In west Houston, less than a mile south of the Katy Freeway and just west of the Beltway sits a little slice of what Houston used to be, with heavy woods, a small creek and a lot of peace and quiet. But as Houston Public Radio’s Jack Williams reports, without a Harris County Flood Control District project, parts of the Edith Moore Bird Sanctuary could slowly erode away.
Set on 18 acres of winding walking trails and boardwalks tucked off a quiet residential street, the bird sanctuary is primarily used to educate local school kids on the environment. One of the centerpieces of that instruction is Rummel Creek, which has grown wider and wider over the years. Winnie Burkett is the manager of the Moore Sanctuary.
“I lived in this area in the 70s and my kids could jump back and forth across that creek. But as the upstream areas were paved, it put more runoff in the creek. The volume of runoff became very great and it started to erode deeper and deeper. That’s been the problem is as they’ve built, they’ve had to pump the water somewhere and it was pumped into Rummel Creek.”
As Rummel creek has eroded, it’s taken big chunks of trail with it. Just recently, a fence along a trail had to be moved back about 10 feet when a large part of the bank fell into the creek.
“We worry about having to close trails because it just gets so dangerous. They’re so deep and crumbly. There are some trails we’ve closed already. The back half of the sanctuary is only accessible through a little neck of land and at the rate it’s eroding, we’re not sure how much longer we’ll have access to that back part of the sanctuary.”
In September, the Harris County Flood Control district will begin a project that could save those trails and prevent flooding in area at the same time. Peering over the edge of an abrupt, 20-feet drop-off, the District’s Heather Saucier says crews will shape the banks of Rummel Creek to make them more erosion-resistant.
“You can see that the slopes here have formed verticle drops and so we’re going to come in and try to smooth-out the banks a bit and create a bench to have a softer slope to try to prevent future erosion from happening.”
Saucier says although saving the Moore Bird Santuary wasn’t the intention of the project, it’s a nice bonus.
“Erosion is a problem that is very common here and we basically spend a lot of our days repairing eroded channels. Generally, they’re just adjacent to a road or they’re just winding through the county and in this particular case it’s different because it goes right through the bird sanctuary. It is a pleasant benefit to help them at the same time that we’re trying to reduce people’s flooding risks.”
Saucier says when the project is complete, less sediment from Rummel Creek will end up in Buffalo Bayou. You can see pictures of the erosion on our website, KUHF.org.