CYPRESS CREEK FLOODING AND GRAND PARKWAY SEGMENT E
Rain in the first part of July caused major flooding
along Cypress Creek in northwest Harris County, As
you can see by the NOAA hydrograph above, the water
level near Cypress, Texas was within about 8 inches of
the record level. Thanks to the Katy Prairie's vegetation
and water retaining soil the level did not go higher.
As most Banner readers know, the Houston Sierra
Club has a long history of efforts to protect the Katy
Prairie. This is a constant battle. Our current battle is
aimed at reducing the effect of Grand Parkway Segment
E. If that highway is constructed, its concrete will cover
a signifi cant area in the Katy Prairie. Worse, however,
is the concrete and other impervious material that
will be laid down as tens of thousands of homes and
businesses are constructed on the prairie. Such homes
and businesses will not be feasible economically unless
Segment E is constructed.
Houston has a long history of flooding. See
http://www.hcfcd.org/flash/FloodHistory.html for a visual
summary on the web site of the Harris County Flood
Control District (HCFCD). In that, one can see that
fl ooding along Cypress Creek is common.
The Cypress Creek watershed can overflow into
the Buffalo Bayou watershed which feeds the reservoir
behind Addicks Dam. Recent investigations by the
Houston Sierra Club have found that Addicks Dam
was given the highest (worst) dam safety evaluation
available to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in
July, 2010. Related Corps documents changed the
operational plan for Addicks Reservoir to protect the
dam; the plan restricts the amount of water in the
reservoir to about half of full capacity. The effect is that
property along Buffalo Bayou - in the energy corridor,
the Memorial area, River Oaks, and the central business
district - are much more likely to be flooded than in the
past (before July, 2010).
Some of the worst flooding occurred in 2001, when
Tropical Storm Allison stalled over the area. That was
an exceptional storm, but real estate development in
the upper reaches of the Cypress Creek and Addicks
watersheds has exacerbated flood dangers. This
is illustrated by the recent flooding along Cypress
One HCFCD map discovered in 2011 by the
Houston Sierra Club shows potential flooding on
Cypress Creek being separated from the Addicks
Reservoir by a line along which the surface of the
potential floodwater is considerably above ground level. One has to wonder what kind of magic HCFCD would
use to retain water in that way!
That discovery was, by the way, much later than
another one which led the lawsuit challenging FEMA and HCFCD insurance rate control maps in which the
ground level in some Cypress Creek areas was shown
about four feet higher than the actual ground level. That
lawsuit was successful and the process of revising the
maps is being overseen by the court.
A 2010 lawsuit challenging the Corps of Engineers
issuance of a Section 404 permit allowing construction
of Grand Parkway Segment E was lost, even on appeal. That lawsuit was based largely on the level of mitigation
for damage to be cause by the construction. The
Sierra Club offered to settle out of court in exchange for
sufficient mitigation land, but developers were unwilling
to provide that.
On August 22, 2011 the Houston Sierra Club fi led
a lawsuit against the Corps of Engineers, et al, asking
the U.S. District Court to set aside the Section 404
permit. The suit's purpose is to protect the integrity of
Addicks dam. The crux of the suit is that the Corps did
not consider its own evaluation of the safety of Addicks
Dam or the effect of increased runoff into the Addicks
Reservoir which would result from highway construction
when it issued the permit. Although we had expected
the court to issue an injunction by this time, the lawsuit
is still in process.
This lawsuit was reported earlier (Bayou Banner, v.
37 no. 3, April-May, 2012), at which time we noted that
our legal expenses for these challenges are high, but
that available matching funds would, in effect, double
contributions to this effort. Some matching funds may
still be available. Please help us meet this challenge!!
Make checks payable to Sierra Club Foundation
and put Addicks Dam/Grand Parkway on the memo
line. Do not put any other notations on the check. Mail
Houston Sierra Club
P. O. Box 3021
or bring them to the General Meeting.
These donations are tax deductible. If you have
a question regarding a donation, contact Treasurer
Lorraine Gibson at 281-384-4104 or raineygib@aol.
The Houston Sierra Club is most grateful for your
by George Batten