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Why Are There So Few Trees Along Braes Bayou In The Third Ward?


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I've been driving back and forth between my hood (the Museum District) and UH lately and I generally drive along McGregor as it follows Braes Bayou north. I have noticed the lack of natural foliage along this particular bayou and I was wondering why are there so few trees? Braes Bayou is quite different from Buffalo Bayou which looks to me like a natural waterway, at least as it approaches downtown. Buffalo Bayou might not be the most beautiful waterway, but at least it has trees along it and natural banks. Braes Bayou is incredibly ugly as it is, but it has so much potential. Does anybody have any plans to beautify Braes in the vicinity of Riverside Terrace?

Attached is a photo from Google Street View showing the bayou along McGregor. Notice there are no trees on one side of the street, and on the other side there's just a grassy bank with some trees on the opposite side of the street. The lack of trees and the concrete banks really ruin the aesthetics of what could be a nice waterway.

notrees.jpg

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Did the paving really help with the flooding issues? I've heard that the idea of paving the sides of waterways is kind of controversial, and it obviously ruins the look of a waterway, so I wonder if it was worth it. Every time I see egrets walking along the concrete looking for fish I feel kind of sad for them (I guess I can't complain too much though because egrets were almost extinct at some point and at least they still exist). I'd much rather see natural flood prevention measures like wetlands or widening the waterway while still preserving some of the natural aesthetic.

I think Riverside Terrace would be a kind of cool place to live if it wasn't for the fact that the river was damn ugly.

Edited by Jax
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Did the paving really help with the flooding issues?

From a strictly hydraulic standpoint, yes.

tsarp_map09.jpg

The map above shows that the current floodplain of Brays Bayou is half the size that it was back in 1915, in spite of the development in the watershed. The wider, deeper, straighter, slicker Brays Bayou is much more efficient at carrying water, and does indeed provide much better flood protection for hundreds of thousands, if not over a million, residents of the watershed.

Granted, it's not very scenic, and there's nearly nothing for an ecosystem, but it does move a lot of water when necessary.

Given today's environmental climate, I don't think you'll see another concrete-lined bayou anytime soon. Clear Creek and Buffalo Bayou are two that have been spared that fate...although there's still an on-going debate on Clear Creek (4 or 5 decades old at this point.)

Channelizing and concrete-lining the channel was seen as a satisfactory solution to a chronic flooding problem back in the 30's and 40's.

Edited by Original Timmy Chan's
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I wonder if it's possible to channelize a waterway and yet not make it look like crap. I recall that the RIver Liffey which runs through Dublin has concrete (or stone?) banks and yet it is pretty scenic still (and it also does not have many trees, it's in a really dense urban area). Maybe that's not a good example though because Dublin is probably less flood prone than Houston. It has to be possible to at least balance the flood prevention aspect with ecology and aesthetic though. Does anybody have any examples? The River Walk in San Antonio is concrete lined and still looks nice, although I know what they did there is a lot more complex. They re-route most of the water away from the river walk part of the river to keep the restaurants from ever flooding, right?

I've heard that channelization sometimes results in reduced flooding along the channel but it also leads to enhanced flooding upstream an downstream of the channel. I'm not sure if that's the case here though.

Anyways, I think Braes would look a lot better if they planted trees on the sloped banks of the bayou, even though it has been channelized. I think those bare grassy hills along the sides in combination with the concrete gives the worst possible aesthetic. The roots of large trees on a sloped bank like that generally prevent erosion so I imagine it would be an all around positive thing to do.

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I wonder if it's possible to channelize a waterway and yet not make it look like crap. I recall that the RIver Liffey which runs through Dublin has concrete (or stone?) banks and yet it is pretty scenic still (and it also does not have many trees, it's in a really dense urban area). Maybe that's not a good example though because Dublin is probably less flood prone than Houston. It has to be possible to at least balance the flood prevention aspect with ecology and aesthetic though. Does anybody have any examples? The River Walk in San Antonio is concrete lined and still looks nice, although I know what they did there is a lot more complex. They re-route most of the water away from the river walk part of the river to keep the restaurants from ever flooding, right?

I've heard that channelization sometimes results in reduced flooding along the channel but it also leads to enhanced flooding upstream an downstream of the channel. I'm not sure if that's the case here though.

Anyways, I think Braes would look a lot better if they planted trees on the sloped banks of the bayou, even though it has been channelized. I think those bare grassy hills along the sides in combination with the concrete gives the worst possible aesthetic. The roots of large trees on a sloped bank like that generally prevent erosion so I imagine it would be an all around positive thing to do.

Didn't they do that in the easternmost section of it? Re-naturalize it? I thought that was part of the project.

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There has to be a happy medium between so many trees that the water can no longer flow and having the bayou look like an open sewer. I find it hard to believe that trees on the banks would hinder the water flow enough to make it an issue.

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There has to be a happy medium between so many trees that the water can no longer flow and having the bayou look like an open sewer. I find it hard to believe that trees on the banks would hinder the water flow enough to make it an issue.

there are many factors involved with the portion of brays you're talking about. as OTC mentioned the HCFCD is minimizing the use of concrete in bayous. they are increasing capacity by widening where possible and softening the bends of the bayou so that water flows more smoothly. in areas that are more dense, the HCFCD has less options because less land is available. i'm sure you've seen the capacity that was added near 610 and braeshood.

if they did have natural habitats with trees, you'd be complaining of the trash captured in the bayou. oh wait, you do that too.

Edited by musicman
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if they did have natural habitats with trees, you'd be complaining of the trash captured in the bayou. oh wait, you do that too.

What is your point?

Is there anything wrong with hoping to preserve or rebuild natural waterways AND have less pollution? I'm interested in moving things forward and improving Houston, unlike some people on this forum. What's wrong with suggesting we improve the situation with pollution in the Bayous? I guess Braes looks so much like an open sewer right now that it's hard to notice the pollution that's probably in it, but I don't think pointing out the fact that we need to do something about pollution is a bad thing. I think Buffalo Bayou is way nicer than Braes but yes, I did point out that there seems to be much more pollution in it than in the waterways I've seen in other major cities. That is another problem I'd like to see dealt with.

Thanks for posting the link about Sims Bayou, Texasepies. I'd love to see something like that happen with Braes. I like the idea of treating our natural waterways as water removal systems AND natural habitats. Those two things don't have to be mutually exclusive.

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What is your point?

Is there anything wrong with hoping to preserve or rebuild natural waterways AND have less pollution? I'm interested in moving things forward and improving Houston, unlike some people on this forum. What's wrong with suggesting we improve the situation with pollution in the Bayous?

with your suggestion, you can't have both. planting trees along with sides of the concrete lined bayou hinders water flow which makes the flooding situation worse and also will trap debris you complained about seeing previously.

I guess Braes looks so much like an open sewer right now

i'm sure everyone has a preference here.

open sewer

562.jpg

brays bayou

braysbiker.jpg

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Thanks for posting the link about Sims Bayou, Texasepies. I'd love to see something like that happen with Braes. I like the idea of treating our natural waterways as water removal systems AND natural habitats. Those two things don't have to be mutually exclusive.

The Brays Bayou Flood Damage Reduction Project

http://www.projectbrays.org/

post-8551-12567378583066_thumb.jpg

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Trees do have an impact on the channel's conveyance, but a few solitary trees have a pretty minor impact, especially in a channel the size of Brays Bayou. If the trees are planted near the top of slopes, or on top of the banks, the only blockage that the water sees is the trunk of the tree, which is a pretty minor loss.

HCFCD has been pretty progressive over the last 10-15 years in "greening up" the bayous around town, and now plants about 20,000 trees per year. In fact, HCFCD runs its own nursery that has room for around 10,000 trees. With 2,500 miles of channels to maintain, it's a long, slow and expensive process. And it's not helped by the fact that no one wants to pay for flood control or drainage around here.

The bayous can definitely be made to look more natural, but it takes lots of land, which is already developed, which means buyouts, which means lots of money, and lots and lots of time.

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Hmm...another HAIF mystery... My gut reaction is that the 1940s photo is looking north across the bayou towards UH, and the church is the one on the northwest corner of Cullen and North MacGregor. However, the church at that location has the steeple on the side, not on the front. There is another church located a few blocks to the west, but this church also has the steeple on the side. I checked HistoricAerials.com back to 1957, but I couldn't find a church on North MacGregor with a configuration like the one in the photo. Perhaps one of these two churches was remodeled between the time the photo was taken and 1957?

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Hmm...another HAIF mystery... My gut reaction is that the 1940s photo is looking north across the bayou towards UH, and the church is the one on the northwest corner of Cullen and North MacGregor. However, the church at that location has the steeple on the side, not on the front. There is another church located a few blocks to the west, but this church also has the steeple on the side. I checked HistoricAerials.com back to 1957, but I couldn't find a church on North MacGregor with a configuration like the one in the photo. Perhaps one of these two churches was remodeled between the time the photo was taken and 1957?

It's the church on the NW corner of Cullen and North MacGregor. That church has two steeples, and the original steeple is still standing, and is the same steeple in the photo.

You can see it here. It's the steeple on the right.

http://www.bing.com/maps/default.aspx?v=2&FORM=LMLTCP&cp=nyjrx171mqyw&style=b&lvl=2&tilt=-90&dir=0&alt=-1000&phx=0&phy=0&phscl=1&scene=32532126&encType=1

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It's the church on the NW corner of Cullen and North MacGregor. That church has two steeples, and the original steeple is still standing, and is the same steeple in the photo.

You can see it here. It's the steeple on the right.

http://www.bing.com/maps/default.aspx?v=2&FORM=LMLTCP&cp=nyjrx171mqyw&style=b&lvl=2&tilt=-90&dir=0&alt=-1000&phx=0&phy=0&phscl=1&scene=32532126&encType=1

You're right...I didn't scroll far enough up Cullen on Google Streetview to see it.

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That's pretty cool, thanks for the link. I think it looked pretty good back then.

Here's a horrible photo I took from my car window with my iPhone while waiting at a red light.

img1448b.jpg

IT NEEDS TREES!

Obviously not on the concrete part but I don't see why planting trees on the grassy part would be so bad. Buffalo Bayou doesn't have as much grassy "dead space" separating the water from the road, and it seems to be fine.

Another big factor that people have;t mentioned is that River Oaks has a lot more money than the 3rd ward, so I'm sure the people in River Oaks had more influence over what happened to the bayou, and somehow they were able to prevent it from being paved.

Here are some photos of Buffalo Bayou for comparison.

bayou.jpg

5houstonskylineandbayou2.jpg

There are even some parts of Buffalo Bayou that have paved banks but it doesn't look so bad because the grassy part is more nicely landscaped and the concrete is much less visible. It might not be the prettiest waterway in the world, but at least it has less of that "sewer" look.

img9442.jpg

Edited by Jax
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Jax, in addition to bisecting the lands of the rich and powerful, being the centerpiece of Houston commerce for the 19th century, and being a focal point of downtown, Buffalo Bayou has another thing going for it -- Addicks and Barker Reservoirs, which control the flow of water down Buffalo Bayou, through Memorial, River Oaks, and downtown.

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Jax, I believe someone did touch on the "Memorial" area being able to fight off the concrete...Buffalo Bayou at Memorial or River Oaks, it's all the same to me...money, money, money. Was my first thought when I read the posts, they fought it off. Think the biggest issue with the building of the reserviors was to stop the flooding of Downtown, so much. In the early 1900's-1930's it was pretty bad.

There is something strangely sad, beautiful, intriguing & haunting about Riverside Terrace and it's blocks of well-maintained homes sitting next to decaying ones...it always draws me in. Even with it's concrete bayou.

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Jax, I believe someone did touch on the "Memorial" area being able to fight off the concrete...Buffalo Bayou at Memorial or River Oaks, it's all the same to me...money, money, money. Was my first thought when I read the posts, they fought it off.

Riverside Terrace had it's share of well heeled residents in the 50s, but even they couldn't stop the HCFCD and the Army Corps of Engineers. A few homes were lost to the widening of Brays Bayou in the late 50s. They were located east of where 288 currently runs and were situated along N. MacGregor with their backyards on the north banks of the bayou.

You can see it here.

http://www.historicaerials.com/?poi=7964

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I wonder if it would be possible to build a reservoir or retention pond anywhere along Braes to reduce the need for concrete...

Brays is undercapacity and hcfcd is working to add capacity where they can. texasspies posted a link that gives additional information about brays specifically that would answer the questions you keep asking. it might help to read it.

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Riverside Terrace had it's share of well heeled residents in the 50s, but even they couldn't stop the HCFCD and the Army Corps of Engineers. A few homes were lost to the widening of Brays Bayou in the late 50s. They were located east of where 288 currently runs and were situated along N. MacGregor with their backyards on the north banks of the bayou.

You can see it here.

http://www.historica...s.com/?poi=7964

Yeah, Weingarten, Taub & Hermann come to mind...Have seen pictures of some of the homes you speak of. I never saw Brays Bayou at Riverside without concrete banks, 1960's. I'd like to know more details, why the 2 major waterways were handled so differently. Houston would have had its share of extra land to build retaining ponds or reserviors, back then. And they were both winding waterways, with oxbows everywhere.

http://www.buffaloba...rg/history.html Humm....this says Terry Hershey & George Bush had something to do with it...see topic about flooding & hero of the bayou...topics 6 & 7.

"riparian" vegetation, never heard of that before.

Edited by NenaE
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I just realized that L.A. has a river which is even uglier than Braes!

la_river7.jpg

So I take back my comment about Braes being the ugliest waterway I'd seen in North American. It's now the 2nd ugliest waterway I've seen in North America.

http://www.you-are-here.com/location/la_river.html

At least they are talking about revitalizing it though.

http://www.worldchanging.com/local/losangeles/archives/006116.html

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I just realized that L.A. has a river which is even uglier than Braes!

la_river7.jpg

So I take back my comment about Braes being the ugliest waterway I'd seen in North American. It's now the 2nd ugliest waterway I've seen in North America.

http://www.you-are-h...n/la_river.html

At least they are talking about revitalizing it though.

http://www.worldchan...ves/006116.html

Hahaha...UGLYYYYY! Reminds me of the 1970's television cop shows, always a scene of a car chase down one of those empty "cement canals".

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I wonder if it would be possible to build a reservoir or retention pond anywhere along Braes to reduce the need for concrete...

No room to build something with as much potential impact as Addicks and Barker Reservoirs. Those two reservoirs cover 25,000 acres of government-owned land, and hold 200,000-300,000 ac-ft of water.

In contrast, something like the detention ponds at Art Storey Park on BW-8 at Bellaire, cover about 200 acres and can hold somewhere around 3,500 ac-ft of water. I don't know the total costs of the project, but it's certainly in the 10's of millions of dollars, and has taken decades to complete (from planning to land acquisition to construction).

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Great link. Thanks NenaE.

Here are some excerpts I found interesting:

The photograph above of White Oak Bayou demonstrates the kind of flood damage reduction construction projects often associated with the 1950s and 60s. Effective and efficient, but environmentally cold, channelization work like this on White Oak and on Brays Bayous resulted from revision of the 1940 Project Plan. Convinced that population growth in Houston and Harris County had made the original plan obsolete, the District petitioned Congress for a new plan and additional financial help. To bolster the county’s case, the District prepared a 1951 revised version of Wild River describing the rapid growth of the Houston area and the struggle with floods throughout the 1940s.

In 1954, Congress approved the new flood damage reduction plan, but by the 1960s, many residents along Buffalo Bayou objected to channelization plans for aesthetic and environmental reasons. After completion of the White Oak and Brays projects, work on the 1954 plan stopped.

...

The map above shows the completion status of the work authorized in the 1954 Project Plan. The green-colored portion of Buffalo Bayou was not channelized because of concerns expressed by the Buffalo Bayou residents in the 1960s proved to be part of a national move toward environmental awareness on the part of Americans in general. Often called the "Era of Limits," the 1970s changed the way the District and the Corps of Engineers approached flood damage reduction projects. Working within the guidelines of the National Environmental Policy Act and the Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Projects began incorporating the public’s newfound environmental sensitivity into the county’s plans for channel improvement.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Honestly I used to ask the same question but after seeing how much the water had risen in the bayou during hurricane Ike I changed my mind.

This pic was taken in Meyerland at about 10am on Saturday following hurricane Ike. The bridge in the background is the South Rice overpass. I can only imagine how high the water was during the height of the storm.

kb4tck.jpg

I've been driving back and forth between my hood (the Museum District) and UH lately and I generally drive along McGregor as it follows Braes Bayou north. I have noticed the lack of natural foliage along this particular bayou and I was wondering why are there so few trees? Braes Bayou is quite different from Buffalo Bayou which looks to me like a natural waterway, at least as it approaches downtown. Buffalo Bayou might not be the most beautiful waterway, but at least it has trees along it and natural banks. Braes Bayou is incredibly ugly as it is, but it has so much potential. Does anybody have any plans to beautify Braes in the vicinity of Riverside Terrace?

Attached is a photo from Google Street View showing the bayou along McGregor. Notice there are no trees on one side of the street, and on the other side there's just a grassy bank with some trees on the opposite side of the street. The lack of trees and the concrete banks really ruin the aesthetics of what could be a nice waterway.

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I'm not talking about trees. I'm talking about why some bayous need to be channelized. Although I'm guessing tree debris during a storm could potentially inhibit water flow.

I all for esthetics but the reality is that many of the homes along Braes Bayou have flooded more than once. I'm sure those homeowners asked the city to do something about it and they did do something about it. If the bayou was in it's natural state many homeowners could not bear the increased costs of flood insurance. Myself included.

Well we know certain species of trees can survive a flooding event like that, such as the trees along Buffalo Bayou, so I don't think it's so much of an issue as long as the trees don't block the passage of the water.

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  • The title was changed to Why Are There So Few Trees Along Braes Bayou In The Third Ward?

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