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

08/30/17 4:45pm

HOW IT LOOKS FROM THE DRY SIDE OF THE BAYOU Chronicle features editor Lisa Gray says her Meadowcreek Village home escaped water damage during the flood, but it was close — and many others weren’t so lucky: “Berry Bayou — the middle of which forms my back property line,” she writes, “received more than 45 in. I’ve seen it in national weather-nerd articles where people are marveling how fast a bayou can rise. My husband says we were half an inch away from the bayou coming out of its bank in our back yard. He sent a graph, showing that on Saturday night, at the monitor I can see from my back yard, it was literally at bank level. But the water broke first on the other bank, into the yard of one of my favorite people in the neighborhood, and up and down the yards on that side. Lots of houses flooded. ‘Dry privilege’: That’s the headline of the essay I ought to write.” [Previously on SwamplotGraph of Berry Bayou water levels at Forest Oaks Blvd. on August 26th and 27th: Harris County Flood Control District

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