In the six months since Hurricane Harvey sent nearly a trillion gallons of stormwater crashing through Harris
County’s bayou drainage system, the Harris County Flood Control District has removed more than 101,000
cubic yards of downed trees, tires and other storm debris clogging bayous and channels.
Removing blockages to stormwater conveyance in advance of the next rain event was a high priority for the Flood Control District in the days and weeks after Harvey. Early estimates of as much as 135,000 cubic yards of county-wide channel debris turned out to be on target, say Flood Control District officials. Using in-house debris removal crews and storm debris contractors, the Flood Control District is nearing completion on a priority sweep of the county’s 22 watersheds.
Substantial work remains on Buffalo Bayou, where the Flood Control District owns limited right-of-way and which presents unique challenges in terms of equipment access. Debris removal crews are now using barges, chainsaws, and excavators to remove Buffalo Bayou debris from multiple public and private access points (with permission). The Flood Control District is pushing to remove an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 tons of additional Buffalo Bayou debris by the start of Hurricane Season on June 1.
On January 30, 2018, Harris County Commissioners Court awarded a $4.73 million contract to low-bidder Aftermath Disaster Recovery Inc. for land and water-based removal of channel storm debris for the year beginning February 1, 2018. Aftermath takes over from contractor Phillips & Jordan, which had been removing storm debris since Harvey.
Once debris is removed from the channel, it is typically staged along the banks for disposal at an appropriate location. This debris has included everything from refrigerators and other large objects washed into the channel, to as many as six automobiles.
Woody debris is stockpiled and ground into wood chips – a total of nearly 35,000 cubic yards so far – which are then hauled to local green waste recycling centers for final processing into composted mulch.
Noise and vibrations from airboats and chainsaws, as well as dust and various odors, will accompany debris removal work. While the intent is to transport stockpiled channel debris as quickly as possible, some stockpiled debris could remain in some locations overnight or for several days. Trails will remain open as public safety allows. Trail users are asked to observe all warning signs and fencing in debris removal work areas. Motorists are urged to be cautious of equipment entering and exiting debris removal areas.
Debris that has washed against any bridge, pipeline structure or utility is being removed. Vegetative debris that is silted into the slopes or bottom of the channel is typically left in place. Debris crews are focused on debris that is blocking stormwater conveyance, and are not removing trash, floatables or sediment alone. Buffalo Bayou and other channels are NOT being “dredged.”
The Flood Control District is working with Federal Emergency Management Agency to secure funding for its disaster-related storm debris removal efforts. Once priority channel blockage removal is complete, the Flood Control District will continue to address channel debris as part of its regular maintenance program. Residents are encouraged to report bayou and creek blockages to the Flood Control District’s Citizen Service Center at https://www.hcfcd.org/contact-us/citizen-service-center/, or by calling (713) 684-4197. If possible, please:
- “Drop a pin” to obtain and share coordinates of the blockage, or
- Include the nearest street address
- Add a photo!
- Provide email and/or phone contact information, in case Flood Control District personnel need help in locating the blockage site
For status updates on the county-wide debris removal effort, please check the Flood Control District website: https://www.hcfcd.org/hurricane-harvey/keeping-our-flood-control-channels-clear/
ABOUT THE HARRIS COUNTY FLOOD CONTROL DISTRICT
The Harris County Flood Control District provides flood damage reduction projects that work, with appropriate regard for community and natural values. With more than 1,500 bayous and creeks totaling approximately 2,500 miles in length, the Flood Control District accomplishes its mission by devising flood damage reduction plans, implementing the plans and maintaining the infrastructure. To learn more about the Flood Control District, visit www.hcfcd.org.