The next time the chance of a flood threatens the Bayridge subdivision, League City will activate its new emergency pump plan for the neighborhood.
The new policy requires the city to buy an 8-inch pump that will cost between $60,000 and $75,000, City Manager John Baumgartner said.
The city council approved the policy 7-0 at its April 10 meeting after Councilman Hank Dugie got it on the agenda as he promised Bayridge residents March 27 at a public meeting about possible drainage solutions.
“I’m grateful that policy was passed, and I hope that it will be a good start to get us moving towards permanent solutions,” resident Marika Fuller said.
Hurricane Harvey hit Galveston County on Aug. 25 and parts of League City started flooding Aug. 26. Bayridge homes soaked in floodwater for four days. Residents blamed the city for not maintaining the detention pond where water did not drain in the days after Harvey. They also accused the city of not caring before or after Harvey. But city officials have disputed those claims.
Frustrated residents at the March 27 meeting said they wanted some specific action right away in addition to the more political, long-term and expensive projects, so Dugie offered to get an emergency plan in front of the council as soon as possible.
The emergency pump policy is meant to supplement the existing drainage in the neighborhood, City Engineer Christopher Sims said. Twenty-four hours before a hurricane is expected to make landfall, or if the city has had 8 inches of rain in a 24-hour period, city crews will take the pump out of storage and take it to the lowest point in the subdivision, Sims said.
“This does not prevent flooding,” Sims said. “If another Harvey comes through, this does not prevent this from happening.”
What it will do is empty water into Gum Bayou, Sims said. Gum Bayou, which runs along the eastern edge of the neighborhood, drains to the south into Dickinson Bayou.
The extra water emptied into Gum Bayou isn’t significant enough to create problems for people downstream, Baumgartner said.
Until the city can buy the new 8-inch pump, crews can use 6-inch pumps the city already has at the Dallas Salmon Wastewater Treatment facility, Sims said.
When the retention pond, which has the capacity to hold 7 feet of water, gets as high as 5 feet, that’s when the pump would get turned on, Sims said. The pump will stay on until the water level in the pond drops to 2 feet, he said.
In addition to staging the pump 24 hours before a hurricane hits land or after 8 inches of rainfall in one day, Public Works Director Jody Hooks also can choose to stage the pump at any time, according to the new policy.
The Public Works department is looking at building an access road off Bishop’s Bridge and two staging pads to make the process smoother, Baumgartner said. The work involved would be done with city crews and would take about a week, he said.
City officials are still working on other infrastructure improvements that could cost as much as $20 million for Bayridge, as well other expensive fixes in the other parts of town that also flooded.
“It’s just the first step in an effort to try to salvage that neighborhood,” Mayor Pat Hallisey said.
Money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Housing and Urban Development will help pay for massive drainage projects the city is identifying through six engineering studies, officials said.
Cade Tyra, a Pearland High School senior, has spent more than half his young life learning how to raise and wrangle sheep, lambs and goats at the Galveston County fairgrounds.
For months, he’s been using that expertise — and his ability to relate to aspiring young champs — to teach people in his generation as they prepared to show in the 80th annual Galveston County Fair & Rodeo, which kicked off this weekend.
“I guess you could say I’m sort of ‘retired’ now for this show,” Tyra said Sunday. “This was my life for about 10 to 12 years and it’s taught me a lot.”
Tyra has been working with younger, less-experienced participants to share some of those learned skills.
“I guess I can relate to them,” he said. “I can tell them just about any situation that might happen with their animals. It’s rewarding to get to share what you know.”
Kamryn Ostermayer, a 12-year-old from Santa Fe, was busy with last-minute grooming of her 11-month-old lamb as she prepared to show Sunday afternoon. She’s following the tradition of her mom, Krissy Leija, who also raised animals for the fair growing up.
“It’s in my blood,” Ostermayer said.
Ostermayer spends hours each day taking care of her lamb, Jerry. She feeds him twice a day and walks him to keep him lean — and burn off some of his energy, she said.
Jerry weighs in at 138 pounds, about twice the size of Ostermayer, she said.
“He drags me around sometimes,” she said.
As she readied her lamb, she also got a little advice from Tyra. Her parents know a lot about raising animals. But as any parent knows, sometimes that advice is better received from a peer, Fidencio Leija said.
“Kids like to hear it from kids,” Leija said.
The shared experience, coupled with the individual responsibility and dedication of raising livestock, is the central appeal of the event, participants said.
Year after year, many people like to refer to the county fair as its own type of family. Most are returning participants and many older generations have passed the skills along to their children and grandchildren.
Dickinson resident Tammy McCrumb showed when she was a child growing up in La Marque. She’s carried that tradition on with her daughter, Brooke, a 15-year-old Dickinson student who has shown lambs for five years.
This year, Brooke McCrumb had two lambs, Tango and Cash, to show after about 10 months of taking care of them.
“Lambs are temperamental and require more attention,” she said. “They’re really not the smartest animals.”
The fair will be open every day at Jack Brooks Park in Hitchcock until April 21. Events and shows take place on various days and a full schedule is available at galvestoncountyfair.com.
Encounters with injured birds are more likely as the coast plays host for the next three months to feathered tourists making a long migration north.
On Sunday, the Galveston Bay Injured Bird Response Team — headed by Tiki Island resident Tim Long and Josh Henderson of the Galveston Police Department’s Animal Control Division — hosted a training session at Moody Gardens Aquarium, giving pointers for experienced and would-be bird rescuers. No birds were used in the training.
Capturing and moving injured birds is a delicate, and sometimes dangerous, process, experts said. But the efforts of locals have saved hundreds of birds along the coast in recent years, they said.
Many of those birds have been successful rehabilitated at the Wildlife Center of Texas in Houston and released back into the wild.
There was at least one sure way to know whether a bird needed help, Long said.
“If you can capture a bird, there’s something wrong with it,” he said.
Between January 2017 and this month, the Galveston Bay Injured Bird Response Team rescued more than 400 birds of more than 70 different species, Long said.
The team launched its network of more than 40 volunteers in 2017 to help meet the demands of an area that is home to many birds. It works with animal control, the Galveston Island Humane Society, the Wildlife Center of Texas and other related groups, Long said.
The first step for most people encountering an injured bird is to contact the appropriate people, such as those at an animal control or a wildlife center.
But Henderson offered pointers to more than two dozen attendees for how to handle a capture.
Henderson has learned a few tricks in his more than a decade as an animal control officer.
Protecting eyes with sunglasses or other glass or googles can prevent a disaster from a scared bird with a powerful beak or talons, he said. The same was true about wearing protective gloves, even just cheap leather gloves or basic gardening gloves for smaller birds, he said. Long sleeves help prevent scratches, he said.
“Even cuddly looking birds have weapons,” Henderson said.
Tightly woven nets can be used for capturing a bird, but it shouldn’t be kept or transported in a net because its limbs could get stuck, Henderson said. Cast nets, which anglers use to catch baitfish, should never be used, he said.
A sheet or light towel is the best tool for getting the bird to a safe cardboard box with air holes and space for it to move comfortable, but not so big the bird loses body heat, he said. Crumpled newspaper inside the transporting box helps keep the bird from getting covered in its inevitable excrement, Henderson said.
Pelicans in particular carry lice and sometimes ticks, Henderson said. But people have lower body temperatures than birds, so lice aren’t much interested in leaving birds for people, he said.
A dark box will often calm a bird, but he warned volunteers some maybe frightened and try to escape. In that case, use duct tape to wrap the box.
Take notes about the condition of the bird, which will later help the people doing the rehabilitation, he said. It’s important not the “overhandle” the bird, he said. For instance, don’t grasp around its keel bone, or sternum, which restricts its breathing, he said.
Some waterbirds, like pelicans, are mouth-breathers so animal control experts don’t hold their beaks closed, he said.
Still, Henderson recommended observing if the bird looked underweight and where it had sustained injuries, he said.
“You’re the first person to put hands on the bird, get as much info as you can,” he said.
Texas City remembers the 1947 disaster that killed hundreds.
The Santa Fe Independent School District is adding a $23 million elementary building to accommodate the city’s growing population.
The elementary school, 11818 FM 1764, is scheduled for completion by May 2019 and will house 800 students, district officials said.
The district is paying for the school with money from a $35 million bond issue voters approved in 2016, Assistant Superintendent Patti Hanssard said.
“Current enrollment and potential planned residential developments validated the immediate need for a new elementary school,” she said. “In March of 2016, a long-range planning committee worked to identify and prioritize district facility needs and recommended the bond for a new elementary school with no tax rate increase.”
Growing population numbers prove the need for a new building, said Jodi Gidley, executive director of the Santa Fe ISD Education Foundation.
“We have two elementary schools and that’s all we have,” she said. “Right now, we house prekindergarten through fifth grade in two buildings.”
Santa Fe had a population of 12,222 in 2010 and that number grew to about 13,200 in 2016, according to U.S. Census data.
The city has been needing a new school building for a few years now, Mayor Jeff Tambrella said.
“Even when my kids were growing up, the schools were getting full,” he said. “This was actually a definite need and there’s still so much growth that’s coming. They are just happening to plan for the future.”
The school district continues to grow to meet the education demands of the swelling community, Santa Fe Education Foundation board member Paula Heilman said.
“Santa Fe is growing slowly, but it’s growing and the city is doing a good job at thinking ahead,” Heilman said.
Santa Fe ISD plans a groundbreaking ceremony at 5 p.m. April 24 at 11818 FM 1764.
Meet the 2018 NIE Teacher of the Year along with some of the best and brightest students from high schools across the county. » A9