Zooming on Buffalo Bayou and Addicks Dam

Public Online Meeting, Tuesday, Jan. 19, to Discuss Issues and Alternatives to the Corps of Engineers’ Answers to Dam and Flood Problems

Jan. 17, 2021

Neighborhood activists in the Addicks watershed in west Houston and beyond have organized an informal online meeting Tuesday, Jan. 19, to discuss alternatives to the Corps of Engineers’ much derided proposals to deal with flooding in and around the overburdened Addicks and Barker flood control dams on upper Buffalo Bayou.

Specifically the Zoom meeting was set up to answer Save Buffalo Bayou’s questions about alleged “bottlenecks” or “flow restrictions” in meandering Buffalo Bayou below Beltway 8 in west Houston. SBB has asked for a definition and the locations of these “bottlenecks.”

The Addicks Watershed Flood Mitigation Network, a coalition of property owners and neighborhood associations around Addicks Reservoir, generally opposes deepening and widening Buffalo Bayou. Nevertheless organizers have tentatively included “de-bottlenecking” as one of their remedies for speeding up drainage from the dams.

Save Buffalo Bayou is in favor of slowing drainage into the dams (and into the bayou below the dams). We are also in favor of restoring meanders on the straightened and narrowed stretch of the bayou upstream of Beltway 8. Unfortunately in the last few years, the county has spent millions of dollars reinforcing the channelized section there with riprap and scraping out the forest to build shallow overflow basins.

The Addicks network has graciously made the Tuesday Zoom meeting open to the public. It starts at 2 p.m. Anyone interested in these issues or with expertise to add is welcome to join.

Here is how to join the meeting along with an explanation of the meeting objectives. These objectives also include a discussion of a recent presentation of Houston Stronger’s Buffalo Bayou Community Plan.

Here is a description of the issues from the Addicks Flood Mitigation Network.

Not Bottlenecks

As Save Buffalo Bayou has pointed out, the issue of bayou meanders being “kinks” or “bottlenecks” was studied by Harris County Flood Control in 2019. Proposals to build artificial meander “bypasses” or even raise bridges were found to have little benefit. However, SBB also has pointed out the numerous stormwater outfalls, installed in violation of federal and county regulations, that block the flow during high water.

The issue of “de-bottlenecking” has been brought up by the Addicks group as part of their many thoughtful alternatives to the Corps of Engineers’ roundly rejected proposal to deepen and widen Buffalo Bayou and build a dam and reservoir on Cypress Creek and the Katy Prairie.

Led by One Creek West, the network is attempting to build a consensus to present to the Corps and congressional representatives. Most if not all of these property owners were flooded in 2017 by the unprecedented level of the flood pool as Harvey stormwater flowing rapidly into the reservoir through tributary streams backed up behind closed Addicks Dam. (Property owners in the flood pool behind Barker Dam also flooded but this group is addressing only Addicks Dam.)

In the very early morning of Aug. 28, 2017, the Corps, fearing that the stormwaters would overtop Addicks Dam, opened the floodgates. This flooded a great many properties along the straightened and narrowed section of Buffalo Bayou above and around Beltway 8. This stretch runs for six miles or so from the two federal flood control dams in far west Houston to just below Beltway 8.

Further downstream, the disastrous flood peak from Harvey, resulting from stormwater draining too quickly from the paved and built city, had already passed on Aug. 27, flooding many properties. This happened with the dam floodgates closed.

Stop Stormwater Before It Floods. Take Responsibility!

Save Buffalo Bayou believes the focus should be on stopping and slowing stormwater runoff before it enters the reservoirs—and before it floods our bayou, our natural and built drainage system downstream. Stopping, slowing, spreading out and soaking in runoff happens with pervious surface (gravel and dirt), disconnecting downspouts, trees, native gardens, swales, green roofs, prairies, wetlands, greenspace and parks, and more. This also cleanses the water and generally makes for a healthier, cooler, and more attractive community.

Neighborhood associations and individuals need to take responsibility for slowing the flow. Every action counts. The longer it takes for rain to hit the ground and enter the stream, the lower the peak flow in the stream. It’s called lag time.

So think of joining the Zoom meeting, which may or may not include representatives of Houston Stronger and others.

Meandering Buffalo Bayou. Memorial Park on the right. Photo by Jim Olive.

Wild and Scenic Film Festival On Tour

Jan. 17, 2021

Houston’s Citizens’ Environmental Coalition is hosting the virtual Wild & Scenic Film Festival on January 29 at 7 p.m.

The online program features short films about environmental and inspirational topics, including three films from local artists.

The three local films, popular winners of last fall’s Wild About Houston Film Festival 2020, are “Trip Around the Sun” by SETSVN, a documentary film featuring local Houston farmers and growers talking about sustainability; “Adventures with Edu-Katie” from the Delores Fenwick Nature Center in the City of Pearland, and “A Closer Look at Insects” from the Native Prairies Association of Texas, starring katydids, grasshoppers, and walking sticks from the Lawther-Deer Park Prairie in Harris County.

Other featured films of particular local interest are “The Last Call for the Bayou,” about the migratory bird flyway, and “There’s Something in the Water.” about invasive species in Caddo Lake.

Tickets start at $15. Step right here to get your tickets now!

It’s Ending!

Last Chance to Watch Wild Texas Film Tour, including Lovely Short Film Bayou City

Dec. 31, 2020

So 2020 is going out with a boom, possibly some tornadoes, and a lot of rain, which brings up flooding. And watching movies.

We’ve been sort of urgently silent. We’ve been busy listening and working with others, questioning and answering questions, attending virtual meetings, researching the issues to help come up with the best, most effective, most environmentally sound alternative to the Corps of Engineers outrageously backwards plan to widen and deepen 22 miles of Buffalo Bayou and destroy tens of thousands of acres of the Katy Prairie.

Save Buffalo Bayou board members paddling on Buffalo Bayou with filmmaker Olivia Haun and her crew. Image from the film, Bayou City.

Bayou City

In the meantime, today is the last day to watch the FREE lovely films in the Wild Texas Film Tour. These 26 short films include the informative and inspiring “Bayou City,” featuring Armand Bayou Nature Center, Save Buffalo Bayou, Bayou Land Conservancy, and the excellent riparian and urban wildlife programs in our city and state parks departments.

Bayou City was produced by Olivia Haun, the 2018 Wild Texas Film Tour Grant Recipient and Outreach Specialist for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Wildlife Diversity Program. Over the past two years, Olivia has been traveling to Houston, home to 22 bayou systems, totaling over 2,500 miles of waterways throughout Harris County. Her beautiful short film captures stories from some of Houston’s most passionate and dedicated bayou conservationists and sheds light on the issues the bayou ecosystem has faced over the past century.

Donate

And yes, please. Don’t forget your last minute tax-deductible donation to Save Buffalo Bayou. We need everyone’s help to stay afloat.

Save Buffalo Bayou board members, including founding board president Frank Smith, observing the misguided destruction of the south bank of Buffalo Bayou opposite Memorial Park in Houston. Image from Bayou City.

It’s Giving Tuesday: So Give It Up for Buffalo Bayou!

They Want to Kill It. We Have to Defend It.

Plus: New Film About Houston’s Bayous Premieres Today!

Dec. 1, 2020

Giving Tuesday is a worldwide day of giving. Today is Giving Tuesday. You probably know this because you’ve already received way too many requests for donations to worthy causes.

Save Buffalo Bayou rarely makes public requests for donations. We are a small organization with a small budget and a big punch. We are fortunate to be able to spend our time doing what we were founded to do: research and write and tell people about Buffalo Bayou and our many streams and creeks, educate the public and our public officials about how forested, meandering streams work for our benefit, why nature is the best engineer. We have nearly 8,000 Facebook followers, plus thousands on our email list, including politicians, agency officials, journalists, tree huggers, and other local residents.

Yes, we are critical and controversial. Who else is going to tell the Harris County Flood Control District (and its bosses) that its policies and practices are counterproductive, contradictory, wasteful, damaging, and outdated? Stripping vegetation and bulldozing the banks of our bayou and tributary streams, for instance? Spending millions to “improve conveyance” of streams flowing into our federal dams that already have too much water flowing into them? (See here and here.) Scientists all over the world, as well as Houston, have known for years that “improving conveyance” to reduce flooding doesn’t work. (See p. 17 and here.)

Now Buffalo Bayou faces its greatest threat in fifty years. The Galveston District of the Corps of Engineers has traveled back in time and come up with the idea of “improving conveyance” in Buffalo Bayou by stripping, deepening and widening this irreplaceable public resource for some 22-24 miles from the dams in west Houston all the way to downtown. In places they would use concrete block to line the bottom and banks.

This would kill the river, destroy its natural functions, as well as all life in it. It would be a costly, never-ending maintenance nightmare.

So the battle continues. Please donate to help us continue the fight. All donations are tax-deductible. Save Buffalo Bayou is a 501c3 nonprofit association.

Donate Here Now.

You can also send checks to Save Buffalo Bayou, 3614 Montrose #706, Houston 77006.

Here is Save Buffalo Bayou’s comment to the Corps of Engineers about their plan.

Here is our mission statement and board of directors.

Here are links to the Katy Prairie Conservancy’s alternative proposals and to panel discussions about the Corps’ plans.

Bonus: New Film Premieres Online Today!

Maybe you had a chance to watch photographer and conservationist Jim Olive’s beautiful short film Buffalo Bayou: A Right to Life. Take the time to watch Olive’s film, Coastal Essence, about Christmas Bay on the Texas coast and the Christmas Bay Foundation that he started. Coastal Essence was the opening film at the second night of the Wild About Houston film festival Nov. 18, which also featured his Buffalo Bayou film.

Now Texas Parks and Wildlife has produced a new film, Bayou City, premiering online today, Dec. 1, as part of the Wild Texas Film Tour. Produced by Olivia Haun, outreach specialist for the TPWD Wildlife Diversity Program, Bayou City was made to “shed light on the issues the bayou ecosystem have faced over the past century, and to share the successes that provide an alternative vision and relationship between Houston and its bayous.”

Bayou City is one of four short films in the Wild Texas Film Tour. Hosted by filmmaker and conservationist Ben Masters, the films showcase “wildlife, adventure, and conservation stories from across the state.”

The films are available online for free from Dec. 1 through 31, 2020.

Buffalo Bayou flowing past Memorial Park in Houston. Photo by Jim Olive.

Links to Discussions: Corps’ Plans for Buffalo Bayou, Katy Prairie, and Coastal Barrier

Coastal Barrier Public Meetings Dec. 3 and 8. Public Comment Deadline Dec. 14

Harris County Looking for Nominees to the Community Flood Resilience Task Force. Deadline Dec. 11.

FEMA Updates Flood Policy to Support Nature-Based Solutions Rejected by Corps Plan

Nov. 25, 2020

So much happening!

Buffalo Bayou and Tributaries Interim Report

We had an excellent discussion recently about the US Army Corps of Engineers’ controversial ideas for reducing flood risk in the Buffalo Bayou watershed. Mary Anne Piacentini of the Katy Prairie Conservancy and Susan Chadwick of Save Buffalo Bayou talked about the impact of the Corps’ plans and alternatives.

The online discussion Nov. 18 was moderated by independent journalist Sam Oser and hosted by Residents Against Flooding. Here is a link to the discussion.

Engineers Be Engineers

The Galveston District of the Corps of Engineers has $6 million to come up with plans to deal with the problem of increasing storms and increasing development causing too much stormwater flowing too quickly into the federal dams, Addicks and Barker, on upper Buffalo Bayou in far west Houston. The Corps released an Interim Report in early October that focused on deepening and widening Buffalo Bayou for some 22 miles from the dams to downtown Houston. This would be in conjunction with a new dam on Cypress Creek and a 22,000-acre reservoir on the Katy Prairie.

River otter on the Katy Prairie. Photo Michael Morton

Despite strong support for nature-based alternatives expressed at public meetings sponsored by the Corps in 2019 (p. 199), the Corps outright rejected nature-based alternatives, such as prairies, wetlands, green spaces, restored streams, etc. (p. 6)

However, environmental organizations, including Save Buffalo Bayou, have urged the Corps to reject deepening and widening Buffalo Bayou and building a reservoir on the Katy Prairie. Nature-based approaches are less costly, more practical and effective, quicker, more flexible, and produce a wider range of benefits for the community, including cleaner water and air, cooling, as well as social, mental, and health benefits.

Here is Save Buffalo Bayou’s comment to the Corps.

Here is the Katy Prairie Conservancy’s alternative plan.

Here is environmental attorney Jim Blackburn’s discussion of the plan with the Houston Chronicle’s Lisa Gray.

While the formal public comment period ended Nov. 20, the Corps says it will continue to consider public input and alternatives. The federal agency, founded during the Revolutionary War, expects to have a final draft report and environmental impact statement by late spring or early summer of 2021. There will be another public comment period then.

Here is how to send comments to the Corps about the study.

Here is how to contact federal representatives about the proposals and alternatives.

Note that the Federal Emergency Management Agency just recently updated its flood policy to support nature-based solutions in flood-risk mitigation projects. The Corps itself is under a mandate to incorporate Environmental Operating Principles in its projects and to “engineer with nature.”

Public Meetings, Public Comment: Corps’ Proposed Coastal Barrier

In the meantime the Galveston District, together with the Texas General Land office, is also working on a plan to protect the upper Texas coast and the Houston Ship Channel from a storm surge. (Buffalo Bayou becomes the ship channel four miles east of downtown.)

Recently the Corps released the Draft Feasibility Report and Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Coastal Texas Protection and Restoration Study, also known as the Coastal Texas Study.

The Corps is holding virtual public meetings on the study on Dec. 3 and 8 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m.

The deadline for public comment is Dec. 14.

For a highly informed explanation and discussion about the problems and impacts of the Corps’ proposed coastal barrier, watch this Nov. 19 presentation sponsored by Bayou City Waterkeeper, the Galveston Bay Foundation, Healthy Gulf, and the Turtle Island Restoration Network.

Harris County’s Community Flood Resilience Task Force Seeking Nominations. Deadline Dec. 11

Harris County Commissioners Court has approved the first five members of the new Community Flood Resilience Task Force. The new task force takes the place of the long outdated Harris County Flood Control Task Force, established nearly fifty years ago and long dominated by engineers and developers, many of whom did business with the Flood Control District.

The first five members of the task force will select the remaining twelve members of the task force. Their charge is to “ensure Harris County develops and implements equitable flood resilience planning and projects that take into account community needs and priorities.”

The initial task force members were approved by Commissioners Court on Sept. 29. They are:

The new task force is looking for “multi-disciplinary members who are committed to serving the community and represent the geographic, gender, age, racial, and ethnic diversity of Harris County,” according to Judge Hidalgo’s office.

Anyone interested in serving on this task force should submit an application by December 11.

SC

Facebook Live Discussion: The Future of Houston’s Katy Prairie and Buffalo Bayou

And Wild About Houston Film Festival

Nov. 17, 2020

Update Nov. 18: Here is a link to the recorded discussion.

Join us on Facebook live at 6 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 18, to talk about the Corps of Engineers’ controversial plans for reducing flood risk in the Buffalo Bayou watershed from far west Houston to downtown.

Journalist Sam Oser moderates a discussion hosted by Residents Against Flooding about natural functions and nature-based engineering and why they work better than more costly, traditional, and outdated structural approaches to flood management—which can actually increase flooding and place more people in harm’s way.

Live panel includes Mary Anne Piacentini of the Katy Prairie Conservancy and Susan Chadwick of Save Buffalo Bayou. Learn about the value of prairies, wetlands, and forested, meandering streams in slowing and reducing flooding and cleansing our polluted urban waters.

The live session will be recorded in case you can’t make it.

Save Buffalo Bayou on Facebook!

Wild About Houston Film Festival

And after that don’t forget to watch the online Wild About Houston Film Festival, at 7 p.m.

Sponsored by the Citizens’ Environmental Coalition, the festival features inspiring films by Jim Olive about Save Buffalo Bayou, Buffalo Bayou: A Right to Life and the Christmas Bay Foundation, Coastal Essence.

Fall 2020 on that Bend in the Bayou. Looking downstream from a high bank in Memorial Park. Photo by Jim Olive on Nov. 6, 2020

Corps Reconsidering Flood Tunnels. Still Focused on Outdated Ideas

Over 1,200 People at Telephone Town Hall About Deepening, Widening Buffalo Bayou

Public Comment Deadline is Nov. 20

Nov. 16, 2020

The Corps of Engineers is “going back to look at tunnels” to move stormwater from west Houston that can no longer be handled by the federal flood control dams there, said Col. Timothy Vail, commander of the Galveston District, during a telephone town hall sponsored by 7th Congressional District Rep. Lizzie Fletcher.

The conference call Sunday evening drew over 1,200 people concerned about the Corps’ proposals for dealing with too much stormwater flowing too fast into the 70-year-old federal dams, Addicks and Barker, in western Harris County north and south of Interstate 10.

During Hurricane Harvey in 2017, stormwater runoff held back by the dams flooded properties built in and behind the reservoir pools. When stormwater threatened to spill around or over the top of the earthen dams, the Corps was forced to open the floodgates, flooding thousands of properties along Buffalo Bayou immediately downstream from the dams.

In an Interim Report on its $6 million Buffalo Bayou and Tributaries Resiliency Study, the Corps proposed as one possible solution deepening Buffalo Bayou by almost 12 feet and widening it to some 230 feet for 22-24 miles from the dams to downtown Houston (actually to 1,500-feet below Montrose—about Stanford Street). This would be to accommodate a flow of 15,000 cubic feet per second (cfs).

In “areas of high erosion,” the Corps would use articulated concrete block to line the channel bottom and banks. However, articulated concrete block doesn’t work in Buffalo Bayou, where the primary type of bank collapse is vertical slumping. The weight of concrete block exacerbates slumping.

The Corps also suggested building a dam on Cypress Creek with a reservoir on 22,000 acres of the Katy Prairie to hold back floodwater overflowing the creek and draining south into Addicks Reservoir.

Buffalo Bayou looking upstream with Memorial Park on the right. Photo May 28, 2018, by SC

Impacts

The Corps admits that deepening and widening the bayou would basically eliminate all aquatic life in the bayou, including the threatened Alligator Snapping Turtle. The report, released Oct. 2, does not explain how it would purchase the property to eliminate wide swaths of the largely privately-owned upper bank of the bayou, how it will handle the proliferation of concrete and steel erosion control structures, public and private landscaping, the natural sandstone in the channel bottom and banks, or what happens in downtown Houston when a flow of 15,000 cfs hits below the Sabine Bridge—or a storm surge coming the opposite way.

Currently at that level of flow, floodwater inundates the trails in Buffalo Bayou Park and begins creeping towards Memorial Drive and Allen Parkway. The upper channel in the park was about 120-150 feet wide, according to Google Earth, before the Harris County Flood Control District spent nearly $10 million in federal funds narrowing the channel and lining the banks with concrete riprap in the last year.

Extending the south bank into the channel in Buffalo Bayou Park downstream of the Waugh Bridge was part of $10 million bank repair project by the Harris County Flood Control District. Photo April 21, 2020, by SC

The dam and reservoir on Cypress Creek would inundate a large portion of the remaining Katy Prairie, much of it under conservation easement, and ruin the prairie’s natural ability to slow and absorb stormwater by killing off the vegetation. (pp. 175-176)

Better Options

Save Buffalo Bayou, with other environmental organizations, supports green, nature-based solutions at the regional, community and neighborhood levels.  We are opposed to deepening and widening Buffalo Bayou and a dam on Cypress Creek, which the Corps admits will likely only encourage more development and thus more stormwater runoff. (p. 175) (And once again place more people in harm’s way).

Deepening and widening streams increases flooding, among many other problems. Focusing on stopping and slowing stormwater, on managing flooding in place, is the modern, more effective, more practical approach. The Corps’ simultaneous Metropolitan Houston Regional Watershed Assessment was supposed to be looking at a more comprehensive approach to reducing flood risk, though the scope of the study seems to have changed since it was first funded. At a recent virtual meeting, Col. Vail said that regional assessment would be considered.

The Katy Prairie Conservancy, also opposed to deepening and widening the bayou and the reservoir on Cypress Creek, has proposed alternatives.

However, the Corps in its Interim Report said that nature-based alternatives had been “screened out.” (p. 6)

Read the rest of this post.

Killing the Alligator Snapping Turtles in Buffalo Bayou

(And Everything Else)

Appeal from the Turtle Survival Alliance

Nov. 12, 2020

Here’s a notice from the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) about the Corps of Engineers’ proposal to deepen and widen Buffalo Bayou for some 22-24 miles from the dams in west Houston to downtown:

“The Alligator Snapping Turtles of Houston, Texas, and their habitat, Buffalo Bayou, NEED YOUR HELP!

“A proposed project by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) to reduce the impacts of flooding in the Greater Houston metropolitan area would not only significantly change the natural qualities of Buffalo Bayou, but also put its unique population of Alligator Snapping Turtles at risk of extirpation. This is particularly concerning to us at the Turtle Survival Alliance as the Alligator Snapping Turtle population inhabiting Buffalo Bayou is among the largest and most demographically robust populations in Texas, and of paramount conservation value to the species as a whole. We would know, it’s the focus of our long-term population study for this State Threatened species!”

The TSA, which has been studying the turtles in Buffalo Bayou since 2016, includes this quote from the Corps’ Interim Report on the project:

“It is fully anticipated that the existing population of Alligator Snapping Turtles would decline in the years during and following construction.”

The TSA believes that in a “best-case scenario” it would take approximately 100 years for the Alligator snappers to rebound from the Corps’ project.

Find out more from the TSA, which has written a formal letter to the Corps about the impact of the project. The nonprofit is also providing a document that can be downloaded and edited and sent to the Corps before the Nov. 20 deadline for public comments.

SC

Eric Munscher of the Turtle Survival Alliance with Alligator Snapping Turtles on Buffalo Bayou.

Late Fall on that Bend in the Bayou

Jim Olive Returns

Nov. 12, 2020

We could say it was late fall by some calendar. If we actually had fall here in Houston, where the temperatures are still summerish, ten degrees above normal, and the leaves fall in the spring. Our devoted photographer, Jim Olive, has been exiled to the edge of the California desert where the temperatures until the end of October have been frequently over 100 degrees.

But recently he was able to return to take the Fall 2020 photograph of that Bend in the Bayou we’ve been documenting through the seasons for the last six years. Jim welcomed the relatively cool weather.

Just after sunrise we drove past the depressing monument that serves as the ugly new east entrance to Memorial Park on Memorial Drive. (And was not included in the 2015 Master Plan. p. 61) Apparently our beloved park is now a cemetery as well as a glorification of golf and wealthy developers, who now dominate management of the park.

Monument apparently announcing the death of Memorial Park at the east entrance to the park on Memorial Drive.

While the park at some 1400 acres is frequently touted as being almost twice the size of New York City’s Central Park, with the recent expansion of the golf course and related buildings and the felling of hundreds of trees, less than half of the land is actually the park that it was when it was gifted to the city nearly a century ago on the condition that it remain natural.

The private Memorial Park Conservancy is spending some $70 million in public and private funds cutting down massive, mature loblolly pines, among other great trees, to make way for their glamorous land bridges. Neighborhood residents report seeing fleeing wildlife hit by cars and desperately seeking shelter in backyards. However, the land bridge/tunnels are sure to attract magazine publicity and landscape architect awards, helping to promote the Uptown/Galleria district, which is now actually running development of the historic park.

The foot of a big loblolly pine on the bank of Buffalo Bayou in Memorial Park. Photo by SC Nov. 6, 2020

But for now the wild woods and trails on the south side near the bayou remain, despite efforts by the Conservancy to block public access. As the central entrance was closed for construction of the land bridges, we entered the park south of Memorial through the crowded, recently opened east gate on the Picnic Loop. We circled around the apparently no longer maintained picnic area with its moldy restrooms, boggy grass, and graceful clusters of oaks dripping with moss, wondering how many of these elegant trees will remain. According to the 2015 Master Plan, this area is to become a Pine-Hardwood Savannah. (p. 88)

We parked and made our way around the offensive fencing put up by the Conservancy to block hikers from using public trails through our public bayou woods that have been open for many decades. Trail users elsewhere in the park have expressed their displeasure with these arbitrary barricades.

Wooden railing and “No Entry” sign tossed into a ravine in Memorial Park. Photo SC Oct. 29, 2020

Stepping along the winding, narrow dirt path, we passed the 100-year-old cement remnants of sewer lines from Camp Logan, the World War II military training camp and hospital set up in the woods and prairie next to the bayou, part of which became Memorial Park. We’d once seen a huge rat snake coiled up in the pipes. And another time we encountered a beautiful coral snake slithering across the path here.

The huge log that once lay across the path has now completely disintegrated. And a rotting loblolly snag once inscribed with the name “Jesus” inside a heart has been cut down.

Despite the elaborate fencing and many signs warning this was not a trail, the soft footpath was clearly well used and even maintained. Mushrooms were growing. Animals burrowing.

Bottle garden next to the trail through the bayou woods. Photo SC Oct. 29, 2020

We reached our customary spot on the high bank. Part of the bank had collapsed, the face slumping down, the roots of plants sticking out. Some people think this is damage and we have to do something to fix it. Other people think this is a natural process, that the bayou can fix itself.

But hardening banks with concrete, for instance, can cause bank erosion elsewhere. It’s a good idea to observe Best Management Practices on riverbanks.

The bayou is naturally widening here, adjusting to increased flows. The river is much more visible and closer to the trail. Based on Google Earth, a rough estimate is that the top of the channel in April 2014 was around 109 feet from upper bank to upper bank. In Dec. 2019 from bank to bank the distance was approximately 150 feet.

The Corps of Engineers wants to widen the channel even further–to 230 feet, and dig the sandstone bottom nearly 12 feet deeper. Be sure to send in your comments about that before Nov. 20. We’ll have more insight for you soon.

Here is Jim’s beautiful fall photo of the bend and another photo looking upstream where the River Oaks Country Club has bulldozed the historic bank and trees and installed concrete and sheet pile, no doubt contributing to increased erosion of the banks in the park across the way.

Looking downstream on Buffalo Bayou from a high bank in Memorial Park with the River Oaks Country Club golf course opposite. Photo by Jim Olive, Nov. 6, 2020

Looking upstream from the same high bank showing roots holding slumped bank and natural sandstone in the stream. Photo by Jim Olive, Nov. 6, 2020

Send your thoughts, comments and concerns about Memorial Park and the Master Plan to comments@memorialparkconservancy.org

And be sure to check out the entire series of Jim’s amazing photographs of our living bayou, A Bend in the River.

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Buffalo Bayou and Tributaries: Virtual Town Hall with Rep. Lizzie Fletcher

Corps of Engineers Will Present Their Plan for Deepening, Widening Bayou from Dams to Downtown

Nov. 10, 2020

Congressmember Lizzie Fletcher will host a telephone town hall with the public and representatives of the Galveston District of the Corps of Engineers on Sunday, Nov. 15, starting at 7 p.m.

The Corps will explain their tentative proposal to deepen and widen some 22 miles of Buffalo Bayou from the dams in west Houston to downtown. The idea is to combine the deepening and widening with a dam and reservoir on Cypress Creek in order to deal with increasing stormwater flowing into and potentially overwhelming the 70-year-old earthen dams, Addicks and Barker in west Houston.

The Galveston District recently extended until Nov. 20 the deadline to comment on their lengthy and complicated solutions, which also include possibly buying out properties behind and below the normally-empty reservoirs.

Fletcher represents the 7th Congressional District, which includes Barker Dam and Reservoir and much of Buffalo Bayou and its surrounding neighborhoods through Houston to Shepherd Drive. Congress will ultimately make the final decision whether to approve and fund the Corps’ plans.

Here is how to sign up for the town hall.

Here is a link to the Corps of Engineers’ Interim Report on their Buffalo Bayou and Tributaries Resiliency Study. Here is how to comment on the Corps’ tentative proposals contained in that interim report.

The Corps plans to have a final draft report and environmental impact statement by the late spring of next year. The public will also have an opportunity to comment then.

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