Environmental Headlines for the Houston Region: July 26, 2016

Featured

  1. 1.  Hot-weather records keep being set – and more look to be in the making ( Bill Davidson – Texas Climate News, 24/7/2016) “With the National Weather Service warning of ‘dangerous heat and humidity’ across a huge swath of the country this weekend and for several days to come – including some heat-index readings over 100 degrees from the central to eastern U.S. – it’s a fitting moment for another of TCN’s occasional updates on recent high-temperature records….According to federal scientists and other experts, June was yet another in a string of record-warm months for temperatures averaged worldwide, which now stretches back more than a year. From the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: Warmer to much-warmer-than-average conditions dominated across much of the globe’s surface, resulting in the highest temperature departure [from average] for June since global temperature records began in 1880. This was also the 14th consecutive month the monthly global temperature record has been broken – the longest such streak in NOAA’s 137 years of record keeping. If it’s any consolation to the heat-weary, June’s temperatures weren’t nearly as much above average as the first five months of the year.But that was no solace to experts looking at the world’s longer-term warming trend.Deke Arndt, who heads the climate monitoring division at NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, put the recent run of records into perspective for Climate Central: ‘We’ve left the 20th century far behind. This is a big deal.’” www.texasclimatenews.com

  2. Houston’s development boom and reduction of wetlands leave region flood prone (Kim McGuire – Houston Chronicle, 7/22/2016)
    “Coffee brown water flows through ditches in rural Waller County, the remnant of storms that drenched the Katy Prairie during Houston’s Tax Day flood. Weeks after that epic rainfall, the prairie is awash in daisies and blue and purple horesemint flowers. Beavers take advantage of ponds brimming with water, and nearby dirt roads show little evidence of being recently inundated. ‘This is how the land is supposed to act,’ said Mary Anne Piacentini, executive director of the Katy Prairie Conservancy, a nonprofit land trust. ‘It’s supposed to absorb water and filter out pollutants. It’s not supposed to send it roaring into the rivers and bayous and homes.’ In the greater Houston area, though, the staggering increase of impervious surfaces — roads, sidewalks, parking lots, anything covered with asphalt and concrete — has exacerbated the effects of flooding as development in the region has exploded. When land is covered by these surfaces, it loses ability to act like a sponge and soak up water. Things are further complicated in flat-as-a-pancake Houston, where much of the soil is heavily compacted and acts like pavement anyway, sending sheets of storm water to the nearest low-lying area.”
    www.houstonchronicle.com
  3. Widespread burn bans in follow half a year of heavy rains (Samantha Ketterer – Houston Chronicle, 7/15/2016) ” ‘Despite historic flooding and heavy rains across the state this spring, 75 counties in Texas are under burn bands. In a strange twist of nature, the rains contributed to the problem,’ said John Nielsen-Gammon, a Texas climatologist and professor of atmospheric sciences at Texas A&M University. ‘The biggest fire danger in Texas is where we have a spell of wet weather followed by a spell of dry weather,’ he said. “To get fire, you also need fuel, and all the rain that we had over the past year and a half allowed for grasses to grow quite a bit, so there’s a lot of foliage out there that can dry out.”Harris County and surrounding areas are not under burn bans, but local parks and land managers say concerns will rise if arid conditions continue.’We aregetting dry,’ said Sam Reese, Warren Ranch Manager at Katy Prairie Conservancy, which is working to add about 30,000 additional acres to the 20,000 acres of land preserved west of Houston.’There’s still a green color to a lot of the forest out there, but it turns brown pretty quick if we don’t get enough moisture,’ he said.Several areas in the prairie lands have higher-than-usual grass – spots that could be fire risks. ‘Within a week or less, probably a cigarette ember would be pretty problematic, and might be in some areas right now,’ Reese said.’ ” www.houstonchronicle.com
  4. Texas’ official sea turtle far below historical numbers (Harvey Rice – Houston Chronicle, 7/15/2016)
    “The nesting season for the endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtle is ending with zero nests found on either Galveston Island or the Bolivar Peninsula for the first time in at least a decade, although the number rose for the entire coast. The decline in nesting on the Upper Texas Gulf Coast comes as a recent study shows that the nest numbers for Texas’ official sea turtle, whose primary nesting grounds are in Texas and Mexico, are at less than one-tenth of their historic levels. Only five Kemp’s ridley nests were found on the upper Texas coast – four at Surfside and one at Quintana Beach – during the nesting season that runs from April until the middle of July, although there are always a few late nesters.”
    www.houstonchronicle.com
  5. Community Design: How a New Pocket Park Came to the Near Northside (Kate Cairoli – OffCite, 7/14/2016)
    “Not all vacant lots are the same. Some are nestled between residential lots and looked after by neighbors; some are littered and adjacent to highways; still others have a nascent appeal that can benefit from the right intervention. One such lot is located along Fulton Street between Panama Street and Hammock Street in the Near Northside. The property consists of two vacant lots owned by the City of Houston’s Parks and Recreation Department. A crosswalk connects the property to a light rail stop. There are commercial properties along Fulton to the north, south, and west; to the east is a residential area. Currently, there is one tree in the middle of the site, overgrown brambles and a row of trees along the fence on the eastern side of the property, and a utility right-of-way with power lines that bisect the lot. Community members have long wanted to create a pocket park here. Recently, they worked with the Greater Northside Management District (GNMD) to realize that vision.”
    http://offcite.org
  6. Hot-weather records keep being set – and more look to be in the making (Bill Dawson – Texas Climate News, 7/24/2016)
    “With the National Weather Service warning of “dangerous heat and humidity” across a huge swath of the country this weekend and for several days to come – including some heat-index readings over 100 degrees from the central to eastern U.S. – it’s a fitting moment for another of TCN’s occasional updates on recent high-temperature records… According to federal scientists and other experts, June was yet another in a string of record-warm months for temperatures averaged worldwide, which now stretches back more than a year.”
    http://texasclimatenews.org

EcoNotes

  • 24 July
    • Hot-weather records keep being set – and more look to be in the making (Bill Dawson – Texas Climate News)
      http://texasclimatenews.org
  • 22 July
    • Houston’s development boom and reduction of wetlands leave region flood prone (Kim McGuire – Houston Chronicle)
      www.houstonchronicle.com
    • Weekly Roundup: In the Country’s Most Expensive Cities, It Takes Too Long to Build (Ryan Holleywell – The Urban Edge)
      http://urbanedge.blogs.rice.edu
    • Texas ranch recognized for outstanding environmental stewardship (High Plains Journal)
      www.hpj.com
    • Earth Day Texas Unveils the First Ever ‘Earth Day Texas Expeditions’ (Environmental Protection)
      https://eponline.com
    • NOAA Fisheries Announces the Extension of the Gulf of Mexico Commercial Shrimp Permit Moratorium (Southeast Fishery Bulletin)
      http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov
  • 21 July
  • 20 July
  • 19 July
  • 18 July
  • 17 July
    • Pipeline leak near Exxon Mobil’s Baytown plant prompts evacuations (Lauren Carube – Houston Chronicle)
      www.chron.com
  • 15 July
    • Texas’ official sea turtle far below historical numbers (Harvey Rice – Houston Chronicle)
      www.houstonchronicle.com
    • Texas Gets Boost in New Mexico Water Fight (Jim Malewitz – The Texas Tribune)
      www.texastribune.org
  • 14 July
    • Community Design: How a New Pocket Park Came to the Near Northside (Kate Cairoli – OffCite)
      http://offcite.org
  • 13 July
  • 12 July
    • Supreme Court to Consider Report on Rio Grande Case (Susan Montoya Bryan – ABC News)
      http://abcnews.go.com
    • Cleanup continues from 2015 deadly flooding in Texas (Elizabeth Findell – Hastings Tribune)
      www.hastingstribune.com
  • 11 July
    • A perfect pair? Well, on climate policy, Texas and ExxonMobil rarely agree (Randy Lee Loftis – Texas Climate News)
      http://texasclimatenews.org

Environmental Headlines for the Houston Region: July 17, 2015

Featured

  1. Harris County warns of possible contaminated drinking water; more testing set (Kim McGuire – Houston Chronicle, 7/6/2016)
    “Harris County Public Health officials have warned a group of people who live near a Channelview Superfund site not to drink their tap water after dioxins were possibly detected in some private wells. County officials, however, acknowledged that a laboratory error requires them to retest the water and the initial results from 100 private wells may prove to be incorrect. The second tests are expected to be conducted Thursday and results should be available in three weeks. In the meantime, health officials sent a letter dated July 1 to the residents near the San Jacinto Waste Pits advising them to drink bottled water until the second test is concluded.”
    www.houstonchronicle.com
  2. City: Telling everybody about the hazardous chemicals stored all over town wouldn’t be safe (Swamplot, 7/7/2016)
    “A Houston Chronicle attempt to get more info about the surprise chemical warehouse fire that turned Spring Branch Creek blood red earlier this year has been denied by the city, writes Matt Dempsey this week. The city has reportedly appealed to the state attorney general’s office to block the records request, as well as the paper’s broader request for “the name and address of every facility that files a hazardous material inventory form.” The early May fire spread from a residence on Laverne St., igniting still-unquantified amounts of still-unnamed chemicals stored at the Custom Packaging & Filling warehouse behind it — a business that didn’t show up on the list of storage facilities the Chronicle was able to compile from local emergency planning groups, after the city and state blocked a previous request for similar info last year. ”
    http://swamplot.com
  3. Design of White Oak Bayou in Houston getting another look (Houston Chronicle, 7/13/2016)
    “When Bob Lee looks out at the White Oak Bayou, he sees a waterway that could be so much more. Lined by concrete surfaces to better channel floodwaters, the bayou northwest of downtown draws walkers and bikers to its walkways, but much of the corridor is hardly a scenic gathering place. In contrast, Houstonians flock to nearby Buffalo Bayou Park, where the waterway flows through a natural landscape of trees, plants and grasses. “It would be so nice to be walking along something that was more like Buffalo Bayou,” said Lee, a resident of Houston’s Heights neighborhood for more than 30 years who sits on the White Oak Bayou Association board. The Houston Chronicle (http://bit.ly/29vzsUP ) reports that now, aging infrastructure and costly repairs are prompting the Harris County Flood Control District and a local redevelopment authority to take a second look at the White Oak Bayou’s design.”
    www.chron.com

Continue reading

Environmental Headlines for the Houston Region: July 10, 2015

Featured

  1. Harris County Public Health Actually Tests Groundwater Wells Near the San Jacinto River Waste Pits and Finds Dioxin (Dianna Wray – Houston Press, 7/8/2016)
    “Harris County Public Heath recently warned people living near the San Jacinto River Waste Pit Superfund site to avoid drinking tap water after dioxin, a known carcinogen, was detected in groundwater wells near the Channelview site. Along the way, the county became the first government agency to actually test the area groundwater wells for dioxins. The moment was a small victory for Jackie Young, the head of San Jacinto River Coalition, and a former resident of Highlands, the town where most of the contaminated wells are located. The San Jacinto River Waste Pits have been nestled on the edge of the San Jacinto River for decades, a forgotten remnant of the toxic sludge pumped out of a Pasadena paper mill that was packed into barges, shipped downriver and stored in pits dug on the lip of the river throughout the 1960s. In 2005 state officials discovered – or maybe just finally noticed – the pits.”
    www.houstonpress.com
  2. Tax Day Floodwaters Finally Drain From Houston’s Big Reservoirs (Dave Fehling – Houston Public Media, 7/6/2016)
    “Back in April when a foot and a half of rain fell west of Houston, it nearly filled up both the Addicks and Barker Reservoirs that lie along the Katy Freeway at Highway 6. Since then, millions of gallons have slowly been released through dam gates into Buffalo Bayou… The dams were built in the 1940s and have been deemed ‘extremely high risk’ because of their age and the potential for billions of dollars in damage to Houston should they fail. A $75 million renovation was just getting started when the Tax Day flood hit. Construction stopped and it was only Tuesday that crews could access the site and resume their work.”
    www.houstonpublicmedia.org
  3. Houston Is Sinking (Steve Jansen – Houston Press, 7/5/2016)
    “Subsidence, the slow-on-the-go caving of a land area, isn’t a new or even unnatural phenomenon in the Houston area. It’s how humans accelerate this sinking that’s not all that normal or awesome. In the 1980s, Brownwood, the Houston Ship Channel-area subdivision that once housed Humble Oil (now Exxon) bigwigs, basically caved in on itself. That’s because oil workers and municipal companies had pumped out groundwater, which was used for oil and gas production and for residential purposes, at an insanely fast rate for decades. The Chicot and Evangeline aquifers along the Texas Gulf Coast weren’t able to naturally replenish the groundwater supply. Loose groundwater regulations at the time certainly didn’t help, and the eventual switch to surface water was too late because the damage had been done — according to United States Geological Survey data, approximately 4,700 square miles of land in and near Baytown and Pasadena sank by at least six feet between the years 1943 and 1973.”
    www.houstonpress.com

Continue reading