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Another day. Just another storm in Houston. Is this what it has come down to? Every year or so another big storm or two, another few hundreds or maybe tens of thousands of houses flooded?  Are we a little more used to this than we should be? But there is no getting used to it for a great many of us.

We don’t seem to have the same ease of living on the Gulf Coast that we once had. Even small storms moving through seem to put a knot in our stomach. Who will be flooded this time? It is hard to get a good night’s rest when the atmosphere gets a little unstable.

There is a disease that seems to have infected our relationship to the land. A literal dis-ease. A lack of ease is exactly the root of the word “disease” and that meaning   accurately describes where we are in relation to flood “control.”  Maybe we are starting to sense that flood control is more of a fool’s errand than we would like to believe. We’ve built to one standard, the hundred-year flood, only to find out that that standard isn’t good enough anymore. (more…)

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maeslant barrierMaeslant Barrier, Netherlands. Google Earth, December 2018

The US Army Corps of Engineers has just chosen the Ike Dike as the Tentatively Selected Plan (TSP) for coastal protection on the Upper Texas Gulf Coast. There is controversy over this choice, but all are agreed that “something must be done.”  We have put people and facilities increasingly in harm’s way over the years. Putting something between people and the harm, like an Ike Dike or one of its progenies (the Rice Mid-Bay Dike for example), seems like the most obvious thing to do. (more…)

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Houston has in place a natural flood detention and conveyance system that could handle another Harvey, sitting right here in plain sight. Our bayous, creeks, and streams, and their associated floodplains have carved out, over millennia, a very robust and capacious system. This legacy system did not fail during Harvey. We failed, over the years, because we put so many people in harms way. In fact, over 40% of all FEMA-designated floodplains in Harris County have been developed to one degree or another, with more than 500,000 homes and apartments in these hazardous zones. Few floodplains within the beltway are undeveloped.

[also at Gray Matters]


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A recent talk given to the Houston chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas.


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For the past couple months I have been removing invasive Island Apple snails (Pomacea maculata) and their egg clutches because they consume aquatic vegetation and destroy wetlands, estuaries, and other habitats. They have a very high reproductive rate of up to 500 eggs per egg clutch that hatch every 10-15 days. Also the adults can mate many times after they become sexually mature (2-3 months); this quickly stimulates the creation of Island Apple snail monocultures. Island Apple snails originate in Latin America and have few predators which causes rapid overpopulation and decreases diversity of species. Their egg clutches range from pink to white and the paler the egg clutch the closer it is to hatching. These egg clutches are located on reeds, plants, and other support items above the water’s surface. I have seen them mostly on the Pickerel weed in 1A. Together we can make a difference by removing as many of their egg clutches as possible when we see them to protect the Exploration Green we have all worked hard to create. (more…)

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