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NYT floods Houston

New York Times map of flood damage, Hurricane Harvey, Harris County

also at  Gray Matters

Flooding during Harvey was not a random occurrence.  Heavy rainfall—averaging 35 inches in Harris County –was widespread, but the flooding was not.  The deepest flooding, the kind where rescue boats were needed, was where the bayous and creeks overflowed their banks, flooding low-lying zones along our bayous and creeks.  There were also many areas that flooded as a result of poorly maintained or designed urban drainage systems. But these were a small fraction of the overall flooding.

The low-lying areas along our waterways are the natural floodplains excavated by bayous and creeks over many thousands of years. It flooded here long before we, or even the Karankawa, ever showed up. Over the millennia, the bayous naturally widened their valleys, or floodplains, to where the system could easily absorb a storm like Harvey.

That system is still here—and it handled Harvey very well.  We were the ones who didn’t handle it well. If we had not given over most of our floodplains to development, Harvey would still have caused us grief—but it would not have much more than a nuisance.  We would have had to stay home for 2-3 days, but we would have avoided a great deal of trauma. (more…)

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Each project at TCWP develops an array of participants bringing unique knowledge and assistance. Sometimes a project gets an unexpected helping hand. As the year changes over, it’s a good time to show appreciation for Trees for Houston‘s contributions to the TCWP Stormwater Wetland Program in 2017.

How does a tree organization help a wetland program? Let me show you in photos.

Trees for Houston donated four bald Bald cypress for the new stormwater wetland demonstration project at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston’s Texas Medical Center. The trees, showing this golden fall color in December, help draw the eye and will provide shade to this landscaped urban wetland.


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Inspiration from a wetland

20171011_155107I am Erin Brown, a Clear Falls High School senior, interning with Mary Carol Edwards as part of my Biotech Practicum course. While interning I have been inspired by the outside world around me. I have found new ideas for my poetry, art, and science projects (experiment ideas) while in the nursery and wetland at Exploration Green, surrounded by serenity.


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I-45 in Galveston County.   A neighborhood of isolation with a high per-capita destruction of native prairie.

We have all heard the Harvey wakeup call. We all know we can’t continue business as usual. We have to change our ways. We will in fact be “the city that floods” unless we stop being the “city of no limits.”

Unlike previous storms, every one of us knows personally someone who was flooded out of their house. This storm will long remain with us. The Harvey aftermath will last much longer than previous storms—and thus will provide a longer “teachable moment” for us to think about our future. Let’s make this teachable moment about much more than flooding. Maybe thinking about how to be a great city will help us deal more rationally with the flooding as well. (more…)

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Development in League City threatens wetlands

Hurricane Harvey was tough on wetlands, and even tougher on wetland scientists like me. I have spent a career focusing on wetlands along the Upper Texas Gulf Coast. Like the Lorax, I speak for the wetlands (and the prairies and forests and all the rest of it!). I have devoted considerable energy to expounding all of the virtues of wetlands, including their ability to decrease downstream flooding. So much so that at least one top flood official accused me believing in “magic wetlands”. He didn’t think wetlands did all that much in terms of stormwater detention (or anything else apparently).

As with many other aspects of our lives, Harvey changed everything. It modified my views on upstream wetlands and flood control. Harvey totally overwhelmed every single prairie-pothole wetland on the Katy Prairie, and on every other prairie in our area for that matter. All of these wetlands filled with water very quickly very early in the storm and all of the soils in or out of the wetlands became saturated very early as well, such that virtually all the rain falling anywhere, even on the sandiest of soils, ran off the landscape and into our creeks and bayous. And then the water in the bayous rose and the rest is burned into our memories. (more…)

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