04/06/18 1:00pm

A LAWSUIT OVER RIVERSTONE’S VANISHED LEVEE More than 400 residents of Fort Bend County’s Riverstone development — between Hwy. 6 and the Brazos River — are suing the engineering firm that designed their stormwater systems, alleging that the design left one portion of the community flooded by the runoff from the other during Harvey. The roughly 3,700-acre area is divided into 2 Levee Improvement Districts — LID 19 (shaded blue on the map) and 15. “It became very clear when we passed into LID 15 that something was not right,” one LID 19 homeowner said in a press conference. “We were inundated with water in our neighborhood, and just on the other side of the street everything seemed to be perfectly fine.” Both LIDs were designed by Costello, Inc. the company founded by Houston’s flood czar Steve Costello. (He’s said he divested from it in 2015.) That firm’s failure to consider what would happen when a levee that ran between the 2 districts — along Hagerson Rd. — was removed is what downstreamers say is to blame for much of their soggy state. In total, reports the Chronicle’s Rebecca Elliott, about a third of the 1,760 homes in LID 19 flooded. [Houston Chronicle] Map of Riverstone LIDs 15 and 19: Riverstone LIDs

04/05/18 4:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: BACK TO NATURE “Cities with a ‘home flood rate’ of over 25 percent — like Bellaire — should really consider mandatory green space, meaning some property owners simply cannot rebuild. Tough in the short term but the city can front good money to buy them out . . . because all that park land, trails, fishing, sports fields will pay back multi-fold when these communities are Edens in the midst of a major city.” [movocelot, commenting on Bellaire’s Flooded Home Count; Chicken Salad Chain Making Houston Debut] Illustration: Lulu

03/26/18 11:30am

THE MIND-BOGGLING UNDERGROUND MULTI-BAYOU TUNNEL DRAINAGE SYSTEM NOW PROPOSED FOR HARRIS COUNTY The Harris County Flood Control District is considering digging the nation’s largest network of high-volume tunnels 100 to 200 ft. underground to drain stormwater from several waterways, including — write the Chronicle‘s Mike Morris and Mihir Zaveri — Buffalo Bayou, White Oak Bayou, Hunting Bayou, Greens Bayou, Halls Bayou, Clear Creek, and Cypress Creek. “The goal under the plan,” they report, “would be for those waterways to be able to keep a 100-year storm event within their banks.” Flood czar Steve Costello argues that despite the project’s enormity, the tunnels might actually be the cheapest way to bring the all the county’s major waterways up to 100-year capacity. Even if such a one-shot solution does cost less than a series of smaller mitigation efforts, the pricetag for the tunnels would still be in the billions, or “perhaps $100 million per mile,” Costello says. On Tuesday, the Commissioners Court is set to vote on whether to pursue a contract with Fugro USA Land — a global engineering firm — for a feasibility study of the proposed project that would cost around $400,000. [Houston Chronicle ($)] Photo of Harvey flooding near UHD: Kelsie H. Dos Santos

03/19/18 12:00pm

DIGGING UP THE LATEST ADDICKS AND BARKER RESERVOIR DIRT The Army Corps of Engineers is exploring the possibility of deepening the Addicks and Barker reservoirs in order to increase their floodwater capacities. The Chronicle’s Mihir Zaveri digs up a request the Corps posted online quietly in January for specifics on how to remove soil from the reservoirs. The notice says the Corps is “evaluating the level of interest” from contractors, government agencies, and others “to allow for the beneficial use of material by interested parties while increasing capacity of the Government project.” Respondents are asked how much how much soil they would remove from the reservoirs, what methods they’d use to collect and transport it, where they’d deposit it, and how long the work would take. The deadline for responding to the agency was last Thursday. [Houston Chronicle; postingPhoto of American Shooting Centers and Millie Bush Dog Park off Westheimer Pkwy. in Barker Reservoir, flooded after Memorial Day, 2015: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers [license]

03/01/18 3:30pm

THE ARMY CORPS SAW ALL YOUR ADDICKS AND BARKER LAWSUITS COMING — 23 YEARS AGO A 1995 Army Corps of Engineers memo obtained by the Chronicle shows that the agency considered the possibility that dozens of lawsuits could be filed against it by flooded homeowners both upstream and downstream from the Addicks and Barker dams. “Given the nature of the expensive homes that would be flooded and the quality of legal representation these owners could afford, there is always the possibility of an adverse ruling,” but the likelihood of such an outcome would be low, it concluded. Those downstream from the reservoirs would have a weak case, the memo argued, because their home values benefit from the dams in the first place. And those upstream — inside the Addicks and Barker flood pools — would have to prove that flooding wasn’t just sporadic, but “frequent and inevitably recurring to amount to a taking of interest in property.” Regardless, says the document, “it would be prudent for Harris County to make sure owners, future developers, and future buyers are put on notice that they are in a reservoir.That didn’t happen. [Houston Chronicle; memo] Photo of Barker Reservoir Near Addicks Clodine Rd. after Harvey: Kyle Steck

02/16/18 1:15pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY RUNNER-UP: A SOGGY MOD FOR GRABS IN BRAESWOOD “For what it’s worth, my house flooded. I’m selling as is and would be thrilled for the free publicity.” [Joe, commenting on Houston Home Listing Photo of the Day: The Halfway House] Photo of 3611 N. Braeswood Blvd.: HAR

02/15/18 9:30am

UH’S PHONE SURVEY POLLEES WANT TO MAKE FLOOD RECORD A GIVEN IN HOME SALES Here’s a tidbit from the UH Hobby School of Public Affairs’ new post-Harvey telephone questionnaire: 90 percent of Harris, Fort Bend, Brazoria, and Montgomery County residents who responded think sellers should be required to disclose prior flood damage to their homes and prior flooding in the surrounding neighborhood. Aren’t sellers already obligated to reveal their homes’ flood histories? Well, almost. State law requires most sellers to spill the details — but only if their home was previously occupied (and not if it was foreclosed on or if they’re selling it to execute someone’s will). For developers selling newly-built homes — sometimes in entirely new subdivisions — the rules are foggier: not all surrounding flood designations need to be disclosed to buyers. Among those details that can be withheld: whether the home is located in a flood pool, an area of land prone to inundation when water builds up behind a reservoir dam like that of the Addicks and Barker, as Lise Olsen wrote in the Chronicle last year. [University of Houston Hobby School of Public Affairs] Photo of home at 8th St. and Arlington during Harvey: Swamplot inbox

01/17/18 5:15pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: STILL STRANDED “My first thought is that raising a home might protect the physical property, but it doesn’t remove it from the path of floodwaters. A flooding event could still strand a family, potentially putting them in a life-threatening situation from which others would have to rescue them. Tax roll aside, is this the right thing to do?” [Nice Neighbor, commenting on Comment of the Day: Why It Pays To Raise Those Flooded Meyerland Homes] Photo: Christine Gerbode

01/11/18 1:00pm

WHAT HOUSTON WILL SPEND TO RAISE A FEW FLOODY HOUSES IN MEYERLAND Houston City Council approved construction yesterday to raise 5 Meyerland houses — a subset of the 42 Houston homes FEMA paid the city $14.8 million to elevate back in 2015. One of those 42 houses has already been jacked up and 8 more are currently within the levitation process, according to the Chronicle’s Rebecca Elliott and John D. Harden. The costs to raise the 5 homes now slated for elevation 12 ft. above flood level — which include a few extra thousand dollars to put residents up in temporary lodging — range from $218,700 to $416,000 per property. In total, the bill comes to $1.6 million. Harris County appraises the total value of properties themselves from $125,906 to $507,152, with the value of improvements within that ranging from $34,700 to $201,200. One of the houses — 5150 Braesheather Dr. — shown above as it appeared before Harvey, is currently listed for sale. [Houston Chronicle; more info (items 24–28)Photo of 5150 Braesheather Dr.: HAR  

12/26/17 12:30pm

A FLOOD OF CHRISTMAS DINERS AT VIETOPIA An impromptu performance surrounding a centerpiece aquarium greeted Christmas dinner diners at Vietopia yesterday. Loud screams accompanied the appearance of twin streams springing from a leak in the glass on the dining side of freestanding structure at the Vietnamese restaurant in the Plaza in the Park (better known as the Kroger shopping center just south of the Southwest Fwy. on Buffalo Spdwy.) As a steady fountain of fishwater aimed itself at a nearby table or 2, the restaurant’s staff sprung into action: Large plastic garbage cans were deployed quickly to catch the water, and waiters used nets to collect the fish and transport them to new homes. [Wendy G Young Lightwalker, via abc13] Video: Wendy G Young LightWalker

12/08/17 1:15pm

WHAT IT TAKES TO JACK A HOUSE “Adam Bakir, a Houston builder and remodeler, does one or two home elevations a year. The job is akin to major surgery. Workers tunnel under the house, Bakir said, then raise the whole thing on jacks—the slab and the house that rests on it. Since Harvey, Bakir has received more than 20 inquiries about home elevation. If potential customers ask for a cost estimate, he’ll tell them: between about $75 and $100 per square foot. ‘If you have a 2,500-square-foot house, which is typical,’ he said, ‘the upper end of it would be about $250,000. The lower end, around $180,000.‘” [CityLab] Photo: Arkitektura Development

12/04/17 4:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE ONLY MACKIE AND KAMRATH HOMES LEFT ON THE TIEL WAY LOOP “. . . My husband and I drove around Tiel Way after the storm to check on all the MacKie and Kamraths. There were several homes on the street that flooded — and not just by a few inches but into their second levels. One of the things that make the Kamraths of this era (and really, many high-end midcentury homes) so gorgeous and unique is the abundant use of wood panels for all walls, doors, built-in storage cabinets and seating — everything. But it also makes them particularly expensive and hard to fix after extensive water damage. As Swamplot reported earlier this year, the home at 2 Tiel Way was bought with the intention to restore but had so much termite and water damage it would have cost double to restore compared to a full rebuild price. So that’s what they are doing: rebuilding the same house. . . . It’s a controversial choice but in my opinion it’s the best architectural conservation alternative to demolition. But not everyone has the resources to undertake something like a full architectural rebuild. So while the demo of this house, one of Kamrath’s finest, is certainly a punch in the gut . . . I get it. They probably would have saved it if they could. Tiel Way was the last concentration of MacKie and Kamrath’s great residential works, at one point having 7 homes on the loop. After this demolition we will be down to 2.5: the Gold Brick–awarded restoration at 67 Tiel Way (which thankfully, did not appear to have Harvey flooding issues), Kamrath’s own residence at 8 Tiel Way (definitely flooded, but appears to be safe at the moment), and the rebuild currently in progress at 2 Tiel Way. 48 Tiel Way won’t be the only midcentury treasure lost to Harvey, but it’s certainly one of the saddest to see go.” [Rabbit, commenting on Daily Demolition Report: Tiel Repeal; previously on Swamplot] Photo of 48 Tiel Way: HAR

12/01/17 4:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: ANOTHER WILLOW MEADOWS FAREWELL “Willowgrove is a beautiful street, and sadly, I think we’re going to see several homes come down akin to what we saw & are seeing again in Meyerland (I believe there was another one yesterday). It’s predominately 1960s single-story ranch homes, many custom designed and some of them oversized vs. the rest of neighborhood, below a canopy of oaks that drape the street. It’s terribly sad that what it was before is just gone now. Willowgrove backs up to one of the feeder ravines that breached when the bayou did, and homes on both sides of it — Cliffwood and Willowgrove — took a massive hit compared to the surrounding streets that only had street flooding. The cap on flood insurance, if homeowners had it, wouldn’t cover the value of those homes. I’ve had neighbors ask me, and I genuinely do not know — are those concrete ravines/mini-bayous supposed to drain/connect to Willow Water Hole at some point? Was that already supposed to have happened? If so, what was the delay?” [Heather, commenting on Daily Demolition Report: Lynn Parked] Photo of 10202 Willowgrove Dr. interior (now for sale): HAR