bayou Bank Shift“So, whenever anyone in Houston gets upset about the impact a new development will have on their neighborhood, the chorus rises up and yells at them about how they should have seen it coming when they bought in a no zoning area. Fingers wag in their face about expecting government to save them from the impact of development when they had a choice to buy in a deed restricted neighborhood in the ‘burbs but chose Houston’s zoning-free wilds instead. But, when it is Mother Nature at work, the same [logic] gets thrown out the window. Everyone buying land along the bayou knows that it is a very active waterway that is constantly reshaping its banks. But when a few dozen owners of very expensive real estate . . .  come crying to the government to protect them from a problem that was very open and obvious to them when they developed their properties, suddenly they are given a free pass from having to be responsible for their decisions. . . . Buffalo Bayou is just fine the way it is. Anyone with a stabilization issue can pay their own way to deal with it.” [Old School, commenting on  Comment of the Day: Keeping Buffalo Bayou in its Place] Photo of Buffalo Bayou: Save Buffalo Bayou

09/06/16 5:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: KEEPING BUFFALO BAYOU IN ITS PLACE Buffalo Bayou at Barker Reservoir, Houston“Sounds nice — but that little part about the bayou being in the middle of the city, that’s why it can’t be left up to nature. . . . I understand the need to conserve and protect, but the Buffalo Bayou we know today is man-made. Ship Channel, Turning Basin, the resevoirs, Allen’s Landing, even the ill-fated Shepherd’s Dam all took a meandering stream and turned it into an industrial workhorse for Houston. Basically the ‘natural flow’ is impossible to get back; for that matter it never was something that the majority of Houstonians wanted. There are other bayous and creeks in the area that can take up the cause that don’t happen to be in one of the most expensive and sought-after flood plains in America. It is a noble battle but it was doomed to be one of beautification, not naturalization the moment the Allen Brothers decided to build a better New York City in Texas.” [SimplySid, commenting on Stop Trying To Fix Buffalo Bayou, Says Save Buffalo Bayou] Photo of Barker Dam outlet structure on Buffalo Bayou: Swamplot inbox

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