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
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
08/14/17 12:15pm

The new mini-doc We Are the Fire (above) describes the rationale behind recent efforts to rip out the Houston Arboretum & Nature Center’s invasive understory of non-native plants. Like watching short films like this about Houston-area wildlife and semi-wildlife? Here’s another one, from the Texas Parks and Wildlife department, on urban pocket parks. 13 more movies — on topics ranging from red-cockaded woodpeckers and sea turtles to area tidal wetlands — will be included in the first annual Wild About Houston mini film festival, being put on by a collection of local wildlife and conservation organizations for 2 hours on the evening of August 23rd, at the Cherie Flores Garden Pavilion at the McGovern Gardens at Hermann Park.

Wild About Houston
08/03/17 12:30pm

The current state of the Lockwood Business Park, just inside the northeast corner of Beltway 8, is made evident in the photo above, which was just tweeted out this morning by McCord Development. The Lockwood in the name comes from Lockwood Rd. (not to be confused with another north-south street with industrial cred, Lockwood Dr., which is further to the south and west), visible in the background of the photo. The complex on the other side of that road is the TechnicFMC campus.

Four big buildings are planned for the site at 13300 Lockwood Rd., which was previously covered by trees and other foliage. Three will line Lockwood Rd. and one will sit behind: a 143,500-sq.-ft. warehouse, shop, and office structure that’s already been leased to gasket-and-hose-maker GHX Industrial. Two of the tilt-up structures fronting Lockwood will be flex-warehouse space, and the third (labeled Building C in the illustration below) is intended to be an office building. An expanse of concrete for truck turnarounds will link the other 3 buildings, according to drawings McCord is showing of the site:

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Unlocking Lockwood
07/31/17 4:45pm

The landscaping promised for the courtyard area that doubles as a driveway in back of the newly expanded and renovated home at 707 Euclid St. in Woodland Heights is now installed. We know this because a Swamplot reader was kind enough to send in the above photo of the scene. It provides an update to the photos in the listing (below), which show only unplanted planting beds in the driveway, before the most recent additions:

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Garage Front
07/28/17 12:30pm

BUFFALO BAYOU PARTNERSHIP NOW LOOKING EAST OF DOWNTOWN, MAKING PLANS The landscape architecture firm that rejiggered the grounds of the Menil Collection and has put forward a new plan for Hermann Park will now be turning its attention to Buffalo Bayou east of Downtown, where the waterway widens ahead of the Houston Ship Channel and Galveston Bay. Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates will lead an effort to create a new master plan for the bayou’s “East Sector” — the section between Hwy. 59 and the Turning Basin — the Buffalo Bayou Partnership announced yesterday. Also on the team of consultants the nonprofit waterway overseers has selected to create the plan: the firm formerly known as Morris Architects, which a few months ago switched its name to that of its parent company, Huitt-Zollars. The partnership says it wants a plan that reflects the cultural and industrial background of the area, that will help connect surrounding neighborhoods to the bayou, and that creates green spaces that can help revitalize that part of Houston. [Buffalo Bayou Partnership] Photo: Buffalo Bayou Partnership

12/17/15 12:30pm

Sure, drone footage is great. But how often do you get to see 3 flying laboratories survey the breadth of Houston’s sprawl from this high up?

The trio of WB-57s shown surveying a hazy Houston in the video above are based at Ellington Field. The fleet is part of NASA’s WB-57 High Altitude Research Program, which regularly conducts scientific research and testing. Among its missions: mapping, collection of cosmic dust, support of rocket launches, and flights over hurricanes, including recent storms Joaquin and Patricia. Eerie faded-Emerald-City scenes of Downtown, the Galleria, the Med Center, and other vertical standouts unfold beneath the wingtips. The flight, which took place before Thanksgiving (but for which footage was only posted to YouTube this week) marks the first time since the early 1970s that 3 WB-57s have flown together.

Video: Johnson Space Center via Eric Berger

JSC Fleet in Flight
12/04/15 9:15am

Wildcat Golf Club, 12000 Almeda Rd., Pierce Junction, Houston

Looking for an overview of the new site of UT’s recently-announced Houston campus? Your best bet may be to stop in at the Wildcat Golf Club, located directly across Holmes Rd. from the site of UT’s planned purchase. Native Houstonians may experience a touch of vertigo trekking up the club’s grassy peaks to catch the view of NRG Park and downtown (see above) — hills on the site reach more than 115 feet above sea level in places. (Downtown, for comparison, stands at roughly 50 feet, and the big hill at Miller Outdoor Theater tops out around 65.)

The golf club’s topography is a byproduct of its original gig as a major municipal landfill, operating for nearly two decades until 1989; clay and topsoil were imported to sculpt the waste heaps into today’s smoothly rolling hills and water features:

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Houston Hill Country
12/02/15 2:30pm

HOUSTON’S NEXT MAYOR CARES ABOUT YOUR MESSED-UP SIDEWALK Broken Sidewalk, Boulevard Oaks, HoustonSylvester Turner likes TxDOT’s plan to reroute I-45 around the east side of Downtown. Bill King has given up on riding his bike in the city because he feels it’s too dangerous. But both runoff candidates for mayor agree: Water quality is Houston’s most pressing environmental issue, and the city should shoulder more responsibility for fixing sidewalks. At least that’s what they wrote in response to a series of questions about the city’s built and natural environment submitted to them by the Rice Design Alliance’s Cite magazine. [OffCite] Photo: Flickr user bpawlik

06/08/15 2:15pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHY YOU CAN GET FLOOD INSURANCE IN HOUSTON Flooding Coastal Homes“There is no market at all for flood insurance. It’s a massive federal subsidy that is merely administered by private companies. You can’t effectively insure against floods. This is one of those things many Texans like to ignore — that our coastal development is highly subsidized in the form of the government-backed NFIP.” [JR, commenting on Comment of the Day: A Better Way To Tell If Your Home Is Going to Flood] Illustration: Lulu

06/05/15 12:45pm

AND NOW A DOWNTOWN DANCE PERFORMANCE ABOUT FLOODING Invitations to the latest site-specific performance by the Karen Stokes Dance company went out on May 25th, the day before a good part of Houston woke up to find various areas in and around the city under water. But the company had already been rehearsing its latest work for some time by then. Coincidence, fortunate timing, or simply a local arts group’s demonstration of a level-headed understanding of the Houston landscape? From the team that brought you last year’s by-the-Ship-Channel performance of Channel/1836 now comes Drench, which — as shown in excerpts previewed in the trailer video above — reimagines Discovery Green’s Gateway Fountain as a flood zone. Shows, part of a performance that includes the work of Belgian art group Chanson d’Eau, begin at 8 pm tonight and tomorrow. [Discovery Green; more info] Video: Karen Stokes Dance