Residents along bayou fight to keep homes

April 26, 2010 3:47:06 PM PDT
People who live along Hunting Bayou in northeast Houston are fighting to save their homes. The county has plans to widen and deepen the bayou, and that means dozens of homes have to go. Residents in the Kashmere Garden community plan to fight the project.

Just thinking about it is more than Deal Hemphill can stand. For 60 years, she's lived in a house in Kashmere Gardens. She's raised her children there and doesn't want to move.

"They want both my whole lot, my house and everything. It's because they say the need it all," she said. "My issue is where would I go and get another home? I'm too old to have a mortgage."

Part of Hunting Bayou is about to change. The Harris County Flood Control District says the section of waterway between Highway 59 and Wayside needs to be deepened and widened to create better water flow, especially during heavy rain.

Approximately 40 homes are identified by Harris County Flood Control as part of imminent domain, meaning the county will purchase the land and homes for fair market value. By doing so, officials say about 5,000 homes will be out of the flood plain and out of danger of flooding.

"Our goal is to increase to try to keep the storm water contained in the bayou," said Heather Saucier with the Harris County Flood Control District. "We don't want to get the rainstorms where we get a lot of rain in a very short period of time and then have the water overflow from the bayous and into houses."

Neighbors like Deborah Butler agree Hunting Bayou needs improvement, but says she doesn't want to lose 30 feet of her property. She has another idea.

"We have a problem here with people dumping and I have pictures of people who have dumped old baskets that have been there for years," she said. "That's what's backing up the bayou."

The plan has been approved by Harris County Commissioners. But that won't stop residents from going to commissioners court on Tuesday.


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