Posts

Texas flood and the Katy Prairie Stream Mitigation Bank

The Katy Prairie west of Houston is in a certain sense ground zero for the recent Texas floods. The section of Harris County where RS’ Katy Prairie Stream Bank is located is an absolutely critical landscape for protecting Houston from flooding — and indeed mitigating the threat that already exists.

2009 Katy Prairie flood

Here is the deal: The 7000 acre Warren Ranch (owned by our partner in the mitigation bank, the Katy Prairie Conservancy) is centered in the last undeveloped expanse of the Katy Prairie west of Houston. It is well known that the relative worsening of Houston floods over time is attributable to the loss of storage capacity upstream as formerly pervious agricultural landscapes are devoured by the ‘concrete beast’ lumbering westward from the city center.

As the city and its environs devours land that once soaked up peak rain events, flooding downstream in Houston increases. The situation is the subject of increasing anxiety for Houston residents and the Corps of Engineers, who operate two flood control reservoirs protecting the city. 

The Katy Prairie Stream Mitigation Bank was deliberately located to address these problems. The project is a very positive development for Houston flood control for several reasons:

  • Water courses on the Warren Ranch are permanently protected in the future from culverting and concrete armoring which worsens flooding.
  • The former canals and ditches that once conveyed flood water too quickly downstream are restored to natural design channels which (ironically) flood more easily, thereby easing the flow downstream to the city.
  • Proceeds from the mitigation project collected by the Katy Prairie Conservancy are plowed into protecting more uplands in the region — leading to a virtuous cycle whereby mitigation dollars for aquatic mitigation are indirectly leading to the protection of flood protection uplands.

The 2008 Mitigation Rule is very clear that banks should be located using a watershed approach whereby the purpose and needs of the project are addressed regionally instead of locally. It would be hard to identify any mitigation bank in the country that more appropriately incorporates the watershed approach than the KPSMB.

Finally, perhaps you were interested to know how the restored streams fared in the recent deluge? Keep in mind 90% of the time our restored creeks are bone dry (or a “low-energy” system in hydro-parlance) but were designed — hopefully — to withstand every now and then a monstrous event of the scale recently witnessed.

Travis Hamrick popped up the drone and took the photos above and video below. Using a drone is my new hobby, so I watched him very carefully. As they used to say in the Timex commercial, the KPSMB: ‘Takes a lickin’ — and keeps on tickin'”…

Restoration of Warren Creek on the Katy Prairie, Texas

A section of the Katy Prairie’s Warren Creek that has been restored and recently seeded; just one small part of 100,000 linear feet of stream restoration being performed by Restoration Systems for Texas DOT’s Houston Grand Parkway toll road currently under construction by the Zachry-Odebrecht Parkway Builders.
SEE  http://tinyurl.com/ngrfceh AND http://www.grandparkway99.com/about-grand-parkway-99/about-developer

RS Video: Katy Prairie Stream Mitigation Bank

Restoration Systems was thrilled to see the final cut of the video below RS produced to profile our Katy Prairie Stream Mitigation Bank. The point of a corporate video of this kind is to help explain a project, so I will keep the narrative here to a minimum. Suffice to say, however, that we are immensely proud of this mitigation bank and our many partners; particularly, the Warren Family and the Katy Prairie Conservancy; our stream design team, KBR, Stantec and Forbes Consultancy; our contractor Land Mechanic Designs, and planter Stuckey Seeding — among many others.

We will be turning dirt out on the prairie for years to come, so this is unlikely to be the last version of the film. It will be fun taking footage of the site as it matures — over the next several decades — and including it in an evolving series of similar productions from Human Films.

Stay tuned!

Creek Week: New Galveston District Stream Mitigation Operating Procedure Published

Texas-Sized news for RS’ soon-to-open Katy Prairie Stream Mitigation Bank (KPSMB).  The Galveston District of the U.S. Army Corps has put on Special Public Notice a well-composed and carefully considered Standard Operating Procedure for complying with federal requirements for the compensation of streams (as distinct from wetlands).

Below is the new Galveston District Standard Operating Procedure for stream regulation and compensation:

Galveston Corps Stream Mitigation SOP and Tool

The KPSMB was planned by RS in 2007 to coincide within a year or two with the publication of the regulatory document above.  The stream SOP spells out how linear waters will be regulated and mitigated in the Galveston District.  It looks as though RS has succeeded in not being too early or too late on the mitigation side of the equation. The KPSMB will open in the next few weeks, shortly after the mitigation requirements are in place.

The Corps Galveston District did yeoman’s work building a comprehensive stream regulatory program from scratch since the publication of the Federal Mitigation Rule in 2008.  The final product is admirable (and subject to comment over the next year).  The SOP appears to have met the requirement of the Rule for in-kind regulation of streams, and also provided the regulated and banking community with a transparent and workable document from which to begin meeting the requirements.

Houston is America’s 4th largest market and the KPSMB will service the majority of the growing metropolis and its environs.  The bank is scaled to fit the town.  As far as we know, the KPSMB will be the largest permitted stream mitigation bank in the United States, with more than 20 miles of permitted restoration and protection potential.

Perhaps just as exciting for our firm is our land partners in the venture, the Katy Prairie Conservancy (KPC) and the Warrens.  The entire restoration project is situated along streams on the 6000 acre Warren Ranch owned by the KPC and the Warren Family.  The Warren Ranch, among other things, is the largest working cattle ranch in Harris County and Houston.

The Warren Ranch is an ideal location for the establishment of a stream mitigation bank. Here’s why: As credits are sold the Katy Prairie Conservancy and the Warren family will receive a royalty from sales which will allow the Conservancy, if they choose, to retire debt and permanently protect more uplands on the Warren Ranch with conservation easements, or acquire and protect additional threatened property in the watershed. As waters are restored and protected uplands will be protected as well.  A rare but fruitful dynamic in mitigation banking.

We love our landowners at RS but have never seen the proceeds from our real estate transactions go to more wonderful ends than is likely at this ranch and with the Katy Prairie Conservancy.

Flat Out Wonderful: RS teams with Houston's Katy Prairie Conservancy to sponsor the nation's largest stream mitigation bank

Restoration Systems is excited to share the news of our latest (and greatest) proposal for a mitigation bank outside of North Carolina.  RS, the Katy Prairie Conservancy of Houston, and the Warren family have entered a long-term Joint Venture to develop the nation’s largest stream mitigation bank on the 6000 acre Warren Ranch in northwestern Harris County.

The historic Warren Ranch is the largest working cattle ranch in Harris County and one of the last remaining spreads of its character and size on the perimeter of Houston.  As proposed, the bank will service the compensatory mitigation needs of nearly six million people as the city sprawls westward.   All told, the project will restore, enhance and preserve streams and wetlands over 20 miles of the ranch.

The Katy Prairie Conservancy, one of Texas’ oldest and most respected Land Trusts, plans to dedicate their share of  project proceeds to help retire the debt on the Warren Ranch and restore and permanently protect it to native prairie grassland.  The prairie ecosystem west of Houston has suffered severe degradation in the past. Today it faces obliteration by the relentless march of the city to the west.

RS is very fortunate to have found our farsighted partners, the KPC, its Executive Director Mary Anne Piacentini, and the Warren family.   We look forward to filing you in on the details of the project and updating you as it progresses.   For now, please enjoy the videos below of the Flat Out Wonderful Warren Ranch.