03/12/13 4:00pm

$17.5M TO BE SPENT REPAIRING BATTLESHIP TEXAS Leaking and taking on Ship Channel water since last summer, Battleship Texas will be receiving some structural repairs beginning this April: Texas Parks and Wildlife announced today — the 99th anniversary of the ship’s call to action — that a $17.5 million contract with a North Carolina firm will cover “about half” the repairs needed; they’ll be “a first step,” says TPWD’s Scott Stover, to ready the sinking ship for its eventual dry berth. During the repairs, history seekers and field trippers should still be able to see some significant sights: “[T]he ship will remain open to the public as conditions allow, and visitors will see plenty of activity at the site, as well as construction equipment and an access barge on the north side of the ship.” [Texas Parks and Wildlife; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Candace Garcia

11/28/12 5:34pm

NEW MYSTERY OWNER OF 136 ACRES IN THE FIFTH WARD Missing from today’s announcement by KBR that the company has completed the sale of its Ship-Channel-front 136-acre former headquarters campus at 4100 Clinton Dr. in the Fifth Ward: any mention of the buyer — or the sales price. Both details were available earlier in the week on a different sale the engineering, construction, and military contracting company was involved in — of the 40-story Downtown office tower that KBR leases and partially owned. (The tower at 601 Jefferson went to an affiliate of New York’s W.P. Carey, for $174.6 million.) [Prime Property; previously on Swamplot] Image: HFF

06/25/12 2:46pm

“It was very eerie to see the stern deck of the ship so close to the water,” writes Swamplot reader J.W. Lodge IV, who visited the leaking Battleship Texas by boat yesterday, and who notes that a news story from Friday linked to in this morning’s Headlines post — which claimed that the dual-world-war veteran parked by the San Jacinto Monument had been repaired and reopened — seemed a bit off. “As far as I can tell they’ve got a long way to go with the pumps,” he reports. The ship was reopened for tours on Saturday, but beginning that evening more problems developed. As of this morning, about 1,500 gallons of ship-channel water were pouring in each minute, from 2 separate areas of new leaks in the vessel’s rear port side. Also developing in the water around the ship: an oil sheen.

Photo from Sunday: J.W. Lodge IV

06/21/12 11:19pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: UP FROM THE SHIP CHANNEL “Many will think I’m crazy, but I don’t care . . . Buffalo Bayou (even on the east side of downtown) can be an aesthetically pleasing stream, and could be developed into something nice. Look at the recent improvements and re-naturalization at Eleanor Tinsley park, just a mile upstream. The section between downtown and the Ship Channel (the S.C. technically does not begin until the Turning Basin, about 4 miles east of downtown) is currently mostly idle with vegetated banks and a surprising variety of wildlife. A few more floating litter booms like they use upstream would clean it up a little more, and make for a nice park-like setting.” [Superdave, commenting on Along the Shores of Buffalo Bayou]

06/21/12 12:02pm

ALONG THE SHORES OF BUFFALO BAYOU Catie Dixon comes up with a few gems in her interview with the team marketing the 136-acre campus HQ at 4100 Clinton Dr. in the southern portion of the Fifth Ward just east of Downtown that Halliburton spinoff KBR has just put up for sale. HFF has given a name to what may be the “largest infill site” near a major U.S. Central Bus District: “Cityscape on Buffalo Bayou.” And members of the sales team believe it’s ripe for a mixed-use development, now that KBR’s industrial buildings have been demolished. Five office buildings dating from the early seventies (totaling 720,000 sq. ft.) and a 36,000-sq.-ft. employee center are still there. The property’s outstanding “water feature” is a mile of frontage on Houston’s scenic Ship Channel. [Bisnow] Image: HFF

04/19/12 11:33am

SMELT ON THE BANKS OF THE HOUSTON SHIP CHANNEL Included in USA Today‘s national list of “ghost factories”forgotten lead smelting sites that have left behind toxic particles in the nearby soil — is the Lead Products Co. site at 709 N. Velasco St., just south of the Ship Channel a mile and a half east of Downtown. The TCEQ tells the newspaper that the site was a secondary lead smelter until 1968: “Contamination at the site is being addressed under a voluntary cleanup program and has focused on the disposal of lead battery casings at the site and on the adjoining KQXT transmitter property, the state said. Cleanup actions have included construction and placement of an earthen cap. Groundwater contamination also has been investigated, the state said.” Helpfully, Lead Products Co. has a “ghost” website to go along with its “ghost” factory. [USA Today] Photo of adjacent Cary St. play area: Lead Products Co.

03/14/11 11:45am

The new owner of Texas Rice’s old Fidelity St. property has already begun demolishing the grain silos on the site, which are just visible from the East Freeway. A reader sends Swamplot this photo taken late yesterday of the view from Market St., just southeast of the intersection of I-10 east and the 610 Loop. McCorvey Real Estate Holdings bought the 22-acre industrial facility last October, and is spending about $600,000 to upgrade warehouses on the site. The company plans to spend a similar amount on improvements for future tenants, then $5 million more within the next couple of years on 130,000 more sq. ft. of industrial space. There’s 141,280 sq. ft. of space there already, though that figure includes the silos that are coming down.


02/28/11 6:40pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE SLICE OF HOUSTON WHERE NOBODY’S HOME “I did NRFU (Non Response Followup) surveys for the census in the wedge between 45 and the Ship Channel and this doesn’t suprise me at all. LOTS of people don’t answer the door. Lots more told me of one, two, or three residents when in fact an evening visit’s observations yielded six or eight.” [Some d00d, commenting on Houston to Census Bureau: Count Again]

01/05/11 12:23pm

Having perhaps worked its way through the 100,000 gallons of raw sewage dumped into Buffalo Bayou shortly before New Year’s, the Houston Ship Channel received an additional contribution late yesterday: 15,000 gallons of beef tallow, which leaked into the waterway from a storm drain. There is, of course, much more where that came from: a rupture in an onshore tallow tank owned by a California company called Jacob Sterns and Sons caused 250,000 gallons of animal fat to spill on the waterway’s northern banks. A three-quarter-mile stretch of the channel — from City Dock 16 to the Buffalo Bayou Railroad Bridge — has been closed.

Some video of the scene, where six boats have deployed boom, from abc13:


05/26/10 5:31pm

HURRICANE IKE’S LOUSY AIM Director Phil Bedient comments on a report released today by Rice University’s Severe Storm Prediction, Education and Evacuation from Disasters Center (SSPEED): “‘Ike was a Category 2 hurricane, and it caused $30 billion in damage. Had that same storm struck 30 miles farther south, it could easily have caused $100 billion in damage. Had it struck that location as a Category 4 storm, like Carla, the results would have been catastrophic.’ . . . Bedient said one need look no further than the Houston Ship Channel to get a clear sense of the region’s vulnerability. The ship channel is home to one of the nation’s busiest ports and about one-quarter of U.S. refineries. The Coast Guard estimates a one-month closure of a major port like Houston would cost the national economy $60 billion. Despite this, government regulations require dikes and levees that can protect ship channel facilities against only the 100-year flood of 14-15 feet. Bedient said that based upon results from supercomputer models at the University of Texas, Austin, Ike could have caused a 20- to 25-foot storm surge along the ship channel if it had struck about 30 miles farther south.” [SSPEED, via Memorial Examiner; report (PDF)]

02/15/10 10:00am

Ready, at last, for the small screen: This lingering aerial tour of Houston’s rich natural and nature-processing landscape, straight from last year’s Center for Land Use Interpretation exhibit on Texas Oil.

Put on your headphones, turn up the volume, and take it all in!

Our journey takes us east from the 610 Loop and ends at the liftoff point for the Fred Hartman Bridge at Highway 146. When they gonna come back and give us some Baytown?

Video: CLUI

12/23/09 3:04pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: AND ON ANY RAINY SUNDAY “Well, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day are coming up, an opportunity for the Annual Unscientific Anecdotal Take A Whiff Holiday Bingo. First thing in the morning on these two holidays, open your windows or step onto your porch or balcony, face the southeast, and take a big sniff of the air. 99% guarantee you’ll get a strong odor of Eau de Ship Channel. After 20 or so years of this I’m convinced that the plants take advantage of the holiday (no one manning the phones at TCEQ) to flush the toilets, as it were, and let the emissions fly.” [Miz Brooke Smith, commenting on How the TCEQ Helps Houston Air Stay So Fresh and Clean]

12/23/09 10:59am

THE GIFT OF BENZENE What’s that faint, slightly sweet smell in the air? More from Chris Vogel’s report on Houston’s industrial emissions: “According to the City of Houston, a six-month survey in 2008 showed that six out of seven air monitors near the ship channel detected benzene levels above what the EPA says can cause cancer in ten out of every million people. That’s ten times higher than what is considered an acceptable risk. ‘Until recently I didn’t even know they were releasing any benzene into the atmosphere,’ says Dr. Charles Koller, a leukemia specialist at MD Anderson. ‘It’s shocking to me. It seems, frankly, criminal.’ It can take more than ten years for anemia to develop in someone who has been exposed to benzene, says Koller, and even longer for leukemia. A person also needs to be genetically susceptible. ‘We don’t know how susceptibility works,’ he says, ‘we just know that it works.’ . . . ‘Once benzene gets in the air,’ [Koller] says, ‘it’s everywhere. So even in Katy, there’s someone who, if they’re susceptible, will get [sick] from what’s going on in the Houston Ship Channel.’” [Houston Press]

10/19/09 10:26am

FAILING THE PARTICLE BOARD REVIEW Levels of soot in Houston now exceed the EPA’s longstanding annual limit: “The area of concern is along the Ship Channel, the only place in Texas where levels of the tiny particles surpassed the EPA’s annual limit from 2006 to 2008, according to the most recent data available. The agency uses a three-year average to determine whether an area is in compliance. Monitoring shows air near the Ship Channel is getting cleaner, thanks in part to new rules for idling trucks and the paving of gravel parking lots. But EPA and local officials don’t know whether the improvements will be enough to drop the rolling average below the annual limit of 15 micrograms per cubic liter of air, since that average includes higher 2006 levels.” [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot]