Greg Sergesketter Director 815 Elk Run Circle 713.234.0604 October 27, 2020
MTHA Annual Meeting Survey Question
As required by our governing documents, MTHA has an annual meeting of our homeowners to elect directors and provide an opportunity for communication not only between our homeowners and the board, but also among all of our neighbors. For a number of years now we have had our annual gathering at Ninfa's on Memorial and, since Hurricane Harvey, we have rented all of the restaurant with MTHA paying for the dinner and margaritas. For those three meetings since Harvey the attendance has been over 100. With the lockdowns, this year is different. Ninfa's would still like to host us and has reduced the minimum number requirement by 1/3rd. Instead of a buffet, the side dishes would be served individually with fajita platters brought to each table. In order to better understand how we should proceed with this year's meeting, we are asking that you complete the survey below by just clicking on the applicable answer. Yes, I would consider attending the annual meeting in person No, I would not attend the annual meeting in person
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Buffalo Bayou Resiliency Study Update!
Last Thursday, representatives from four Super Neighborhoods that have Buffalo Bayou within their boundaries (16, 17, 18 & 20) met with Councilmember Greg Travis and his Chief of Staff to discuss the interim report from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers ("USACE"). As noted in the prior newsletter, the interim report is on "ways to reduce the risks to people and property from flooding in the Buffalo Bayou and Addicks and Barker watersheds." This report's cost is $6 million and is six months behind schedule. Also as noted previously, the USACE opening the Addicks' and Barker's gates during Hurricane Harvey directly resulted in every home in Memorial Thicket flooding. The continued releases meant that we couldn't get back into our homes for two weeks. We had a good discussion and as a group reached a consensus on what we believe would be the alternatives best to consider for the USACE to examine going forward. As a preface, when the cost benefit ratios are looked at in the study, all Alternatives (except for part of Alternative 7) are less than one, which is problematic for a project to move forward. The overarching reason for the low number is the USACE only looks out 50 years for benefits and an event such as Harvey is not within that event horizon. As such, none of these alternatives take into account the damages that could be avoided from an event such as Harvey. In fact, the ratios do not even account for a 100-year event, of which we have had several. So a 100-year event, a 200-year event, a 500-year event and a Harvey event are all excluded in the report from calculating damages that could be avoided.
Alternative 1 is to do nothing. This is the baseline and one which no one should consider as being acceptable.
Alternative 2 is creating the Cypress Creek Reservoir, which would stop Cypress Creek from overflowing into Addicks Reservoir, which is not where it normally flows. This alternative would provide 190,000 acre feet of storage, which is more storage than Barker has held even during Harvey and more storage than Addicks for all events other than Harvey. The consensus was this alternative should be on the list going forward and we should support it.
Alternative 3 is deepening Addicks and Barker Reservoirs, but the USACE does not want to proceed with this alternative. The USACE believes it will provide "only limited local benefits". We believe this is wrong and this alternative should be high on the list.
The USACE says there is hardly any sediment in the reservoirs even though during the over 70 years they have been in existence no sediment has been removed. That would be unlike any other dam I am familiar with. While on a much larger scale, Lake Mead was formed by Hoover Dam in 1935 (about a decade before our reservoirs) and according to the National Park Service, "maximum sediment thickness exceeds 250 ft . . ., thinning to 50 - 100 feet in thickness along the remainder of the drowned Colorado River channel to Hoover Dam." Unlike Lake Mead, the reservoirs have vegetation that builds up elevations due to their decay and then being incorporated back into the dirt.
The USACE says that digging out the reservoirs even to shallow depths would most likely hit the water table, which would defeat the purpose. Contrary to that view, due to silting and subsidence due to the wells in the area used to pump water for our use by the City of Houston (yes, we are on well water in this area), the water table is deeper from the surface than when the dams were built. I don't see this as a strong argument especially considering the alternative to deepen and widen Buffalo Bayou does not appear to note the water table as being an issue even though the area is lower than the reservoirs.
The second highest elevation at both Addicks' and Barker's dams (2016 Tax Day Floods) was about six feet lower than the elevation during Harvey. Both dams held, releases were not required during the rain event and flooding did not occur downstream. That six foot difference did, however, almost double the acre feet stored in both Addicks and Barker Reservoirs. As such, digging out the reservoirs even to a small degree would appear to have a very beneficial effect.
The USACE is also concerned about environmental impacts being prohibitive. Yet this alternative would have significantly less of an environmental impact than the deepening and widening of Buffalo Bayou or the creation of the Cypress Creek Reservoir.
Each shovelful of dirt removed from excavation should provide immediate, scalable benefits within the Addicks and Barker Reservoirs. No commitment to a long process would be required.
The letter that is being sent from Houston Stronger notes, "Based on available geotechnical data and previous studies, the Interim Study underestimates the opportunities for excavation within the reservoirs and overstates many environmental considerations."
Alternative 4 is to construct a tunnel 150 feet below ground from Barker for 22 miles for outfall into the Houston Ship Channel and 35 miles for outfall at Galveston Bay. The USACE does not want to proceed with this alternative. However, as Houston Stronger notes, "USACE estimates the cost of the project at $6-12 billion, while a more robust study from Harris County Flood Control District estimates the same project will cost only $3 billion. A tunnel may also reduce environmental and social impacts and create benefits, like significant additional water supply and localized inlet options, in ways that other alternatives do not."
Alternative 5 is to divert floodwaters to the Brazos River and Brays Bayou, but both of those face flood risks that make diversion into those watersheds ill-advised.
Alternative 6 is widening Buffalo Bayou to 230' (plus a maintenance berm) from the outfalls on Buffalo Bayou to Buffalo Bayou Park, which is just west of downtown. Given its size, this could directly impact Memorial Thicket. According to Houston Stronger, this is not a realistic alternative. "The Interim Report underestimates project costs and challenges." A scaled-down version similar to what was proposed by Harris County back in 2012 with Charting Buffalo and detention areas would appear to be much more feasible and could be supported.
Alternative 7 is solely an acquisition of properties. For the 50-year event, 441 structures would be acquired at a cost of $2.3 billion, which is $5.2 million per structure. For the 500-year event, 4,140 structures would be acquired at a cost of $10 billion, which is $2.4 million per structure. In our reach of Buffalo Bayou, the number of structures to be acquired would be: 10 for 50-year event, 114 for 100-year event, 437 for 200-year event and 1,071 for 500-year event.
Alternative 8 is a combination of Alternatives 2 & 6.
Due to the estimated costs, any alternative will be a heavy lift especially since it will require local matching.
As noted before, Steve Robinson made a great presentation, which can be found at Buffalo Bayou interim report presentation.pdf.The full report and additional information from the USACE virtual information sessions can be found at the links below:
Buffalo Bayou and Tributaries Resiliency Interim Report 10.01.20_Final.pdf
What We Need You to Do The public comment period on the interim report is open through next Monday, November 2. Everyone should provide a comment so that our voices can be heard and not ignored. Comments may be made by sending an email to BBTRS@usace.army.mil or postal mail to USACE Galveston District, ATTN: BBTRS, P.O. Box 1229, Galveston, TX, 77553.
Clearing Logjams on Buffalo Bayou behind Memorial Thicket
(October 26th)(October 26th)
Buffalo Bayou Survey Results
Thanks to everyone who took time to respond to the survey about the post card sent to property owners whose "property may be affected by the outcome of the study." About 1/3rd of our homes provided information, so that is a pretty good data set.
The homes that did receive the card (though it is not completely consistent) are in the 800 block of Plainwood, Herdsman, Old Stone Trail, Spear Point Cove and Elk Run Circle. All of those back up to Buffalo Bayou except Herdsman. Homeowners on our other streets did not receive the card.
I submitted a question about the card distribution at the USACE's presentation on Thursday evening, but it was not answered. Below is the post card that was sent out by the USACE.