Guest Editorial: John Hill Wertz, Lack of County Planning Will Cost Millions to Rectify Drainage Problems

Guest Editorialist John Hill Wertz examining some engineering on a recent trip to Hoover Dam.

Flooding of an unincorporated area of Montgomery County, in the southeast quadrant of and near the intersection of Hwy 242 and Hwy 1314, has come to a head between residents, one of their neighbors and the county. It appears that, over the years, this sleepy little community has suffered the fate that typically befalls the one that time forgot. Adjoining subdivisions of Allendale and Greenbough that form this community, are suffering from years, if not decades, of either bad planning and/or outright neglect of their communities.

Natural drainage and the respect for natures’ discourse of inflow/outflow of rains in these subdivisions used to take care of most of the water accumulation from any rains that would occur from that, as well as runoff from nearby Hwy 242 to the north.  However, with a combination of the lack of coordination in planning/maintenance by homeowners, neighbors to the south and particularly by the county over time, major drainage problems that will cost the county millions of dollars to rectify, have evolved.

Over thirty to forty years ago when the community was just getting started, as some old-timers recall, homeowners didn’t see the need for an HOA(Homeowners Association), which would later come back to haunt them because there was no unified voice for the community that normally pertains to such issues.  Compound that by the fact that former Commissioner Ed Rinehart and his successor Jim Clark, obviously neglected ditch maintenance in their road right-of-ways, as these ditches are either halfway silted over or are completely clogged up, exacerbating the problem.  The same has happened with two natural creeks that were in place when the subdivision was built.

In addition, it appears that homeowners over the years have built up their properties in the way of natural flow patterns down to the San Jacinto River, causing the runoff to “pool” upstream in the subdivisions, causing virtual swamps, rather than run off like they used to.  Some of the residents also claimed almost two years ago that their neighbor to the south built up his land adjoining Greenbough, further inhibiting natural drainage. This appears to be a result of a storage lot, on the south side of the gun range, having done the same.  As well, not only had a retention pond practically grown over in the center of Allendale, but one resident erected a 4 foot berm south of the lake and on the north side of his property, in the lower one third of the Allendale subdivision, to decrease outflow above that and through his property to the south.

And finally, TX-Dot recently widened Hwy 1314 to what appears to be its maximum right-of-way (including ditches, which the area depends on, to a degree, to move much of the subdivisions discharge).  The problem with the latter, according to homeowner Rob Johnson, who’s about an eighth of a mile east of 1314 and on the west-southernmost part of Greenbough where most water traverses, is that the ditches for 1314 are actually higher than the subdivision, so the runoff from that highway and surrounding areas dumps back into the community through their conduits of ditches, instead of taking it away in the direction of the river on the other side of the highway to the west. Consequently, with those four damming mechanisms at work impeding the flow out of the adjoining subdivisions, it has caused an untenable flooding problem in that community.

In a meeting this past Thursday night at Allendale Church, led by community activist Paul Crowson whose property has been affected by flooding recently and in the past(noted in the article above), Commissioner Jim Clark and the civil engineers Binkley and Barfield that were hired to do a study of the area, presented several solutions to the problem which Clark himself has neglected over the last two years that he’s been in office.

For the study cost of $110,000 to the county, the path of action was to belatedly dredge all ditches, as well as a creek that runs through the center of the community (from north to south), sending the outflow to Thunder Gun Ranges property.  One would think that, spending that kind of money on a study, where the adjoining neighbor would play a significant part, that a conversation would’ve occurred between the county and engineers, the Greenbough/Allendale residents and the gun ranges’ owner Jesse Gonzalez. But in a lack of leadership by Commissioner Clark, incredulously it hasn’t….until Commissioner Clark promised it would the other night….after people’s homes have flooded in the area again last spring.

In addition, and even perhaps more unbelievable but in line with the total lack of planning, is that the downstream dispersal of outflow beyond Thunder Gun Range and the storage park was not accounted for in the study.  This latter omission would likely incur significant additional costs, to perhaps secure more right-of-way along 1314, to the half-baked (later dubbed “preliminary”) study, when much further downstream issues might/would likely occur.  In other words, the county could spend between $1/2 million and over $3 million to “fix” the subdivision, but if the water has nowhere to go beyond that, the residents would still have the flooding problem.  That Commissioner Clark had not even reached out to Mr. Gonzalez, is irresponsible, at best.

It’s unclear whether a full-blown engineering study will now occur, as it seems that Mr. Clark seems intent on moving forward to clean out ditches, as well as finally meet with Mr. Gonzalez to get his approval to do what’s needed on his part.  Something that should’ve occurred before or during a $110,000 study was commissioned by Mr. Clark!

In full disclosure, it should be noted that the David Hamilton led Binkley and Barfield, who attended the meeting the other night (along with five of his employees), both contributed $11,750 to the Clark Campaign and approximately $20,000 to Judge Doyal and Commissioner Riley over the last 3 to 4 years.

John Hill Wertz is a semi-retired businessman who worked in the oil and gas industry for more than 30 years. He currently serves as the Vetting Committee Chairman of the Montgomery County Tea Party.

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