03/26/18 11:30am

THE MIND-BOGGLING UNDERGROUND MULTI-BAYOU TUNNEL DRAINAGE SYSTEM NOW PROPOSED FOR HARRIS COUNTY The Harris County Flood Control District is considering digging the nation’s largest network of high-volume tunnels 100 to 200 ft. underground to drain stormwater from several waterways, including — write the Chronicle‘s Mike Morris and Mihir Zaveri — Buffalo Bayou, White Oak Bayou, Hunting Bayou, Greens Bayou, Halls Bayou, Clear Creek, and Cypress Creek. “The goal under the plan,” they report, “would be for those waterways to be able to keep a 100-year storm event within their banks.” Flood czar Steve Costello argues that despite the project’s enormity, the tunnels might actually be the cheapest way to bring the all the county’s major waterways up to 100-year capacity. Even if such a one-shot solution does cost less than a series of smaller mitigation efforts, the pricetag for the tunnels would still be in the billions, or “perhaps $100 million per mile,” Costello says. On Tuesday, the Commissioners Court is set to vote on whether to pursue a contract with Fugro USA Land — a global engineering firm — for a feasibility study of the proposed project that would cost around $400,000. [Houston Chronicle ($)] Photo of Harvey flooding near UHD: Kelsie H. Dos Santos

03/20/18 4:30pm

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 SwamplotMap: Plan Downtown  

01/04/18 4:45pm

With the completion of the once-missing link shown above, the paths lining Buffalo Bayou are now fully connected to the Heights Hike and Bike Trail. Making use of the new route, you can now ride all the way from Shepherd to Heights Mercantile — provided rising floodwaters have not blocked the path. The photo at top, snapped from the southern section of the Main St. bridge, shows a new railing along the path in place of the temporary fencing that lined the edge last year. Travis and Milam streets are visible in the distance in the second photo. The elevated building to the right of the path is part of UHD’s campus.

The purple curve on the map below marks the location of the new connection, while the gray line running northwest indicates the Heights Hike and Bike Trail:

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Watershed Moment
11/16/17 4:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY RUNNER-UP: WHY YOU SHOULD TRY BOATING ON THE BAYOU “. . . Buffalo Bayou looks really nice from a kayak or canoe, and you can see the houses from the water. I’ve encountered all sorts of wildlife including many different bird species, turtles, and an alligator. There are maps online locating the put-in / take-out spots, if you’re so inclined. Pro tip: if you’re paddling by yourself and wish to take out at the same spot you put in, paddle upstream first, and save the easier downstream half for when you’re tired and just want to go home.” [GoogleMaster, commenting on Comment of the Day: The Real Reason Why Buffalo Bayou Smells and Looks the Way It Does]

11/15/17 4:30pm

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

11/15/17 10:15am

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:

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Downtown Link
11/14/17 11:45am

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:

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Plan Downtown
10/11/17 5:00pm

EPA: YEAH, BETTER CLEAN OUT THE DIOXIN PITS FROM THE SAN JACINTO RIVER NOW THAT THEY’VE LEAKED A bit later than had been urged by those alarmed by the longterm presence of pits full of toxic waste sealed only with a tarp on top hanging out in the San Jacinto River, the EPA has now approved a plan to remove most of the dioxin stored within them. “As exemplified today, EPA is prioritizing Superfund clean-up by making decisions in a decisive, timely manner,” reads a statement from administrator Scott Pruitt released this afternoon. “The San Jacinto Waste Pits site was added to the National Priority List nearly a decade ago.” What’s the rush? As predicted by EPA studies and many a casual observer, the pits appeared to have leaked extensively after Hurricane Harvey flooding. Under the new $115 million plan, cofferdams will be installed around the pits and almost 212,000 cubic yards of dioxin-contaminated material will be excavated — leaving just enough behind that the agency can, it says, ensure controls that will “prevent access, eliminate off-site migration, and monitor the natural recovery into the future.” [EPA; more info; Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Video of waste pits after Harvey flooding: Greg Moss

09/20/17 12:00pm

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.

Photo: Swamplot inbox

Braeswood Place
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
09/12/17 3:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY SECOND RUNNER-UP: THE CANAL PLAN FOR HOUSTON “Build canals everywhere. Become the American Amsterdam. Rather than a Pierce Elevated park . . . have a canal that can take on additional water from Buffalo Bayou. Canals throughout Montrose, Midtown, Downtown and around Washington. Canals on the East End and through EaDo. Canals near the Med Center to relieve Brays Bayou, and on and on and on again. Give water new dedicated places to go that we can call amenities, and make Houston a more interesting and attractive place to recruit new companies and tourists, because our canals are unique and cool places to hang out. The Dutch know water, so why not copy them. Then release a ton of GMO mosquitos to kill off the rest of them.” [Canalguy, commenting on How About We Don’t Sell People Homes in Areas That Keep Flooding, and Other Crazy Ideas for Houstonians To Discuss Amongst Themselves] Illustration: Lulu

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
09/06/17 4:30pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: COULD WE BORROW BRAYS BAYOU RIGHT AFTER YOUR NEXT FLOOD, PLEASE? “. . . An undergound aqueduct probably won’t resolve the situation. However, this storm has made it pretty clear that having both Barker AND Addicks draining 100 percent into Buffalo Bayou may not be ideal. An addition channel that would allow USACE to divert some of the Barker outflow to Brays Bayou would allow for some flexibility. While Brays DID flood during Harvey, the water receded very quickly, with the water back within its banks and falling quickly while Buffalo Bayou was still rising.” [Angostura, commenting on Clearing Out the Mold; Houston’s Drinking Water Close Call; The Floodeds and the Flooded-Nots] Photo of construction at Addicks and Barker Dams: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers [license]

09/01/17 7:00pm

7 DAYS OF HARVEY BEFORE THE BRAZOS RIVER REACHES ITS SUGAR LAND PEAK It wasn’t until early this morning that the Brazos River in Sugar Land and Richmond reached its highest level since area flooding triggered by Hurricane Harvey began. And it was a new record, reached at 5:15 am: 55.19 ft., according to the National Weather Service. The previous record, 54.7 ft. — surpassed Thursday at 1:30 am — was set by a flood last year on Tax Day June 2nd. The photo here shows the river during a rare moment of sunshine a day earlier than that — from Hwy. 59 where Greatwood, Riverpark, Telfair, and Sugar Land Memorial Park meet. [Houston Chronicle] Photo: Grace Carlson