Katy Boardwalk project causes drainage concerns

Pin Oak Village resident Alexis Carrico said construction of the Katy Central Lake contributed to flooding during Harvey.

Pin Oak Village resident Alexis Carrico said construction of the Katy Central Lake contributed to flooding during Harvey.

Image description
Katy Boardwalk project causes drainage concerns
Image description
Katy Boardwalk project causes drainage concerns
Image description
Katy Boardwalk project causes drainage concerns
As growth continues in the Greater Katy area, residents and government officials are grappling with how to balance new developments with efforts to mitigate flooding for home and business owners. Fort Bend County is re-evaluating its drainage criteria for new construction while the city of Katy and Harris County have approved more restrictive development guidelines this year and passed flood bonds in 2018. However, there is worry among some residents that a major development project in Katy has led to an increased flood risk for nearby neighbors.

Residents in the Pin Oak Village and Falcon Point subdivisions said development of the Katy Central Lake contributed to nearly 40 homes flooding in the two neighborhoods—seven in Pin Oak, and the majority in Falcon Point—as well as surrounding areas and over $1 million in property damage during Hurricane Harvey. They are now demanding action from the city of Katy to prevent future flooding.

“We have never had any flooding occurrence, even in the Tax Day floods. We are outside the 500-year flood plain,” Pin Oak Village resident James Schuck said. “In March 2017 they started work on the boardwalk, and in August, Harvey came, and we flooded.”

The Katy Boardwalk crosses over the Katy Central Lake, which was created in 1998 to hold stormwater runoff as part of an agreement between the city of Katy, the Katy Development Authority and Fort Bend County Municipal Utility District No. 37. The boardwalk is part of the Katy Boardwalk Development, which is a major mixed-use project under construction near the Katy Mills Mall that will feature retail, residential and recreational amenities, a hotel and a conference center.

Residents said developers removed dirt from the lake’s top bank and therefore lowered its elevation, or the above-sea-level height of the bank surrounding the lake, which they said contributed to flooding in surrounding neighborhoods during Harvey. Additionally, residents said overflow water was forced into only one spillway located between two berms which then flowed into subdivisions.

Meanwhile, MUD 37’s Vice President Rudy Ammer said the problem lies not in changes to the lake’s elevation but in drainage issues in Buffalo Bayou.

“If Buffalo Bayou is running at flood stage, all the water coming down our ditch and headed to get to Buffalo Bayou isn’t getting in and starts backing up the system,” Ammer said. “And I think everybody agrees that’s the problem, except the injured homeowners.”

Resident concerns

During Harvey, citizens reported water overflowing the detention pond and traveling over the emergency spillway, according to a report conducted by Houston-based engineering  firm Costello, Inc., which was hired by the city to perform an analysis of the Katy Mills Mall detention and outfall system. The report, Katy Mills Mall Drainage Assessment, was published in April and was provided to Community Impact Newspaper by a resident.

According to the report, residents said water was flowing around the north end of the Katy Mills berm as well as flowing into the Falcon Point subdivision. Schuck said an inadequate overflow design forced all overflow into one spillway, which led to excess water flowing into nearby subdivisions.

“If the detention pond had a proper spillway design as required by the Fort Bend Drainage Authority, flooding would have been mitigated,” he said.

He also said developers lowering the bank levels contributed to flooding.

The 1998 agreement between the city of Katy, the Katy Development Authority and MUD 37 states the storm water detention facility should have a top-bank minimum elevation of 130 feet to prevent flooding in the 500-year flood event. A copy of the original contract was emailed to Community Impact Newspaper by a resident.

However, Schuck said drone footage he took before construction shows the elevation at a certain part of the lake to be at 127 feet. After construction, he said footage shows elevation to be only 125 feet at the same location.

Community Impact Newspaper reached out to Costello for comment, but Stephen Wilcox, a project manager for Costello, said their client instructed them to not respond to any inquiries concerning the study.

Seeking a solution

During Harvey, about 40 homes in Pin Oak Village, Falcon Point and surrounding subdivisions flooded, said Alexis Carrico, a Pin Oak Village resident. Carrico said the total cost reported to her by residents was $250,000 in Pin Oak Village and $800,000 in Falcon Point.

Falcon Point resident Pamela Payne  said her home value dropped $100,000 after being flooded by Harvey, and she is experiencing more flooding issues since development began.

“All of our yards are not draining like they used to, and it’s [because of] development,” she said. “I’ve been here 12 years.”

Pin Oak resident Don Ehlert said his home also flooded, and he wants the city to take action, specifically on the gap between the two berms where the spillway sits.

Ammer said MUD 37 is drafting a letter to the city of Katy outlining actions the city can take to mitigate future flooding in the Pin Oak Village and Falcon Point subdivisions, which Ammer said he expects will be finalized and sent in mid-October. MUD 37’s recommendations mostly align with what residents are requesting such as resurveying the area, he said, but also include putting in concrete diverters to force water past houses into the ditch.

“We’re asking the city to go ahead and start making these repairs, which our engineer board member said would be somewhere between $50,000-$100,000 to resolve the problem.”

Ammer said the responsibility lies with the city, not MUD 37, to handle the costs and repairs. The city of Katy did not return Community Impact Newspaper’s requests for comment.

The new norm

Fort Bend County officials also struggle to balance development against flood risk as the definition for a 100-year rainfall event in the Greater Houston area rises.

While the county is not involved with issues pertaining to the city of Katy—those drainage plans are not reviewed or approved by the county—it is conducting its own watershed study and updating its drainage criteria, said Mark Vogler, Fort Bend County drainage district manager.

“We all experienced the big flood of Harvey, but the 100-year rainfall number recently changed, so all this stuff is going have to be calibrated, and the criteria updated,” Vogler said.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Sept. 26 updated its Atlas 14 study, which provides probabilities of rainfall events in Texas. The new analysis redefines some instances of a 100-year rainfall total as a 25-year event for Houston, based on rainfall data for the past several decades, said Mark Glaudemans, an official with the agency’s water prediction office. A 100-year rainfall event for a 24-hour period has increased from 13 to 18 inches around Houston, Glaudemans said.

The county is revising its drainage criteria manual, which controls stormwater release rates from new development to prevent peak flow rates from increasing. The manual has been in place since 1987, Vogler said. Its most recent update was in 2011, according to information on the county website.

Harvey also highlighted the need to plan for storm events that last more than 24 hours and consequently take more time to drain, Vogler said. Current criteria provides for detention for 100-year flood events, but that will be insufficient for storms that last over a period of days, he said.

“It was a four-day event,” Vogler said. “If our detention ponds took four to seven days to drain down, maybe we need to look at longer, multiple-day storm events.”

Additional reporting by Matt Dulin and Rebecca Hennes
By Vanessa Holt
A resident of the Houston area since 2011, Vanessa began working in community journalism in her home state of New Jersey in 1996. She joined Community Impact Newspaper in 2016 as a reporter for the Spring/Klein edition and became editor of that paper in March 2017 and editor of The Woodlands edition in January 2019.


Total cases have risen to 13,268 in Harris County, 7,812 of which are considered active while 5,215 are confirmed to have recovered. A total of 241 people are confirmed to have died from the coronavirus in the county.(Community Impact staff)
Harris County coronavirus count: 241 new cases, 5 deaths confirmed June 3

Meanwhile, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said 45% of new cases statewide between May 26 and June 2 can be tied to prisons, jails, meat packing plants or nursing homes.

Here are the latest coronavirus updates for Katy-area readers. (Jen Para/Community Impact Newspaper)
June 3 data: Katy-area confirmed COVID-19 daily cases grow by 11

Since May 21, when Harris County began reporting active cases, recoveries and deaths at the ZIP code level, the number of recoveries has increased a daily amount between three and 17.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced Phase 3 of his Open Texas plan June 3. (Brian Rash/Community Impact Newspaper)
Gov. Greg Abbott's June 3 guidelines allow most Texas businesses to operate at 50% capacity

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott continues to lift coronavirus-related business restrictions.

About 60,000 people gathered in downtown Houston at a June 2 march to to honor George Floyd. The June 4 Katy for Black Lives Matter Protest event organizers said they expect about 1,000 demonstrators for their march. (Nola Z. Valente/Community Impact Newspaper)
Katy for Black Lives Matter Protest organizers: ‘We wanted to extend our empathy’

Three Katy ISD students have coordinated a June 4 demonstration to show their support for the Black Lives Matter social movement.

Participants held fists in the air during a moment of silence at a June 2 protest over the death of George Floyd. (Emma Whalen/Community Impact Newspaper)
Q&A: Criminal justice research expert weighs in on George Floyd protests and the sentiments driving them

"I think the data is clear and convincing that there is a problem. I think that we now have societal consensus of that problem and accepting that data."

Houston Food Bank is looking for more volunteers as it handles increased food distribution during COVID-19. (Courtesy Houston Food Bank)
Houston Food Bank: Volunteers needed now more than ever

The Houston Food Bank is distributing more than double the usual amount of food throughout the community.

Twenty cases in Fort Bend County were currently hospitalized according to data available on June 2 and June 3 on the Fort Bend County Community Impact Dashboard. The total confirmed cases was 1,916 on June 2 and 1,951 on June 3. (Designed by José Dennis/Community Impact Newspaper)
Fort Bend County official: Severity of COVID-19 is ‘affecting us less than it did in the beginning’

June 2 data shows 20 cases are hospitalized out of 1,916 confirmed positive coronavirus cases.

Franz Donuts makes doughnuts and kolaches from scratch, and it serves Columbian coffee. (Susan Rovegno/Community Impact Newspaper)
Katy area's Franz Donuts opens under new ownership in March

The cafe makes doughnuts and kolaches from scratch.

Across seven Katy-area ZIP codes, the total number of confirmed positive coronavirus cases since the beginning of the pandemic increased to 1,084 on June 2. (Courtesy Flourish)
June 2 Katy-area COVID-19 daily case numbers increase by 40

The number of active cases in Katy-area ZIP codes in Harris County increased from 332 on June 1 to 358 on June 2, a daily increase of 26.

(Adriana Rezal/Community Impact Newspaper)
PHOTOS: Scenes from the downtown Houston march for George Floyd

People of all ages, colors and creeds packed downtown Houston June 2 to march in memory of former Houston resident George Floyd.

As protests over the death of George Floyd continue, the Harris County Public Health Department released a statement asking people to take precautionary measures if they plan to attend a protest. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
Harris County coronavirus count: County tops 350 new cases for second straight day

As protests over the death of George Floyd continue, the Harris County Public Health Department released a statement asking people to take precautionary measures if they plan to attend a protest.

Nola Z. Valente/Community Impact Newspaper
60,000 gather in downtown Houston June 2 in solidarity with George Floyd's family

Among a series of marches across the U.S. to honor George Floyd, his hometown of Houston turned out in the thousands June 2.