Weatherford Democrat

February 10, 2014

Deep Water

Who's to blame for McDavid Springs dam failure?

Weatherford Democrat


Late last March Jake MacLeod and his wife, Connie, purchased a house and land valued at more than half a million dollars on River Creek Lane, just east of the McDavid Springs subdivision at FM Road 5 and Thunderhead Lane.

The house, built in 2001 and sited on four acres, had plenty of room for the grandchildren to play. A small rock-lined creek wound through the back yard, draining into Turkey Creek.

MacLeod didn’t learn of the potential for runoff from the neighboring residential development until after he closed, revisiting the Seller’s Disclosure Notice later to note that a question about previous flooding onto the property had been left unanswered.

He certainly didn’t expect the torrent of water that raced through his back yard on the evening of May 15, when an earthen dam mitigating the flow from a McDavid Springs catchment pond collapsed during a heavy rain, making the water’s release instantaneous.

“It was like a water cannon hitting my property,” said MacLeod, who believes, based on his estimate of the pond’s capacity, that almost two million gallons of water swept through his land.

The flood waters, captured on camera, spared MacLeod’s house by some 20 to 30 feet but disturbed stones and deposited sediment in the creek, ruined a bush hog, damaged a fence and flooded his septic field, according to MacLeod, inflicting some $10,000 worth of damage.

“I continue to get damage every time it rains more than a half inch,” MacLeod said. “There is no way for the creek on my property to handle the capacity.”

MacLeod has spent the last eight months searching for a remedy, finding others sympathetic but unwilling to foot the bill to repair the approximately 6-foot-high dam, which formerly shunted runoff through two pipes at its base — one large, one small.

He would also like to see the runoff re-directed to Turkey Creek by burying a pipe in a nearby power utility easement.

“All recognize that it’s a problem,” he said, “but all say, ‘It’s not mine.’”

The 2-acre lot that includes the drainage pond and dam has changed hands several times, MacLeod said, complicating resolution.

A plat filed in Parker County of McDavid Springs shows Kevin Jones, of KG Group, as the lot’s developer and owner in the fall of 2008, when the pond and dam were built.

The Parker County Appraisal District lists KG Group’s sale of the lot as June 30, 2011, followed by Aledo V Holdings, LP’s sale of the lot to North Texas Maverick Builders on May 10, 2013, a few days before the dam on the lot gave way.

Design issues?

MacLeod speculates the pond’s capacity was insufficient from the start, but said he has not been able to review the design of the engineer of record, Ed Childress, of SD Engineering, Inc.

Childress did not respond to Feb. 2 and Feb. 5 calls from the Democrat.

MacLeod said Judd Jordan of Jordan Construction — who built the pond and dam— told him he advised Jones that the pond should be deeper and would require digging through rock.

When asked by the Democrat to confirm the interchange, however, Jones said he had no comment, and Jordan didn’t recall the conversation.

“I don’t remember if I called and told Kevin Jones that the pond wasn’t deep enough,” he said. “It’s been too long ago.”

Jordan sidestepped questions from the Democrat about whether he built the dam and pond according to Childress’ design, though MacLeod’s August 21, 2013 journal entry states that Jordan told MacLeod that he did.  

“I built them like the owner — Kevin Jones — told me to,” Jordan told the Democrat, adding that, “He [Jones] quit paying the bills. If you don’t get paid, you quit working.”

Jordan pointed out that no drainage problems had been noted until five years after the construction.

“You can’t design it to handle every situation,” he said. “It wouldn’t matter if it were bigger or deeper; there’s only so much water it can hold.

“That little spot behind his back yard is choked down with vegetation. It got washed out because it was not maintained. He needs to make his channel wider and straighter.”

Kim Gill, doing business as Aledo V Holdings, LP, held the lot as an investment for two years, he said, purchasing it from Aledo National Bank and selling it to North Texas Maverick Builders, LP in 2013, close to the time the dam collapsed.

Now president of Sable Development in Colleyville, Gill said he has spent “a few thousand dollars” trying to help, not because he believes he’s responsible, but because “it’s the right thing to do.”

“I’ve engaged my engineer and my surveyor to topo the area and see what needs to be put back at my expense,” he said, contending the dam failed because “it was not designed or built properly.”

“I’m hoping Childress will come up with what he’s liable for. He designed it. I think he should come up with the money for the improvements.”

Lee Hughes, of Maverick Homes, is the current owner of the lot. Hughes told the Democrat that he believed the company purchased it May 24, after the May 15 dam collapse, perhaps because the deed was notarized at that time. The deed states, however, that it was effective on May 10, five days before the collapse.

Hughes said Maverick Homes didn’t own the lot at the time of the incident and said the issue was between MacLeod and Gill.

“We would certainly look at it if we have any liability, ” he replied when asked what the company would do if the flooding continues. “We haven’t done any improvements to the lot.”

Hughes said MacLeod’s house is located in a flood plain, though current Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) maps indicate otherwise.

“I don’t know if there is a problem,” Hughes said. “Water is supposed to flow there. It’s been fine for seven years — until he moved in.”

Kirk Fuqua, director of permitting for Parker County, which regulates all development within the special flood hazard area, said the county is required to do a drainage study if a flood plain is involved in a subdivision.

McDavid Springs did have a flood study done, he said, but the FEMA maps changed after that.

“It’s not a wide area,” he said, “so all the lots have land available to build on that are not in the flood plain.”

Fuqua said the county reviews the drainage studies done by developers as part of the planning that allows it to regulate septic systems.

“I look at them, but I’m not an engineer,” he said. “The county doesn’t inspect drainage work.”

MacLeod filed a complaint with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality on June 14, 2013, a month after the flooding incident, alleging the McDavid Springs catchment pond was improperly sized, resulting in drainage too heavy for the receiving area.

He claimed off-site damage, according to TCEQ spokesperson Lisa Wheeler, and an investigation showed the pond had indeed been breached during a storm event.

MacLeod was told, however, that off-site flooding and water volume issues were outside the purview of the current Construction General Permit, Wheeler emailed, which does not require that water drainage volumes be returned to a pre-construction level.

Wheeler said TCEQ was working to determine the ownership /operational control of the pond at the time of the investigation and whether the pond had been represented as a basin for catching sediment.

Per MacLeod’s request, she said, he has received the Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan from current operator Maverick Homes, as well as the inspection reports required by the Construction General Permit.

A final investigation report was to be approved by Feb. 7, but it was unavailable at presstime because TCEQ offices were closed due to inclement weather.

MacLeod said he has a lawyer but is reluctant to go down that path.

“I have never sued anyone in my life,” he said. “I don’t want to start now, but I don’t know if there’s an alternative. It’s a hard situation here. Everyone says it isn’t right.