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Two Months After Harvey, Buffalo Bayou Sees Beginning Of Cleanup

Water levels are now low enough to clean out debris

Workers stage cleanup equipment along Buffalo Bayou two months after Harvey.

Two months after Hurricane Harvey, cleanup on Buffalo Bayou is now underway with water levels finally low enough to remove debris. But even with easier access, working on the bayou presents a unique set of challenges. 

Dumpsters, garbage trucks and other heavy machinery are normal fare for a cleanup operation, but on Buffalo Bayou (and waterways around Harris county), these tools must be perched precariously on top of barges.

“It’s very simply explained, yeah, we just go get the debris out, but the physical process of doing it is much more involved than that,” said Jeff Jowell of the Harris County Flood Control District.

Cleanup is a tricky thing to do, but it’s necessary. The debris — large trees, brush, and the remnants of some structures along the bayou —impacts the bayou’s ability to transport water downstream, creating blockages.

“Small blockages turn into bigger blockages and that artificially raises the level of the bayou,” Jowell said.

Debris can damage sewer lines or other pipes that cross the bayou. Bridges and other infrastructure are also put at risk by stray debris. If not cleaned up before the next rain event, the bayou may not function as it should, creating more potential for flooding and damage.

Jowell said it’s hard to estimate when the cleanup will be done. It just depends on how fast water continues to drain and if the Army Corp of Engineers needs to make releases from reservoirs upstream.

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