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Our purpose at Cypress Creek – Stop the Flooding is to educate and inform citizens and businesses owners along Cypress Creek in northwest Harris County, Texas.  No words we offer can guild the black lily of flooding for the 10,000 home and business owners who lost their property during the Harvey flood.  But before Harvey there was the Tax Day flood.  Before the Tax Day flood there was the Memorial Day flood (1 & 2).  Why?  Why is there so much flooding on Cypress Creek?  What can we do?  Learn that here.

ON YOUR OWN – at an October, 2021 meeting concerning flooding on Cypress Creek between cycreekstoptheflooding.com and Matt Zeve, deputy executive director of Harris County Flood Control, Zeve said of the Cypress Creek area: “Government is not riding to your rescue any time soon, defend yourselves”

Hurricanes & Politics

It’s that time of year again.  Already.  Colorado State has released its hurricane forecast for 2022 and at least it is consistant with all forecasts of more frequent and more intense storms in the future.  For 2022 the forecast is 19 named storms as opposed to the average of 14.4 named storms.  
For the Gulf Coast the estimate is a 46% chance of a visit from a major hurricane (cat 3-5) this year, up from our average of 30%.  Ugly odds.  But, of course, our real flooding problems have been from slow moving tropical storms or spring rain events.   
Political Action Who has the money to effect flood mitigation along Cypress Creek?  Only governments can fund the hundreds of millions for the projects which will save our homes/businesses.  So….
Last month Bill Kellond & Paul Eschenfelder of cycreekstoptheflooding.com met with Representation Sam Harless (R-TX 126) and Kaaren Cambio, District Director for Congressman Crenshaw (R-TX 02); she is also Crenshaw’s point person on flooding.  The discussion was flood mitigation.  Harless agreed the proposed HCFCD Cy Creek Implementation plan was badly flawed, leaving 13,000 homes/businesses to flood repeatedly after 10-15 years’ work and almost a billion dollars spent.  The general consensus was that the Plan could not get federal funding due to its poor results, so it’s essentially dead out the gate.  Harless was enthusiastic about the concepts and techniques of “defend yourselves”, suggested by the former deputy director of HCFCD.  These products can be useful and affordable.  He will attempt to carry a bill to the next Legislature to enable some nature of tax break for people/businesses who purchase these products to defend their homes/businesses.  

But the big question was: how do we get Harris County to work for the 350,000 people along Cypress Creek after ignoring us for 40 years?  



So, we asked our new Harris County Precinct 3 Commission, Tom Ramsey.  County commissioners have more duty than just roads & bridges, they also do drainage/flood control.  Or at least they are supposed to.  

We met with Ramsey and one of his engineers, Eric Heppen, at his old office in Bear Creek.  Ramsey is also an engineer and, fortunately for us, Bill speaks engineer.  Ramsey was trying to come up to speed on his new Precinct 3 and the first words out of his mouth were: “Where is the low-hanging fruit?  What can we do right away?”  

What?  Right away?  Well, er, uh, never had that question from anyone in Harris County.  Let us take a deep breath.  Ok, it’s here, here and here.  Ever seen a cat watching a bird, to see if it’s going to get close enough?  Well, that’s the kind of focus we encountered from Ramsey.  When we started talking about ‘defend yourself’ techniques and saving the courthouse annex and other County buildings along Cypresswood Drive from flooding, he actually leaned forward, had a puzzled look for about 30 seconds and then the lights came on.  And he started thinking bigger.  Eric was taking notes. 

Did Ramsey promise to be in the Creek with his bulldozers on Monday morning?  No.  Did he acknowledge that Cypress Creek has been ‘underserved’ dramatically?  Yes.  Is there a plan for Precinct 3 for flood mitigation?  We can only wait and see.  We will watch like the cat and let you know.  

Scandal

On March 9, 2022 Harris County Flood Control will unveil to the public a horrible idea: “The Cypress Creek Implementation Program”.

It is true that cycreekstoptheflooding.com asked Matt Zeve, former deputy director of HCFCD, to develop a program for Cypress Creek similar to other HCFCD programs such as ‘Project Brays’ or ‘Project Greens Bayou’, roadmaps for flood mitigation in those watersheds. Zeve agreed and promised to give us a plan for addressing continued flooding along Cy Creek, complete with goals and timelines which he said would: “…aid you in holding us accountable”. The current proposal is none of the above.

Having read the Jones Carter Report, upon which this plan is based, and seen the preliminary HCFCD presentation on this plan we can only say this program is a bad plan, bad stewardship of your tax dollars and bad government. Bad? Let us count the ways:

  1. The Jones Carter report said it was taking a “…holistic view” of the watershed. It did no such thing. JC never considered levees, berms, deepening or widening the creek, channel bypass or any new technologies. ONLY detention. And they found there was not room to put in a sufficient amount of detention. Why can’t any of the above be used? Without data, science, study or any other engineering principle, HCFCD has ruled them out. What kind of engineering is that? Political engineering, bad engineering.
  2. Cypress Creek is overdeveloped and there’s no room to do flood control? Hardly. Take a look at Project Brays: no area of Harris County is more developed that Braeswood, Meyerland, Bellaire, along Brays Bayou. Look at the extensive job being done there: https://www.hcfcd.org/Activity/Active-Projects/Brays-Bayou/C-11-Project-Brays

For LESS than HALF of the MONEY than is being proposed on Cy Creek, 21 miles of Brays Bayou is being deepened and widened, 4 detention sites are being built and 32 bridges are being improved. Less money, better job.

3. Project Brays is spending $480 million to save 90% of structures at risk in the Brays Bayou watershed. Cypress Creek Implementation Plan envisions spending over one billion dollars and saving 19% of our structures at risk. More than TWICE the money for 1/4th the result. Simply read the last 3 paragraphs of the Executive Summary to learn all you need to know. What kind of conservative Republican can support that kind of waste? Will you – the taxpayer – support that waste?

4. Where will the one billion dollars come from? What government agency will fund a project which is that expensive with such poor result? None. This “Cypress Creek Implementation Plan” is dead out of the gate – it exists only to be a smokescreen for County inaction.

5. Why are there such differences? Project Brays is run by the Army Corps of Engineers with HCFCD as its local partner, with oversight from municiple governments such as the City of Bellaire, City of Houston. Cypress Creek is a Harris County only project with no oversight. Pct. 4 Commissioner Cagle has been continually hostile toward flood control on Cypress Creek during his 10 years in office. Nothing has been accomplished on Cagle’s watch. Oh, he has spent gobs of tax money but accomplished no flood water level reductions.

6. What can you do? Tell HCFCD on March 9th that this plan is unacceptable, then tell ALL of your elected representatives the same. Sign up for the ‘virtual community engagement meeting”: https://publicinput.com/CCWIP.

Listen to the dog & pony show by HCFCD and note how it does not recite the hard facts, just PR window dressing. Ask hard questions and note the lack of forthrightness on the part of HCFCD personnel in their answers. Then tell them “NO” in no uncertain terms.

See the attached Executive Summary and list of just some of the properties being left to flood repeatedly.

“Typical” structures at risk for repeated flooding on Cypress Creek

YMCA                                                                        Chapparal Mgmt building

Springhill Suites                                                                     Astria retirement

St. Lukes Vintage Hospital                                                     Alamo Title building

Chuys restaurant                                                                     Autumn Leaves retirement

Kroger center at 249                                                               Sycamore Memory care

Willie’s Icehouse                                                                    Bellaire retirement

Broadstone Vintage Apts                                                       Northgate Golf Club

Mera Vintage retirement                                                         Shirley Acres

Perry’s restaurant

Villas@Cypresswood apts

Commons@Vintage apts

Raveneaux Golf club

Mormon Temple

Chase Bank

Pnc Bank

Chasewood Bank

Kroger center at Champion Forest

Conservatory Retirement

Tx Childrens Pediatrics

Lodge@cypresswood apts

St. Ignatius Catholic church

Mellow Mushroom center

Gringo’s/Rao’s center

County courthouse annex

Christian Church/Centrum

Bush Library

Fincher Museum

Just say “NO” to a bad plan that leaves us flooding at a billion dollars.

Seduced and Abandoned

Need proof that the Cypress Creek community has been abandoned by Harris County government in the 4 1/2 years after Harvey?  Well, let’s see:

$290 million is being spent from the Flood Bond on Cypress Creek! All projects have been initiated! Yep, but none of these projects will lower flood water surface levels along Cypress Creek, they were never designed to do so. There is NO evidence that flood levels will be reduced by this spending.

But $60 million is being spent on maintenance and repair on Cy Creek over the next 4-5 years! Yep, all of this work was deferred for 20-30 years as Flood Control was underfunded by Commissioners Court. None of this work creates more space for the water along Cypress Creek.

But $100 million is being spent buying flood plain land to preserve it from developers! Yep, but most of the tracts purchased are only 1-3 acres, too small to install detention or effect water levels. The object of this project is to keep things from getting worse – you won’t have 4 feet of water in your house next flood, just the same old 3′ of water.

But we are planning detention sites at TC Jester and Westador! Yep, but they are unfunded, no money to build them.

But Congressman Crenshaw put $9 million in his budget request for each of the Jester and Westador sites!  We thank the congressman for his concern, unfortunately that leaves Jester $21 million short and Westador $12 million short.

But the County bought Raveneaux golf course and tore down the clubhouse! Yep, but they only bought 20+ acres. The Champion Forest PUD owned the rest of the land and has negotiated HCFCD to a standstill. The 5,000 acre/ft detention facility/park has been negotiated down to 500 acre/ft, hardly worth the cost. By the way, ask about the million-dollar bridge to nowhere.

Commissioner Cactus Jack Cagle just can’t do a thing to help as the Democrats on Commissioners Court out vote him 3-2 and won’t let him do a thing! Yep, but Cactus Jack keeps forgetting that for almost a decade he was in the 4-1 majority of Republicans and did nothing for Cypress Creek area – no plan, no projects, no vision, just repeated flooding that he ignored. Seduced and abandoned.

But surely the $111 million being spent on the Little Cypress Creek Frontier Project will help us! After all, in promoting the LCC Frontier project Commissioner Cactus Jack Cagle says: “I know water flows down hill”. Yep, but Cactus Jack, your own master plan for LCC says not one word about lowering flood water levels on the main creek. It’s not one of HCFCD’s goals for the project and not a metric contemplated by the engineering firm which wrote your master plan. Where’s the beef, Jack?

But the Michael Baker study said we needed 26,000 acre/ft of detention all along the creek! Where’s that? Yep, that’s a big number. In the Jones Carter report HCFCD got that number knocked down to 14,000 acre/ft. By the way, where is that Jones Carter report, it’s rumored to be really bad news for Cy Creek? Harris County government couldn’t be sitting on it, could they?

But Harris County Engineering was in my subdivision recently helping to increase our drainage to the creek! Yep, put in bigger drain pipes. But did not increase the capacity of the creek. Cart before the horse. Our problem is the creek filling up and backing up into the subdivisions, flooding homes and businesses. This work makes it easier for the creek to flow back into your subdivision during major flooding events.

Why not build levees or widen the creek? Yep, good idea. The Inverness Forest levee completely protected Inverness Forest subdvision during Harvey, the only subdivision to survive intact along the creek. Ft. Bend County is full of levees. But, without study or science, HCFCD refuses to contemplate levees or berms. Except for Little Cypress Creek project, which has the support of Commissioner Cactus Jack Cagle. Berms and channelization are being used in LCC. But not the main stem where most taxpayers and voters live.

But, but, I just can’t believe it! Yep, find out for yourself, call Cactus Jack Cagle’s office at 713-755-6444.  Ask how much the flood water level is being lowered – get a number, not a song & dance.  Or go straight to the source: Harris County Flood Control at 346-286-4000.  Fight your way through the maze and ask the same question.

But, what am I to do?  Follow the advice of Deputy Executive Director of Harris Co. Flood Control Matt Zeve when he said: “The government is not coming to your rescue any time soon.  Defend yourself”.

Lose-lose-lose

Negotiations have been broken off between Harris Co. Flood Control (HCFCD) and the Cypress Forest Public Utility District (PUD), which serves the Champion Forest Subdivision, over the former Raveneaux Golf Club.  HCFCD had proposed placing a detention facility in the failed golf club’s location but the PUD, which owns the 200+ acre tract, insisted on restarting a golf club in the location with detention taking only a minor role. 

For two years the sides have negotiated back and forth with little regard for the safety and security of the community.  HCFCD originally envisioned a facility as large as 5,000 acre/feet to protect the community from repeated flooding, but the PUD negotiated them down to a mere 500 acre/feet, an amount so small and so expensive that the recent Jones Carter Report questioned whether it was even worthwhile.  It would do little to help the community.  But the PUD wants golf.  As a result, nobody wins.  No flood protection, no park, no golf. 

It’s odd that the PUD consigns the Champions Forest mansions along Cypresswood Drive and the homes behind them on Tranquil Park to flooding, also the homes on Guinstead and Windrush.  And, naturally, almost all of the homes in Champion Forest south of the creek.  Not to mention the YMCA, the Kroger Center at 249, the Mormon Temple and St. Ignatius Church, the Kroger Center at Champion Forest Drive.  Kroger has told your state representative that they won’t rebuild after another flood.  It won’t take a 100-year storm like Tax Day or TS Alison, a 50-year storm (2% chance every year) will do nicely to destroy all the above.  All for golf.  Why?

Hard to believe?  Read it for yourself in the Jones Carter Report, if you can get your hands on a copy.  HCFCD originally promised the completed report in January, 2021.  Didn’t keep that promise.  Then again in the spring of 2021, the summer of 2021 and finally September 2021.  None of those promises fulfilled.  Just now Commissioner Cactus Jack Cagle is sitting on it, he doesn’t want you to see it.  It describes in detail the assault on the viability of this community by flooding.  Cactus Jack wants to talk with you about Beowulf or Shakespeare or play the banjo for you.  But he doesn’t want to tell you the truth: the $290 million in bond funding he authorized for Cypress Creek will do nothing to reduce flood water surface levels along the creek.  A quarter of a billion of your tax money.  Nothing. 

Club house and parking lot gone – pool & tennis courts next

HCFCD is committed to allowing only detention, and no other mitigation, along Cypress Creek but admits there is not room for enough detention.  Then HCFCD freely admits they have no money to construct the detention.  Does this sound like good government or rather bureaucrats blithely committed to a course of action from which nothing will deter them?  Where is Commissioner Cagle on all this?  What about accountability in Harris County government?

If a deal can’t be done on Raveneaux, why not sell the County property (~27 acres) there and use the money to construct detention to save our homes & businesses?  Nope, HCFCD leadership, Deputy Executive Director Matt Zeve, insists too much time and effort have gone into the deal to quit now.  How about using the power of the law to save our homes and businesses – condemn the PUD land to construct detention.  No.  Commissioner Cagle says “…there is no appetite to condemn private property in this area”.  Cactus Jack – it a Public Utility blocking the saving of

millions in property from flooding.  You are not dispossessing Grandma Jones from the family farm.  Do you care?

What about the liability of HOAs and MUDs/PUDs along Cypress Creek which refuse to engage in a struggle which can doom/save their community?  The reason we flood over and over is lack of leadership in the community.  The reason Harris County officials laugh at us behind our backs is the lack of leadership in the community.  Where is the business leadership?  The civic leadership?  Our elected officials?  Another couple of floods and businesses will go the way of HP, or Kroger.  Cypresswood Drive will look like 1960. 

At a November meeting at HCFCD, Matt Zeve said to us: “Government is not riding to your rescue anytime soon.  Defend yourselves.”  Right from the horse’s mouth.  We cannot depend on our elected officials to help us.  The weather is not going to change – if we don’t change expect to flood over and over. 

did you miss the Town Hall – Cypress Creek Flooding? Here’s your chance:

You can view the entire Town Hall on Youtube, click this link:

Can’t watch it all at once? Go to these timelines:

0-10:10 Introduction to the problem

10:10 – 34:40 Dr. Phil Bedient, Rice’s Severe Storm Center on Cy Creek

34:45-55:55 Matt Zeve Harris Co. Flood Control

55:56- 1:17 Q&A with speakers

What did we learn? Well, nothing optimistic. Dr. Bedient is not the least bit sanguine about flooding along Cypress Creek.

Matt Zeve seemed to promise us that, over the next 10 years, HCFCD would build about 14,000 acre/feet of detention along the creek. HCFCD’s Michael Baker study said we need 26,000 acre/feet. So, after a decade we would have about half of what we need

Author: paul eschenfelder

Captain Paul Eschenfelder is a cruise ship lecturer and author. Previously he had a career in the sky as a naval aviator and a captain in worldwide service for Delta Air Lines. He also lectured at the University of Texas and Embry Riddle Aeronautical University. See more of his adventures with the First Mate around the world at www.captaincruising.net

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