07/26/16 2:30pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: ALL HOUSTON FLOODWATER BACKS UP IN THE SAME DRAIN Bathtub“Every editorial and study which I have seen fails to consider the plug in the bath tub. Every drop of rainwater in the metro area ultimately finds its way to Galveston Bay (and then the Gulf of Mexico). During the major flood events this spring, the tide was exceptionally high and there was a strong steady wind from the southeast. The waters of Clear Creek and the San Jacinto River were nearly three feet above normal before the first drops fell. There was no outlet for the rain and it backed up and up and up. Nothing had changed for this flood except the wind and the tide did not work in favor of Houston.” [Jardinero1, commenting on Cross-County Accounting for the Houston Flooding Puzzle] Illustration: Lulu

05/13/15 1:30pm

Conrad Sauer Detention Basin, Energy Gateway District, Spring Branch, Houston

Here’s a purty watercolor-filtered drawing that shows how a portion of the concrete-lined Conrad Sauer Detention Basin extending north from the I-10 feeder road between Gessner and Conrad Sauer Dr. is supposed to look after MetroNational and TIRZ 17 upgrade it into a grassy, bike-lane-crossed area with park space that improves on its current ditch functions. It sits directly across the little ol’ Katy Fwy. from MetroNational’s ‘Death Star‘ HQ; the normally secretive company reveals a tiny bit about its plans for the area around the detention basin, lining the northwest corner of Gessner and the outbound I-10 feeder, in a variance application that’s scheduled to be discussed and possibly voted on in a planning commission meeting this Thursday.

MetroNational is calling the cleared 24-acre site (shown below) the Energy Gateway District.

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From the Death Star to You
09/10/14 1:15pm

A LOOK AT SOME OF THE LIQUID POO FLOWING ONTO COLQUITT ST. IN MONTROSE Raw Sewage Draining onto Colquitt St., Montrose, HoustonA reader wants to be sure Swamplot readers are alerted — as city inspectors, the HPD’s environmental division, and the property manager have already been, the reader says — to the “recurring” problem of raw sewage flowing out from the Takara-So Apartments at 1919 W. Main St. and into neighboring storm drains. The photo at left, taken on Monday, shows the sewage (“you can smell it”) along Colquitt St., pausing for a bit of sun on its way to lower-lying bayous and waterways. [Previously on Swamplot] Photo: Swamplot inbox

08/26/14 2:00pm

How is it that Kyle Naegeli is able to catch so many fish — including bluegills, bass, and catfish — simply by dropping lines into the storm-sewer inlet at the intersection of Carnation St. and Camilia Ct. in Katy? Well, the now-16-year-old has had 4 years of practice fishing in the same sewer, for one thing — as attested to by the many videos demonstrating his more recent exploits, available on his YouTube channel. (His latest bass catch — demonstrating Naegeli’s well-honed long-arm grab technique — is shown above.)

And it doesn’t hurt that the same inlet drains directly into a large pond south of Bartlett Rd. and behind the houses on Carnation St. — where Naegeli regularly fishes as well, and the bass are jumping:

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The Fishing Channel
07/25/14 11:30am

HOW HOUSTON SCAVENGERS STAYED OUT OF GUTTERS AND DITCHES BACK THEN Elinor Evans Collection of Can Pull Tabs Culled from Houston StreetsEmbedded in a profile of 99-year-old artist Elinor Evans, who taught freshman design at the university in the sixties, seventies, and eighties — and whose exhibition of collages at the Moody Gallery opened earlier this month — is this bit of old-fashioned Houston street smarts: “She retrieved another basket and displayed a most orderly collection of hundreds of aluminum pull-tabs. Decades ago, Houston’s streets sloped inward and the centers provided ripe pickings for Evans, who said she surveyed them for ‘as found’ objects of interest.” [Rice News; exhibition] Still image: Rice News

07/10/14 3:15pm

CITY COUNCIL VOTES TO DRAIN HOUSTON’S DRAINAGE FUND Construction of Drainage Inlet Near Westridge and Linkwood Subdivisions, HoustonCity councilmembers voted 15 to 2 yesterday to pour out $31 million from the ReBuild Houston drainage fund Houston voters put into place in 2010 and use the money “to speed up projects and help resolve smaller neighborhood problems sought by their constituents,” according to Chronicle reporters Mike Morris and Kathryn Driessen. Separately, councilmembers approved an amendment to the measure that would help pay for a $1-million-per-district allocation that would let councilmembers themselves decide how to spend city funds in their own districts, by drawing $6 million from the city’s capital improvement funds. A portion of that money, Mayor Parker said, would likely end up coming from ReBuild Houston reserves — though there would be restrictions on how those funds could be used. The source of funds for the ReBuild Houston program is the monthly drainage fee paid to the city by property owners, which went into effect in 2011. Councilmember Stephen Costello, who championed the ReBuild Houston campaign and voted against yesterday’s measure, tells ABC13’s Miya Shay that passage of the amendment is “going to make my job a little harder as I’m talking to the community, about a lock box for Rebuild Houston.” Supporters of the changes claim they’ll help neighborhoods have a bigger say in what drainage and construction projects get funded. [Houston Chronicle ($); abc13; previously on Swamplot] Photo of drainage inlet installation near Westridge and Linkwood subdivisions: ReBuild Houston

09/23/13 2:05pm

DITCH REPAIRS, BRIDGE REPLACEMENT TO CLOSE STRETCH OF SAN FELIPE FOR NEXT 2 WEEKS San Felipe St. near Mid Ln. and the Loop is going to be out of commission for about 2 weeks, according to the Harris County Flood Control District: After tonight’s rush hour subsides, workers will move in to remove concrete from the sides of the eroding and underperforming drainage ditch, shown here, and install closed culverts. And that means the 50-year-old bridge on San Felipe will need to be demolished and replaced. The area to be closed is near the new Liberty Kitchen spot and the luxury apartments under construction on Briar Hollow Ln. [HCFCD; previously on Swamplot] Photo: HCFCD

01/31/13 4:15pm

All winter this Hermann Park high point has been fenced off while crews have worked on Miller Outdoor Theatre’s heavily used seating (and rolling-down) area to update drainage and irrigation systems, among other hill-improvement-type activities. The project, funded by the city, has a budget of almost $261,000. This photo shows a little patch of progress; though performances start back up in April, the theater warns you not to get your hopes up: the hill could remain closed through May.

Photo: Miller Outdoor Theatre

07/26/12 1:13pm

PROPERTY OWNERS, NOT DEVELOPERS, PAYING FOR NEW CITY DRAINAGE PROGRAM SO FAR Although it’s been collecting drainage fees from property owners for a year, the city of Houston still has yet to begin collecting a parallel funding source for its new ReBuild Houston infrastructure program. A deputy director of public works admitted in a meeting last week that a promised developer impact fee — one of 4 sources of funding established for street and drainage improvements — has not yet been put in place. Fees from developers are meant to pay for measures that would offset the effects of future development on flooding and street capacity, according to a city website describing the program. [The Leader]

03/13/12 1:18pm

LAWSUIT CLAIMS PINEY POINT VILLAGE IS USING HUNTERS CREEK VILLAGE AS DETENTION POND A waterflow restrictor the city of Piney Point Village secretly installed in a new stormwater system it shares with Hunters Creek Village is now the focus of 2 separate lawsuits. The latest, filed last week, includes claims that the bricked-up storm drain — narrowing a culvert under Hedwig Rd. connecting the 2 Memorial villages from 36 to about 8 inches — effectively turns Hunters Creek Village into a stormwater storage facility for its downstream neighbor. Piney Point Village officials claim the restrictor prevents Hunters Creek from draining more water from Kemwood Dr. through the new culvert than the 2 municipalities had originally agreed upon. Rainstorms on January 9th and 25th flooded Kemwood with 4 ft. of water, which backed up into residents’ yards. Hunters Creek’s second lawsuit calls the narrowing of the culvert “deliberate sabotage” put in place to force the city to sign off on a drainage study. [Memorial Examiner] Photo of Kemwood at Hedwig Rd.: Rusty Graham

10/18/11 2:53pm

The Heights Life passes on drawings and details of the new Kroger grocery store and gas station planned for the former industrial property between Arne’s Warehouse and Party Store and I-10 at 1400 Studemont St. — from notes taken by a Super Neighborhood 22 representative who met with Kroger reps and council member Ed Gonzalez. Though at a planned 79,087 sq. ft. the store would be about 10,000 sq. ft. smaller than the recently renovated Heights store on 11th St. and Shepherd, it’ll look quite similar. The most interesting part of the site plan is the proposed connection of Hicks St., which turns off of Studemont south of the new store, to Summer St., which dead-ends into a parking lot currently filled with the heads of ex-Presidents, just south of the Sawyer Heights Target:

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07/08/11 2:33pm

Whatever your ethnicity, it’s probably not too far off from that of Julie, the Sitepal avatar some fun folks at Rebuild Houston have been using to narrate a series of videos demonstrating how to look up and recalculate the new drainage fee on your property using the city’s Drainage Utility Charge Viewer. Julie’s kinda like you — only maybe she moves and talks a little more stiltingly, and she probably wears more makeup. She’s probably also a little less concerned about the resulting monthly costs, or the imperviousness of the whole thing. Still, Julie’s a trooper: She appears to be standing in the middle of Buffalo Bayou, getting her own feet wet as she processes the script into remarkably natural-sounding speech, blinks occasionally, and convincingly wiggles her lips to the words.

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06/16/11 2:25pm

MAYOR PARKER: FEE-FREE IMPERVIOUS SLABS FOR EVERYBODY! Responding to criticisms that the city’s new Rebuild Houston drainage fees came out higher than figures bandied about before voters approved Proposition 1 last year, Mayor Parker announced today that every property owner in the city will receive a permanent drainage-free credit for the first 1,000 sq. ft. of impervious surface on a lot. The median bill, she says, should now be “between 5 and 6 dollars” per month, beginning in July. The credit will result in a reduction of funds available for drainage projects — down to $110 million from $125 million, Parker projects. To make up the $15 million shortfall in the first year, the mayor says she has negotiated prepayments to the city’s enterprise funds. [Mayor’s Office; previously on Swamplot]

06/08/11 9:30am

PARKER: HOUSTON LOTS MUCH BIGGER THAN WE THOUGHT Acknowledging that the city underestimated the cost of the average homeowner’s drainage fee by $3.25 per month, Mayor Parker blames faulty estimates of the size of the typical Houston residential lot. The city had presumed that the average Houston home had a 1,875-sq.-ft. impervious footprint and sat on 5,000 sq. ft. of land. But appraisal district data and satellite images now show that the typical Houston home sits on a 7,500-sq.-ft. lot and has 2,850 sq. ft. of impervious surface. [Houston Chronicle]

09/29/10 4:15pm

THE PROP. 1 DITCH INCENTIVE If Houston voters pass Proposition 1 in November, the average homeowner will pay about $5 a month to the city’s new drainage and street-renewal fund, Mayor Parker announced today. Commercial properties and homes on curb-and-gutter streets would be assessed 3.2 cents per sq. ft. of hardscape (including building footprints, driveways, porches and parking lots) per year. But owners who live on streets with open ditches would only have to pay at a 2.6-cents-per-sq.-ft. rate. That’d save the average ditch-side homeowner a whopping $11.40 a year. The assessment rate would be fixed for 10 years, and require a two-thirds vote from city council to be raised after that. Reporter Miya Shay has the calculations. [abc13; previously on Swamplot]