COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHAT MADE THE GEOGRAPHY THAT MADE HOUSTON “Air conditioning had little to do with it. Chicago out-paced Houston because of its location as the geographic nexus of industrial transportation during the industrial revolution. It connected to the east through the Erie Canal and Great Lakes and to the west with the ever-growing railroads. A linchpin city grows. A growing city builds. Houston had no such geographic importance — and had a hurricane not made Galveston nonviable, Houston would probably still be a modest town. We had to build our port to earn any geographic value.Â Itâ€™s impressive that we did so. Houston shouldnâ€™t exist. We made it exist. Now thatâ€™s cool.” [Matt, commenting on Comment of the Day: When Houston Chilled Out and Grew Up]Â Photo of Houston Ship Channel: Russell Hancock via Swamplot Flickr Pool
COMMENT OF THE DAY: YOU CAN LOVE THE BAY YOU’RE WITH AND STILL HARBOR SHIP CHANNEL FANTASIES “I know that Galveston Bay is the economic engine of the Houston area, but itâ€™s fun to ponder what 42 prime bayside acres could be other than a barge staging area, or what the bay woulda/coulda been had oil not been discovered nearby. Coulda been San Francisco, got Can Cerisco.” [JoeDirt, commenting on Kirby To Lease New Ship Channel Barge Parking Area, Pay for Barge Collision Oil Spill] Illustration: Lulu
Some of theÂ 42 acres of land just purchased for development by Avera Companies are shown here from above, east across the Ship ChannelÂ from the San Jacinto BattlegroundÂ (that’s the bottom half of the star-topped obeliskÂ visible towardÂ the top left). Â The property is on a peninsulaÂ of land about 2 milesÂ downstream from the I-10 bridge and the San Jacinto Waste Pits.Â The eastern terminal of the Lynchburg FerryÂ can be seen here at the end of Independence Highway,Â with the Lynchburg reservoir lyingÂ Â to the north.
The company saysÂ Kirby Inland Marine is set to be the first tenant for the property, and will use a section of the propertyÂ to let up to 76 bargesÂ tie up and hang out as necessary. Kirby justÂ agreed last month to a $4.9-million settlement with the Department of Justice over its role in that March 2014 barge-meets-carrier oil spillÂ that shut down the Port for a few days and spread oil along roughlyÂ 160 miles of Texas coastÂ between Galveston Bay and Padre Island National Seashore. (Kirby Offshore Marine, another of the corporation’s subdivisions, is currently dealing withÂ fallout from last week’sÂ tugboat-meets-shore fuel spill off the coast of British Columbia.)
Here’s a view of the rest of the property, showing a bit ofÂ Burnet BayÂ on the left and the San Jacinto RiverÂ upstream toward I-10 on the right:
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Floating Around Near Baytown
To capÂ off a series of Houston-landmark-linked performancesÂ carried out over the past few years, Karen Stoke’s dance company will put on bayou-and-space-themedÂ DEEP: Seaspace at Hobby Center the weekend after next (that’s October 20th through 22nd). Stokes, whose previous work includes thatÂ well-timed dance about flooding in Discovery Green right after Memorial Day last year, tells Swamplot she has been mulling over appropriately grandÂ Ship Channel choreographies since at leastÂ 2003, when she cutÂ a related section fromÂ her piece HometownÂ with plansÂ to tackle the topic later in greater depth.
On the list of historical places given a nod in the choreography (or in the short filmÂ to be shown during the live performance): Ship-Channel-side spotsÂ likeÂ the site of Santa Anna’s capture near the San Jacinto battlegrounds (the historical marker for which is locatedÂ along Federal Rd. where the Washburn Tunnel crosses under the waterway);Â Allen’s Landing in Downtown;Â andÂ the area around the former Willow St. Pump Station (just north ofÂ where White Oak Bayou meets Buffalo, byÂ the Harris County Jail)Â — that spotÂ isÂ shown below, with dancers placed for atmosphere:
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WAIT, DID THE 2008 RECESSION UP THE CHANCES OF A FUTURE HOUSTON CHEMICAL CATASTROPHE? Roy Scranton imagines “a wave of water sweeping toxic waste into playgrounds, shops and houses” in Magnolia Park in his op-ed this morning, written after touring the Ship Channel and speaking with the local A&M and RiceÂ research teams pushing for variations onÂ aÂ series of region-scale coastal barriers to hunker down behind wheneverÂ the nextÂ giganticÂ hurricane hits the Houston region, in hopes of avoiding deadly flooding and catastrophic chemical spills.Â But the researchers tell Scranton that pushing for federal and state funding for a response is a slow endeavor; Jim Blackburn (a main player on the Rice team)Â tells Scranton that he’s “heard more than one person say our plan is to wait until the next hurricane comes,Â then depend on guilt money from Washington to fix the problem.” Scranton writes that the best chance for that guilt money so farÂ might have been in 2008, when Hurricane Ike landed just 30 milesÂ northeastÂ of the zone that modelers say could have caused thousands of deaths and irreparable ecological devastation to the area, on September 13th — 2 days before the Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy, pulling global attentionÂ and national funds to other issuesÂ as markets began to crash. [NY Times; previously on Swamplot] Model maps of potentialÂ storm surgeÂ flooding along the ship channel, with chemical storage marked in red:Â Texas Tribune