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Houston Regional Group - News
Feature -


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 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 Creek.

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 them to

Houston Sierra Club
P. O. Box 3021
Houston, TX

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. com.

The Houston Sierra Club is most grateful for your support.

by George Batten

Last updated:  11/20/2011.   Content 1999-2011 by the Sierra Club.