Making Community Possible
The following information provides a birds-eye-view of the history of Big Oaks MUD. This has been pulled from various sources, including but not limited to the District’s Engineer, the District’s Operator, the Official Statement regarding the District’s 1997 bonds, MUD Board minutes, Government websites, and other sources as noted. Many of the statements are general in nature and some of the dates are approximate.
The Big Oaks Municipal Utility District (“the District”) was created by order of the Texas Water Commission, predecessor to the Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission (“TNRCC”). The District is wholly within the extraterritorial jurisdiction of the City of Houston and is subject to the continuing supervision of the TNRCC. The original size of the District was 202.67 acres, including 155.6 developable acres, 8.3 acres for a detention pond, 3.1 acres for a recreational preserve, and 33.9 undevelopable acres consisting of right-of-ways, drainage easements, and landscape reserves.
The yet-to-be-developed neighborhood within the District was to be known as West Oaks Village. Original construction plans were for West Oaks Village Section 1 only.
Twin Oaks Village did not as yet exist; the undeveloped land south of West Oaks Village (that eventually became Twin Oaks Village) was not originally part of Big Oaks MUD. The original Big Oaks MUD boundary matched the boundary for all of the planned West Oaks Village.
A Water Plant (Phase 1), Sanitary Sewer, and Storm Water Detention & Pump Station were built. Original plans for development in West Oaks Village had significant projections for water demand. Accordingly, the initial water plant was much larger than was needed for a single family residential neighborhood.
Proceeds from the sale of the District’s Series 1986 Bonds were for the financing of underground water, sanitary sewer, and drainage facilities in West Oaks Village Section 1, consisting of 31.7 acres.
Westmoor Drive was begun.
The District created the Big Oaks Property Development Corporation (“the Corporation”).
Due to the nationwide economic crisis and general collapse of the Real Estate market, the District did not have sufficient tax revenue and defaulted in the payment of principal and interest towards the previously sold Series 1986 Bonds. The land and assets of the District were eventually transferred to the Federal Government’s Resolution Trust Corporation (“RTC”). In a settlement with the RTC, the Corporation acquired the development from the RTC.
The Corporation conveyed the land to the District and became dormant.
1464 Development Partners, a Texas Limited Partnership (“the Developer”), was formed to acquire and develop residential lots within the District. Water Well #2 was built.
The District sold Series 1995 Bonds; these proceeds refunded and annulled all of the Series 1986 Bonds. Homebuilding in West Oaks Village began.
Water, Sanitary Sewer, and Drainage facilities were built for West Oaks Village Section 2.
The District entered into an agreement with the Developer for potable water (provided by a well on District land), sanitary sewage and treatment (using a type of leased sewer treatment facility sometimes referred to as a “Package Plant”), drainage, and other facilities to serve the land in the District.
A temporary water plant was constructed that could treat 75,000 gallons per day. Sometime after that, it was expanded to treat 200,000 gallons per day.
Potable Water, Sanitary Sewer, and Storm Drainage facilities were built for West Oaks Village Sections 3 & 4.
Underground water, sewage, and drainage facilities were considered sufficient by the District’s Engineer for West Oaks Village Sections 1, 2, 3, & 4. Also according to the District’s Engineer, all of the developed and developable land within the District was above the 100 year flood plain elevation as designated by the Federal Emergency Management (“FEMA”) in September, 1992.
The original Stormwater Pump Station (circa 1984) was abandoned. In the retention pond located on the north side of West Oaks Village, a flap gate and gravity storm drainage pipe were installed under what would eventually become the Westpark Tollway.
The gravity storm drainage pipe allows the District’s excess storm water to run north from the retention pond to the drainage canal that runs outside of the southern border of George Bush Park. Water released from the District does not go into the Reservoir. The drainage canal continues east towards Highway 6, then north where it empties into Buffalo Bayou at Memorial Drive.
The Developer that finished West Oaks Village purchased the land that was to become Twin Oaks Village and petitioned the District’s Board of Directors to annex this land into the District. The land for Twin Oaks Village was subsequently added to the District.
The Potable Water Plant was expanded in 1999 as a result of the annexation. The expansion was initially paid for by the Developer who was subsequently reimbursed by the District. Since the existing water plant was significantly oversized for West Oaks Village, the District allowed this surplus capacity to serve Twin Oaks Village.
The development of Twin Oaks Village initially utilized water plant capacity without paying for the existing capacity. However, the new development did help defray operational costs as well as add taxable value to the District. This ultimately assisted in retiring the debt associated with the Water Plant.
The first section of Twin Oaks Village was developed.
The Waste Water Treatment Plant was expanded from 200,000 gallons per day to 300,000 gallons per day to accommodate the annexation of Twin Oaks Village. This was the first phase of the permanent concrete plant. It is a type of sewage treatment known as an Activated Sludge Plant. The expansion was initially paid for by the Developer who was subsequently reimbursed by the District.
The Waste Water Treatment Plant was expanded to 500,000 gallons per day. This was paid for by the Developer who was subsequently reimbursed by the District.
The North Fort Bend Water Authority (NFBWA) was created by the Texas Legislature. See the NFBWA website for more information. https://www.nfbwa.com/
The Waste Water Treatment Plant was expanded to 600,000 gallons per day and the temporary steel tanks were removed. This work was paid for by the District with funds acquired through a bond sale.
Big Oaks MUD connected to the North Fort Bend Water Authority’s (NFBWA) distribution lines and started receiving NFBWA surface water as the primary source of water. The District disinfection process converted from Chlorination to Chloramination. It is typical to change the disinfection process when converting from groundwater to surface water.
The following is an excerpt from an EPA article titled “Chloramines in Drinking Water”. https://www.epa.gov/dwreginfo/chloramines-drinking-water
Chloramines (also known as secondary disinfection) are disinfectants used to treat drinking water. They are most commonly formed when ammonia is added to chlorine to treat drinking water. Chloramines provide longer-lasting disinfection as the water moves through pipes to consumers.
Chloramines have been used by water utilities since the 1930s. More than one in five Americans use drinking water treated with chloramines. Water that contains chloramines and meets EPA regulatory standards is safe for drinking, cooking, bathing, and other household uses.
The two older lift stations (lift stations 1 & 2) had activated charcoal canisters added to their venting systems in 2014, while the newest lift station (lift station 3) in Twin Oaks Village was originally designed with a charcoal canister. The charcoal canisters help reduce sewer odors from the lift stations.
Throughout the District, underground sanitary sewer lines are gravity-driven; that is, they are sloped downwards towards the Sewer Treatment Plant. Once the lowest practical level is reached, the lift stations move the wastewater from the lower level to a higher level that will again be useful in the gravity-driven process.
Though Hurricane Harvey was not a District event, it greatly impacted the District, and is accordingly reviewed here at a high level.
The following is an excerpt from Wikipedia:
Hurricane Harvey was a Category 4 hurricane that made landfall on Texas and Louisiana in August 2017, causing catastrophic flooding and more than 100 deaths across both States. It inflicted $125 billion (2017 USD) in damage, primarily from catastrophic rainfall-triggered flooding in the Houston metropolitan area and Southeast Texas. In a four-day period, many areas received more than 40 inches of rain as the system moved slowly over eastern Texas and adjacent waters, causing unprecedented flooding. With peak rainfall of 60.58 inches in Nederland, Texas, Harvey was the wettest tropical cyclone on record in the United States. The resulting floods inundated hundreds of thousands of homes, which displaced more than 30,000 people and prompted more than 17,000 rescues.
Big Oaks MUD’s storm drainage system was engineered to effectively handle approximately 12 inches of rain in a 24 hour period, which is a very large amount of rain. During Harvey, however, the extreme and totally unprecedented rain amounts overwhelmed the District’s storm drainage and the drainage canal outside George Bush Park into which the District’s outflow runs. The drainage canal was so impacted by the rainfall that it would no longer accept the District’s outflow and, in fact, tried to flow back into Big Oaks MUD. That drainage canal winds its way north to Buffalo Bayou and none of it is under the control of Big Oaks MUD. Though it greatly affected Big Oaks MUD, that type of flooding is a regional issue that is beyond the control of Big Oaks MUD.
The District has cleaned and inspected key portions of the storm sewer system before and after Hurricane Harvey. The District inspects and cleans the trunk storm sewers on a periodic basis to allow them to work at their designed capacity. Though the District has looked for ways to significantly increase that designed capacity, none is practical.
2017 – 2018
Water Plant inspections and rehabilitation included the Water Tanks.
The District’s water meters were becoming obsolete and increasingly inefficient. All water meters in the District were removed and replaced with “Smart Meters”.
An addition to the Sewer Treatment Plant known as a Waste Water Thickener will improve the efficiency of the processes that separate untreated wastewater from wastewater solids. The Thickener will reduce the amount of waste that must be regularly hauled off from the STP, thereby helping to limit ever-increasing sludge hauling costs. There will be some operational efficiencies created; while they will not reduce operating costs, the plant will function more consistently. The waste treatment process will be more forgiving and there will be a reduction in potential odor from the plant.
General Notes adapted from the District’s Engineer:
Construction materials used for potable water lines, sanitary sewer lines, and storm sewer lines have changed over the years. As early parts of West Oaks Village were developed, the older style materials were used for water lines and sanitary sewer lines. These have proven to have a shorter life cycle than newer plastic materials.
Water lines in the 1980’s were typically constructed using a type of cement pipe. This pipe is very brittle and does not perform well in the soil in the Houston area, causing many water line breaks especially during the summer months. Now water lines are constructed using PVC pipe that performs significantly better over time.
Common sanitary sewer lines in the 1980’s used truss pipe; since then, PVC has been used for this type of sewer line. Truss pipe has proven to fail in the soil conditions in the Houston area. These soil conditions cause cracking of the pipe, thus allowing the unwanted infiltration of ground water into the sanitary sewer system. Typically, fittings were not used for the connection from the customers’ sewer plumbing; this also allows the unwanted infiltration of ground water into the sanitary sewer system. All unwanted water intrusion increases the load on the Sewer Treatment Plant.
PVC pipe is water tight and the connections are made with fittings. As a result, the systems have fewer opportunities for failures. With PVC pipe, there is a reduction in unwanted flow to the wastewater treatment plant.
The Developers of West Oaks Village and Twin Oaks Village constructed the streets to Fort Bend County’s standards throughout the development of both subdivisions. Over time, the County accepted the streets into their maintenance logs, and now all streets within the District are under the County’s maintenance purview. This process is commonly referred to as “deeding the streets to the County.”