Cover Story: Fighting for Control

Buffalo Bayou has been a controversy that hits at the very heart of Houston for decades.

It all started in the 1960s, when a group of concerned citizens, mostly wealthy and well-connected, learned that the Harris County Flood Control District planned to cement and channelize a vein of Buffalo Bayou lined with forest that still snaked through Houston. The project was abandoned then, but now there's another project proposed by Harris County Flood Control, the Memorial Park Demonstration Project.

The Memorial Park Demonstration Project is being pitched by the folks at Harris County Flood Control District as a way to stop erosion and improve water quality, but some of the people who have worked for decades to preserve this section of Buffalo Bayou have their doubts.

Jim Blackburn, a Houston environmental lawyer, started working to protect Buffalo Bayou when he first began working in Houston in the 1970s. He has questions about the methods proposed for the Memorial Park Demonstration Project that no one has answered to his satisfaction yet, he said. The project may decrease erosion and improve water quality, but the cost of that is unclear, Blackburn said.

"On one hand, you want more capacity for the water Buffalo Bayou handles, but on the other hand, to get that capacity you might have a major impact on this green space which is a defining central aspect of the city," Blackburn said. "This is almost the perfect playing out of every problem in Houston. In this one situation, you've got almost every conflict and strength of the city with a choice between two important directions. You've got a choice between two important directions."

Read about it in this week's cover story.

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