The Harris County Flood Control District has completed a county-wide effort to remove downed trees and other storm debris left blocking Harris County’s bayou drainage system since Hurricane Harvey more than a year ago. With a last push on Buffalo Bayou and Cypress Creek and expenses estimated at $8.9 million so far, more than 140,000 cubic yards (roughly 40,000 tons) have been removed since this work began shortly after the storm.
In recent months, crews removed more than 25,000 cubic yards (7,042 tons or 642 truckloads) of debris from Buffalo Bayou, and 14,000 cubic yards (3,978 tons or 327 truckloads) from Cypress Creek. Concentrated effort on those two forested bayous followed an initial countywide sweep that resulted in the removal of 101,383 cubic yards of material from Harris County’s 22 watersheds.
Removing debris from within our channels was a high priority in the days and weeks after Harvey. Downed trees and other storm debris can impede stormwater flow and increase erosion, especially along natural forested channels. The Flood Control District used special storm debris contractors, as well as in-house debris removal crews, to complete its sweep of the county’s 22 watersheds.
Crews used floating barges, chainsaws, and excavators to remove debris in some areas, hand tools in others. In areas with unique challenges in terms of equipment access, such as Buffalo Bayou, the Flood Control District was able to secure additional temporary rights-of-entry to public and private property, and to purchase access property that will be useful in future ongoing maintenance.
Debris has included everything from refrigerators and other large objects washed into the channel, to as many as six automobiles. Woody debris is ground into wood chips – a total of nearly 42,294 cubic yards (399 truckloads) so far – which are then hauled to local green waste recycling centers for final processing into composted mulch.
Crews focused on removing debris that was impeding stormwater conveyance, or that had washed against a bridge, pipeline structure or utility. Accumulated silt was not part of this effort, and vegetative debris that was silted into the slopes or bottom of the channel was typically left in place.
The Flood Control District is working to secure funding for its disaster-related storm debris removal efforts from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. An estimated $8.9 million in work has been completed, with approximately $2.5 million received so far in disaster aid for channel debris removal.
While disaster-related debris removal is complete, the Flood Control District will continue to address channel debris and stormwater impedance as part of its regular routine maintenance program. Residents are encouraged to report bayou and creek debris 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