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
08/01/17 3:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: MIGHT UPSET HOUSTON’S DELICATE WATERWAY ECOSYSTEM “. . . I suppose all those cars need to come out of the bayou, but I fear that will really mess up the fishing.” [Txcon, commenting on Comment of the Day: Aside from These 2 Issues, Fishing in Brays Bayou Is Enormously Appealing]    

07/31/17 2:30pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: ASIDE FROM THESE 2 ISSUES, FISHING IN BRAYS BAYOU IS ENORMOUSLY APPEALING “The problem: I don’t think I would trust any of those fish to eat. Sure, you can catch and release, but I also don’t see the appeal of standing on the banks of a concrete ditch.” [Heightsresident, commenting on A Fishing Guide to Concrete-Lined Brays Bayou] Photo: Payton Moore

07/31/17 11:15am

A FISHING GUIDE TO CONCRETE-LINED BRAYS BAYOU What kind of fish can an enterprising angler find in the wilds of inner-loop Brays Bayou? Episcopal priest and urban fly-fishing evangelist Mark Marmon tells the Chronicle‘s Shannon Tompkins he’s caught 18 different species in Brays Bayou alone, including largemouth bass, crappie, catfish, sunfish, Rio Grande perch, longnose gar, spotted gar, and white bass. But that’s just counting the natives. The biggest draws — and what you’re most likely to find — are the alien invaders, which include mullet, the aquarium-fugitive armored catfish known as plecostomus, tilapia, and grass carp, aka “Bellaire bonefish.” But you’ve got to know where to look for them: “They, like most fish in the bayou, tend to cluster around the mouth of ‘feeder’ creeks,” Tompkins reports. “They also like structure anomalies that create accelerated current or breaks in the current; in Brays Bayou, these are created by breaks or buckles in the otherwise smooth concrete lining of the bayou or maybe an abandoned shopping cart that has found its way into the bayou. (Anglers call those shopping carts ‘Brays Bayou mangroves.’)” [Houston Chronicle] Photo: Payton Moore

07/24/17 11:30am

WHAT’S BLOCKING THE BRAYS BAYOU TRAIL That sign posted just west of Chimney Rock declaring that the Brays Bayou trail “connects 31 miles of uninterrupted, off-street, multi-use trails and greenspace from the Ship Channel to George Bush Park and the Addicks-Barker Reservoir” is more aspirational than accurate at this point, a Houston Parks Board official admits to David Olinger. (“It got ahead of itself, let’s put it that way.”) Olinger set out to walk the supposed marathon-distance-plus continuum, but found it blocked and interrupted by construction zones, an unidentified fork to a neighboring bayou, and dead ends, including some fronting 7-miles-worth of land adjacent to Arthur Storey Park the parks board is still in the process of acquiring: “I tried walking west from Kirkwood and waded into knee-high weeds. I tried walking north on Kirkwood and found no trail. I drove up and down Kirkwood, searching in vain for Arthur Storey Park. Finally I consulted a map — and found the park about 2.5 miles northeast from the westbound Kirkwood dead end.” The Bayou Greenways trail system is expected to connect that length of Brays Bayou by 2020. [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Photo of Brays Bayou trail: Jan Buchholtz  

07/10/17 11:45am

THE TIME MY BROTHER AND HIS FRIENDS ALMOST BLEW UP A GAS PIPELINE IN THE BAYOU One Houston summer in the early 1960s: “My brother and his friends were playing, pretending they were WWII soldiers and they were running around shooting fake machine guns and then they would go over and jump in the bayou pretending it was a foxhole. And I went over and I heard them talking . . . they were going to build their own bomb. And I told them you know you better not do that. . . . The next thing I know I see them in the garage and they’ve got a bunch of my dad’s leftover firecrackers and they’re splitting them open and pouring them into this big prescription bottle. I tried to find my mother. And she ended up being next door. When I ran next door I was standing in the backyard and I heard this loud boom and looked at where the explosion came from and it was right where my brother and his friends had been playing. I heard sirens in the distance and a helicopter started flying real low over the pipeline. . . . Shortly after that there was a knock at the door and it was the police. . . . they said that the magnitude of this explosion had blown an almost-6-ft.-deep hole right above the Shell gas pipeline [that ran along the bayou] and it could have blown up our whole neighborhood had it been a little bit more than that.” [Texas Standard] Photo: Adam Baker [license]

06/26/17 10:45am

A stolen Dodge Durango was the first car pulled out of Brays Bayou earlier this month as Harris County Flood Control and friends resumed work on removing some of the 100-plus sunken vehicles previously discovered gently rusting below the surface of a few of Houston’s major waterways. (The Nissan Maxima above was next in line.) Last year’s test run of the removal setup snagged a total of 20 cars out of Brays and Sims bayous; the contracts signed earlier this year for a new round of vehicle fishing budget for a catch of around 65 vehicles from the 2 bayous, depending on size and how much of a fight each one puts up. (Texas Equusearch did note back in its 2011 survey that at least one big rig is lurking somewhere in the watery depths, and some of the cars are more filled with mud and debris than others.)

The county says the new car count was up to 13 by the time work crews paused last week to let Cindy pass; a county worker also snapped photos showing off some of the haul, which has so far included a range of more and less easily identifiable makes and models including a Nissan Frontier, a Jaguar, a Ford Mustang, a Ford Bronco, an Eagle Talon, and others:

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2,000-Pounders
05/04/17 3:45pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WILL THE BAYOU CITY PLEASE START ACTING LIKE IT? “Is the new business going to incorporate the bayou, or keep its back turned to it? Would be nice to see the trend continue of businesses along the bayous turning around and accepting the existence of a recreational green belt and trail network in its backyard, rather than using that as the side for the dumpsters.” [Superdave, commenting on Sixties Ex-Dry Cleaning Spot To Be Made Over as a Brays-Side Wine Bar] Photo of Brays Bayou at Stella Link Rd.: Frank Karbarz