Residents battle Buffalo Bayou renovation project

HOUSTON – A group trying to fight a $6 million restoration project along the Buffalo Bayou is turning to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The Memorial Park Demonstration Project targets about a one mile stretch of the Buffalo Bayou that stretches from Memorial Park through River Oaks Country Club, and to the Hogg Bird Sanctuary. The Harris County Flood Control District said the idea is to restore the bayou in an area that's seen severe erosion due to urbanization.

"What's happened is it's come unraveled. It's trying to change its size and change its alignment," said Harris County Flood Control District Director Michael Talbott.

The proposed "natural channel design techniques" that would be used include slope restoration and the implementation of toe wood. The project would also change the channel's flow.

Critics of the plan say the project would bulldoze the last remaining wilderness banks of the bayou and destroy the natural habitats of birds, fish and other wildlife.

"I don't think you can call this a restoration plan if you remove 80 percent of the vegetation and you cut through meanders of the bayou. That's not restoration," said Evelyn Merz, with the Houston Sierra Club.

Merz said those opposed to the project would rather see targeted efforts along the bayou. They also don't want the channel changed.

Talbott said the project would include the replanting of vegetation.

"The finished product is a natural forest that's a riverine system that everyone wants and deserves. The recommended treatment is based on proven methods on how to get that natural stable channel in place," said Talbott.

The Army Corps of Engineers has approved a 30-day extension for public comments on the project.

Those opposed to the project are meeting Thursday to discuss and coordinate their public awareness efforts. That meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church.