Buffalo Bayou Watershed
Updated January 2012
The Buffalo Bayou watershed is primarily located in west-central Harris County with a small portion crossing into
Fort Bend County. Rainfall within the 102 square miles of the Buffalo Bayou watershed drains to the watershed's
primary waterway, Buffalo Bayou (W100-00-00). Buffalo Bayou travels through heavily wooded residential areas and
much of the bayou remains in a naturalistic state. Near downtown Houston, White Oak Bayou flows into Buffalo Bayou.
Just east of downtown Houston near the Turning Basin, Buffalo Bayou becomes the Houston Ship Channel (G100-00-00).
There are 106 miles of open waterways in the Buffalo Bayou watershed, including Buffalo Bayou and its major
tributaries, such as Rummel Creek (W156-00-00), Soldiers Creek (W141-00-00), Spring Branch (W140-00-00) and
Turkey Creek (W167-00-00). Based on the 2010 U.S. Census, the estimated population of the Buffalo Bayou watershed
Charting Buffalo: A Study of Buffalo and Lower White Oak Bayous - The goal of this study is to identify options
for flood damage reduction improvements along these two bayous and show how these options can be integrated with
other community and environmental interests. While the study is funded by the Harris County Flood Control District,
many organizations that are already investing resources in the area are participating in the study. The study
area includes 32 miles of Buffalo Bayou eastward from the Barker Reservoir through downtown Houston to the Houston
Ship Channel. Also included in the study area is seven miles of lower White Oak Bayou (E100-00-00) from North
Loop 610 West to the point at which it joins Buffalo Bayou near downtown Houston. For more information,
COMPLETED CAPITAL PROJECTS
In the past 20 years, the Harris County Flood Control District has spent more than $49 million on capital projects
in the Buffalo Bayou watershed. The completed capital projects include excavating stormwater storage areas along
Buffalo Bayou in Terry Hershey Park, partnering with municipalities to minimize damages from extreme flooding
events on tributaries of Buffalo Bayou and studying methods to address erosion along the bayou. The Timberwilde
Outfall Project (2008), the Soldiers Creek Relief Project (2009) and the Memorial Drive Drainage Improvements
Project (2009) are three recently-completed capital projects.
Timberwilde Outfall Project - Completed in January 2008, the Timberwilde Outfall Project provides drainage
improvements to Soldiers Creek and to associated storm sewers along Timberwilde Lane from Buffalo Bayou
to Memorial Drive. The Flood Control District partnered with the city of Hunters Creek Village to provide
area-wide stormwater conveyance and drainage improvements to reduce flooding from extreme flooding events.
Soldiers Creek Relief Project - The Soldiers Creek Relief Project improved tributaries of Buffalo Bayou,
such as Soldiers Creek, to alleviate frequent flooding in the project area. The Flood Control District
participated in the project through an interlocal agreement with the cities of Hunters Creek Village and
Piney Point Village. The Flood Control District had been working with these municipalities for several years
to identify improvements for tributaries of Buffalo Bayou in or near their city limits that would reduce
flooding risks and not impact Buffalo Bayou. The Flood Control District's participation was limited to
minimizing flooding of residential structures during extreme flooding events. The project was completed
in May 2009.
Memorial Drive Drainage Improvements Project - The final phase of this three-phase joint project between
the Flood Control District and the city of Hunters Creek Village was completed in June 2009. The Flood
Control District focused on improvements to Soldiers Creek, and the city of Hunters Creek Village provided
improvements to the associated storm sewer system. The project constructed a storm sewer interceptor system
along Memorial Drive from Kuhlman Road to Three Corners Drive to add capacity to the storm sewer system to
reduce flooding from extreme events.
Downtown Houston skyline as seen from the banks of Buffalo Bayou
ACTIVE CAPITAL PROJECTS
W129-00-00 Conveyance Improvements Project - The Harris County Flood Control District recognized the need for
repairs to the drainage ditch formally indentified as W129-00-00 and launched a three-phase reconstruction project
in 2004. The drainage ditch runs adjacent to the Union Pacific Railroad tracks just inside West Loop 610 South.
The first phase of the project consisted of rebuilding the drainage ditch, which had experienced severe erosion,
between San Felipe Street and Buffalo Bayou. This $9.4 million project enclosed the drainage ditch with dual 12-foot
by 10-foot reinforced concrete boxes and was completed in 2006. The second phase began in August 2011 and focuses on
the section of the drainage ditch from San Felipe to Richmond Avenue. The third phase, which has not yet been designed
and which has not yet been funded for construction, will consist of similar work from Richmond to Westpark Drive. When
all three phases are complete, the structural integrity of the drainage infrastructure will be greatly improved,
reducing the risk of flooding to surrounding neighborhoods and commercial areas.
ROUTINE AND COMPLETED MAINTENANCE PROJECTS
The Harris County Flood Control District oversees more than 2,500 miles (about the distance from Los Angeles to New
York City) of bayous and creeks and routinely performs maintenance projects to repair bayous and stormwater detention
basins that have experienced erosion, slope failure and sediment buildup. The Flood Control District also plants native
grasses, wildflowers and trees to help reduce erosion and lower mowing costs along bayous and stormwater detention
basins in the Buffalo Bayou watershed.
Mowing and vegetation maintenance - The Flood Control District performs routine cyclical maintenance,
including mowing of land along bayous, creeks and stormwater detention basins in the Buffalo Bayou watershed.
The Flood Control District also performs selective clearing of invasive trees and vegetation.
Tree and wildflower plantings - Bald cypress, loblolly pine, and southern magnolia trees are just a few of
the tree species that have been planted along Buffalo Bayou, Rummel Creek and Turkey Creek. Along Buffalo
Bayou and a tributary formally identified as W165-00-00, the Flood Control District planted several species
of wildflowers, such as Texas bluebonnet, showy primrose, Indian blanket and clasping coneflower in 2002
ACTIVE MAINTENANCE PROJECTS
Memorial Park Demonstration Project - The section of Buffalo Bayou adjacent to Memorial Park has remained in
a natural state throughout the years largely because citizens requested that traditional flood damage
reduction projects not be constructed in the area. Erosion along Buffalo Bayou has been accelerated by
urbanization and by controlled release rates from the Barker and Addicks reservoirs. The Harris County Flood
Control District is using natural channel design techniques based on principles of fluvial geomorphology, the
study of how rivers are formed naturally, to address erosion. The Memorial Park Demonstration Project was
designed to repair erosion, to help stabilize slopes and to help improve water quality while maintaining the
natural state of the bayou. Construction is expected to begin in summer 2012.
Channel Conveyance Restoration at Buffalo Bayou Park - In July 2010, the Flood Control District began
construction on a maintenance project that was designed to remove sediment from and repair the banks of
Buffalo Bayou from Sabine Street to Shepherd Drive. The first reach of the project, referred to as the
Buffalo Bayou Pilot Project, spanned from Sabine to 1,200 feet upstream and was completed in August 2010.
The pilot project served to demonstrate the type of work the Flood Control District would perform throughout
the project's limits and was met with public support. The remaining reaches of the project are currently
being designed and will begin where the pilot project ended continuing upstream to Shepherd. Construction
activities include removing sediment, restoring and reshaping the bayou's banks, removing undesirable
vegetation and installing bank stabilization and protection material in key locations. An extensive planting
plan will be implemented following construction to plant trees and other native vegetation.