Kingwood residents take lobbying for flood mitigation into their own hands
Three flooding events in three years — Hurricane Harvey, the May floods and Tropical Storm Imelda — have some Lake Houston area residents feeling like flooding is all but inevitable.
But Harvey wasn’t the first time the Lake Houston area was threatened and it likely won’t be the last. Several residents have sprang into action to lobby officials to solve the problem before another storm strikes.
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“I didn’t care until I was coming home to my own neighborhood and my residents stopped me and said ‘We don’t know what this is, make it stop’ and I haven’t stopped since,” said Beth Guide, who is a director of the neighborhood HOA in Elm Grove. “Because they were flooding and they didn’t have the ability to do this… and I don’t know where I go after the Elm Grove problem’s solved. I may go back and just be me or just go back to not having to worry about whether my dog drowns.”
According to experts, solving flooding in the Lake Houston area will take multiple solutions.
Kingwood, Humble and Atascocita are located toward the end of the approximately 2,800 square-mile San Jacinto River Watershed, which drains into Lake Houston. In addition to the streams and gulleies connected to the larger water system that are at risk of overflow, Kingwood’s developed land adds an additional layer to the flood mitigation problems.
Guide has lived in Kingwood for 36 years. Her daughter was 18 months old when Kingwood experienced devastating flooding in 1994.
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She is one of many residents that have started to call for action on flood mitigation and resiliency strategies, focusing on Perry Homes development of Woodridge Forest, which homeowners feel exacerbated flooding in May and during Imelda. Guide has made her own website as well, , offering updates on the grassroots efforts of the community. She said after the May floods, she started taking action.
Guide, who was the leading voice of Elm Grove after Tropical Storm Imelda at the Fall Kingwood Town Hall, continues to work with District E Councilmember Dave Martin. The following town hall held on Feb. 2577彩票网app was much more cordial, with residents following up on flood plans during their two-minute question period.
This meeting followed the San Jacinto River Authority Board’s vote on the temporary seasonal lowering of Lake Conroe. Their final decision was to recommend to the City of Houston, who owns two-thirds of the water rights to Lake Conroe, that Spring seasonal lowering should continue as it has in the past two years to 200 above feet mean sea level from April 1 through May 31 and recapture will begin June 1. It is a 1-foot decrease from the normal pooling level of 201 feet above mean sea level.\
Fall seasonal lowering will begin Aug. 1, when the lake will be lowered to 200 above feet mean sea level. Beginning Sept. 1, Lake Conroe will be lowered to 199.5 feet mean sea level. The city of Houston may initiate an additional pre-release to 199 feet mean sea level if a named storm moves into the Texas Gulf Coast or region by notifying the river authority in writing.
Guide was not happy with this decision, because she said the 1994 floods and the flooding in May last year were not named storms, it was just too much rain for what the area could handle.
77彩票网app“I am personally not happy with what they did because we made things contingent on things that we don’t know and we can’t plan,” Guide said.
77彩票网appKingwood resident Alice Norris was one of about 100 people who signed up to speak at the SJRA Board meeting on Feb. 25. When she was 11 years old, family friends had to bring a kayak into her living room to rescue her and her 7-year-old brother during Hurricane Harvey.
77彩票网appAlice, now a 13-year-old Creekwood Middle School student, is suffering from anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, which she is treating with weekly therapy sessions. She also takes notes and writes journals to manage her symptoms. Her brother has experienced similar issues.
Alice told her story to the San Jacinto River Authority’s board as they prepared to determine the fate of the seasonal lowering of Lake Conroe — a policy the provides crucial flood relief to downstream communities in the Lake Houston area.
“(There) will always be a little thought in everyone’s mind whenever rain falls, whenever any kind of event like this happens,” Alice said. “But I think it will get better over time because it’s been so much easier since Harvey to now, but it’s still difficult.”
Shining a spotlight
Bob Rehak, who is retired and a Kingwood resident since 1984, is the creator of ReduceFlooding.com, the local website that keeps track of everything related to flooding in the Lake Houston area, including a clock counting the days since Harvey dropped over 30 inches of rain on the area. He started his website due to the sand that collected from Harvey, covering about 30 acres of East End Park, which he is a steward for as a member of the Kingwood Service Association.
Now, he covers most everything related to Kingwood flooding.
Rehak was not in Kingwood during the storm, but his wife was, during which time they lost power and communication. He was in Minnesota for his 50th High School reunion and had to wait in Oklahoma City for three days on his way back to Kingwood because all the roads were closed off.
“I was going crazy trying to figure out what was going on,” Rehak said.
When he got back, Rehak said he could not believe the extent of the flooding that had impacted his community, it was disheartening. He lives 2.1 miles from the San Jacinto River and the floodwaters stopped in his driveway. They were the first house in the neighborhood not to flood, but 110 of his neighbors in Kings Forest did, according to Rehak, or 40 percent of the homes in the subdivision.
77彩票网app“It was just devastating for them,” Rehak said. “That was one of the things that motivated me to get involved and get on this and stay on it until something happens, till we get it fixed.”
From his perspective, Rehak said people are hopeful but they are concerned about the length of time flood mitigation options take. After the 1994 flood, the previous flood of record, Rehak said everyone assumed something would be done to fix the problems, but he said they were not.
“So I just decided to shine a spotlight on it this time until we fix the problems that lead to the flooding,” Rehak said.