Comment of the Day: Could We Borrow Brays Bayou Right After Your Next Flood, Please?

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]

16 Comment

  • That’s very interesting. The headwaters of Brays Bayou are only 1700 feet from Clodine ditch, which runs along the southeast edge of George Bush Park, currently running to and draining into Buffalo Bayou.

  • That’s a pretty big engineering project. At that point Brays isn’t anywhere near as wide or deep compared to later on down the way. Plus there’s already a big retention basin near Eldridge and Westpark.

  • You’re using the words “very quickly” but I’m not sure you know what they mean. Three feet of Brays Bayou spent 48 hours loitering in my living room. I guess that is quick compared to the reservoir releases …

  • Only if it works both ways. During the Memorial Day flood, Brays Bayou overflowed its banks. It is clear to everyone that lives/works in its watershed that Brays Bayou cannot handle its existing obligations.

    However, if an additional channel was reversible and could help Brays Bayou from overflowing its banks when there is capacity in Barker and Addicks you would see a lot of support.

  • @meh Any form of improvements to help mitigate the flooding problems in Houston is going to be a big engineering project. That is why nothing significant has been done to date. The Braes Bayou improvements was originally estimated at $550 million for what they are doing on that project; that’s really just putting lipstick on the pig.
    Upheaval, displacement and unhappy parties will be required for any substantial improvements.
    Then there is the method of financing. Who is going to pay?

    I say lets implement some crazy TIF structure for businesses, homeowners, renters, landowners and new developments to help pay for improvements to each of their respective water sheds. (that might not even be possible legally, although that could be changed, IDK, someone please advise otherwise.)

  • “That is why nothing significant has been done to date”
    This is objectively not true; drive around Willow Waterhole and the area at Eldridge and Westpark just to name two of the larger projects. An argument can be made that work has not been completed fast enough, but to say nothing significant has been done to date is disingenuous.

  • Dumb question but couldn’t the bayou system be made to handle 2x the amount of water by digging it 2x as deep? Would digging it deeper be *THAT* expensive? I’m sure I’m missing something…

  • @Cody: Digging it 2x deeper doesn’t double flow because the water still has to go someplace. You could make Brays deeper, but you’d have to make Buffalo deeper, too, then you’d have to make the Ship Channel, Galveston Bay and the Gulf of Mexico deeper. Might be easier to just raise North America.
    @Angostura: We can divert water from Buffalo Bayou to Brays sometime after we channelize Buffalo Bayou, which will be never.
    Seriously, Brays joins Buffalo, so I don’t think sending more water down Brays won’t accomplish a whole lot.

  • @Cody — keep in mind also that the “V” profile of Brays Bayou. I would guess it’s at least twice as wide as it is deep, so doubling the depth might mean quadrupling the width. That would involve buying up a lot of property.

  • @Cody – If you dig too deeply, you will hit sea level, and then there won’t be any gravity to pull the water away and out to sea. The current elevations of [now] dry land around the bayous range considerable, but they are not very high above Mean Sea Level (MSL), and the water level way down there inside the bayou channel is even lower. For example, the standard USGS topographic map shows the height of the normal water/bank line of Buffalo Bayou at Loop 610 is only 10 feet above MSL during normal, low-ish flow). The top of the normal Brays Bayou water line at Hwy 288 is only 5 ft above MSL.

  • memebag: Makes sense. I guess I was thinking of doubling how much could be “held” but yeah, that wouldn’t help remove 2x

  • Also it would refill with silt and sedimentation. (although IANA hydrology engineer)

  • @Skeptic – Buying up of property is what’s going to stop any potential significant flood mitigation. The people of Houston can’t have their cake and eat it too. The city is too dense not cause any displacement of someone or something.
    Maybe we should just go all Elon Musk –
    Create another loop for drainage between Hwy 6/1960 and the beltway. This horseshoe looking loop would be this big moat looking thing raised on either side and lined with trees and bike trails, (maybe a light rail that would connect to IAH). It would drain into Galveston Bay on one end and Lake Houston on the other, or maybe further downstream near i10. IDK. It would get deeper or wider based on the various elevations it encounters. Maybe 100 yds wide almost like another ship channel. That way any water from out beyond the city would drain into this huge man made gully (bayou).

    That could help alleviate the flooding. What do you think?
    The displacement would be to the areas of somewhat low property values. Minimal intrusion to properties inside the beltway.

  • It isn’t -that- far of a jump, distance wise, from the Barker reservoir to the Brays channel. You’d basically have to go under West Oaks Mall (maybe just cheaper to knock it down at this point) and the Shell technology center on Hwy 6. Problem is that upstream portions of Brays are too narrow to accommodate significant outflows from Barker reservoir. A huge chunk of Brays would half to be widened, lots of properties would have to be condemned.

  • see my post on the original comment thread. This concept was part of the original 4 reservoir plan. Only two were built.

  • Here’s my idea: have the Feds buyout Meyerland (where my younger brothers & I grew up) and turn it into a big ass retention pond. It could be a huge lake in non-rainy times… Because building all of these Band-Aid concepts won’t happen /are too expensive /and there’s NO political