SUMMER SPLASH: Big Rivers Waterpark starting to take shape

NEW CANEY, Texas (KTRK) -- New images from the Big Rivers Waterpark site seem to show new attractions magically rising out of the dirt.SkyEye13 flew over the Grand Texas development in New Caney Thursday, where construction crews have been working since December. Developers announced Thursday the waterpark just received a new infusion of cash to help their doors open in time for summer.North Avenue Capital says Big Rivers received a $10 million loan this week, while the neighboring Gator Bayou Adventure Park and Trio Parking each received a $5 million loan.The amusements and attractions are expected to bring a lot of business to the area, just north of Houston."The new parks will create more than 300 full-time and part-time jobs in this community," said Alex Louis, NAC managing partner.Grand Texas CEO Monty Galland said the opening of Big Rivers Waterpark will help attract a lot of attention to the New Caney area. "Adding Big Rivers and Gator Bayou to the existing Speedsportz Racing Park and Grand Texas RV Resort will make Grand Texas one of the most exciting destinations in Houston," Galland said.Grand Texas breaks ground for Big Rivers Waterpark in New Caney Have the need for speed? Try SpeedSportz Racing Park Continue Reading

Messenger: Landmark ruling cements flooding reality: The Missouri River needs room to roam

Seven years ago, David Shorr gave me some good advice.I was in the middle of writing a three-part editorial series on the historic conundrum of Missouri River flooding, and the former director of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, now an attorney in private practice who often represents agricultural interests, told me to play nice.Missouri River politics are nasty and often end up in the muck that gives the Big Muddy its name. Farmers are pitted against environmentalists. Upper Basin states like the Dakotas battle with Lower Basin states like Missouri. About the only unifying factor is that nearly everybody blames the U.S. Corps of Engineers for, well, everything. And so it was in federal court this week.In a potentially landmark case, federal Senior Judge Nancy Firestone ruled in favor of farmers and against the federal government and environmental interests in a lawsuit that could cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. The farmers and other business interests charge that, in an attempt to produce river flows that would improve habitat for certain endangered species in the Missouri River, such as the pallid sturgeon, the federal government contributed to flooding that devastated farms.The farmers, many of them in Missouri, are calling that an illegal “taking” of their property and are seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation.In 2011, as one of the floods that led to the lawsuit was swamping farmland and cities across the Midwest headed toward St. Louis, Shorr asked me to see things from the farmers' standpoint. He knew that I tended to believe — and still do — that the agricultural industry's insistence that the Missouri River be maintained for navigation was a major contributor to increased flooding. Try not to pit farmers vs. environmentalists, Shorr suggested.Today, I'm following his advice.Most environmentalists I've talked to believe Firestone's ruling is abhorrent. Here's Brad Walker, the Continue Reading

Nick Nolte and his little-known Iowa upbringing reveals love of rivers and football

Nick Nolte was an Iowa kid. Who knew? In Iowans’ zeal to follow stars with roots here, not much has been written about the Oscar-nominated actor’s upbringing in Iowa.Until he did it himself.His memoir released this week, “Rebel: My Life Outside the Lines” (William Morrow), details his time in Ames as the son of an Iowa State University football player, and his junior high football skills in Waterloo.Nolte, 76, became a tough-guy actor who made a splash in 1979 with, appropriately, a football movie —  “North Dallas Forty.” He went on to critical acclaim in films such as “Prince of Tides” and “Affliction,” roles that earned him Oscar nominations. He was often the all-American man’s man who smoldered with a kind of volatile wound, even in romps like “48 Hours” with Eddie Murphy.Now he writes about where all that eccentric passion originated — right here in Iowa — in a chapter called “Corn-fed.” FAMOUS IOWANS: Get sucked in — we have hundreds of profiles His dad, Franklin Arthur Nolte, was a huge, 6-foot-6, 260-pound farmer’s son who lettered at ISU in football from 1929 to 1931, got a degree in engineering and met his mother, also an ISU student. But Nick Nolte’s earliest memories of his father was his return from World War II. The house in Ames buzzed with anticipation, he wrote:“But then the front door opened and a skeleton walked in.” The terror of the war, fighting the Japanese and malaria “reduced him to a sack of bones.”The war deeply affected his dad, and like many in his generation, Nolte wrote, he lost faith in man so retreated to conformity and repressed emotions to deal with it. His mother, Helen King Nolte, made up for it with her rebellious nature and creativity, the daughter of ISU engineering professors who thought that “imagination was the only crop worth Continue Reading

Coach Doc Rivers explains what Clippers miss with DeAndre Jordan out with injury

DeAndre Jordan worked out before Monday night’s game, shooting, running, doing his normal drills, but the Clippers center still missed his second consecutive game with a sprained left ankle. Coach Doc Rivers seemed certain that Jordan wouldn’t play Wednesday night against the Denver Nuggets, either. But Rivers was hopeful that Jordan would play Saturday night at Utah. “My guess is just watching him move around, I can’t imagine him playing for a couple of days,” Rivers said. “I would be surprised [if he played] Wednesday. So let’s go with Saturday. That would be my guess.” With Jordan out, the Clippers have turned to backup centers Willie Reed and Montrezl Harrell to hold things down. But the Clippers miss a lot when the 6-foot-11 Jordan doesn’t play. “You just lose the roll game, the athleticism,” Rivers said. “DJ has the ability to rebound and then outrun his big [man] down the floor. Montrezl can do a little bit of that. He just doesn’t have the explosiveness obviously that DJ has, and Willie just plays a different game. He’s more of a positional big.” Rivers said the Clippers also miss Jordan’s offense. It’s more than just Jordan averaging a double-double with 11.8 points and 14.9 rebounds per game. It’s Jordan setting solid screens. It’s him rolling down the lane for lob dunks. It’s him rim-running for dunks. “DJ means so much to your team offensively than anybody ever gives him credit for,” Rivers said. “He’s one of the better defensive players in the league and everyone just keeps talking defense, and that’s fine. But he really does affect your offense a lot when he’s not on the floor.” The Clippers are used to Jordan being on the floor. He’d played every game this season prior to his ankle injury and 398 out of 404 games the past five seasons. More injury updates Rivers said the team hopes Continue Reading

Ted Evanoff: Big River forges ahead, Harvard Tech ambles behind

Just when it looked like the pair of “Jeopardy!” champions were unbeatable, IBM Corp. engineers put their powerful computer, named Watson, on the TV quiz show. Guess who won?Yes, Watson.Since the machine beat the men in the televised stunt nearly six years ago, talk in Memphis and America has heated up about what follows Watson — robots, algorithms, artificial intelligence and possible dread among millions of future workers uprooted by smart machines.Now, near Memphis in the Arkansas Delta, the world has the latest example of a unique smart machine, a $1.3 billion steel mill just opened by Big River Steel LLC.“This is going to give Big River’s people super power,” said former IBM Watson global  implementation leader Stephen Pratt, now head of Noodle, the San Francisco designer of the new mill’s artificial intelligence system.He’s talking about an electronic brain inside the steel mill able to do real chores. One: sniff out flaws in newly poured steel, find the production line error, correct the process and learn to keep it from happening again.For four years, Memphians have been trying to train people precisely for high-tech jobs in modern plants like this one. But in a region considered short on well-trained industrial workers, Memphis hasn’t seen a slew of big factories open since the trio five years ago came along — Electrolux, KTG paper and Mitsubishi Electric. And now the industrial training initiative known as Harvard Tech appears only to amble along, while upriver in a Delta town an unusual steel mill studded with sensors and technology has opened.Big River, considered the world’s most modern steel mill, has started a new chapter in manufacturing. Something like Siri — the voice in your smart phone, but actually a series of algorithms — watches over the scrap feeds, conveyors, chemical pipes and machinery making molten metal and rolling it out in Continue Reading

Mission 1: New York Jets must rein in San Diego Chargers QB Philip Rivers

With his play this season, Rivers deserves to be ranked in the pantheon of great quarterbacks in the NFL. The third member of that great quarterback class of 2004, he should someday ditch his bridesmaid role and join Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning as ring bearers. Sunday against the Jets is as good a chance as any, but first he'll have to get past the No. 1 defense in the league.To stop him and beat the Chargers, the Jets have to play like the No. 1 defense from the start of the game. If the Chargers start fast and Mark Sanchez is drawn into a shootout with Rivers, the Jets will lose and maybe lose big.Rivers isn't pretty. He has an unorthodox, almost sidearm, delivery with a shoulder-level release point. He should have more passes batted down, but his 6-5 frame makes up for much of his low release. He also has a strong arm and throws every pass with velocity and accuracy. What's more, he plays with a linebacker's mentality and competitiveness. His TD-to-INT ratio - 28-to-9 - is staggering. As the Giants found out, even when he's having a subpar day, he seems to get it done when the game is on the line. The Jets' secondary includes arguably the league's best shutdown corner in Darrelle Revis and a savvy playoff veteran in Lito Sheppard. Free safety Jim Leonhard plays bigger than his 5-8 stature. Strong safety Kerry Rhodes, the only starting DB with any height at 6-3, has regained his starting role, but can be exploited. The Jets, however, aren't the No. 1 pass defense by personnel alone. A lot of their success has to do with their variety of looks and combination coverages - and the blitz.It's the Jets' calling card, Rex Ryan's way of putting his bravado into action. The Jets must get to Rivers with the blitz or he will slice them up, doing a fly-by over Revis Island if necessary. And they must be creative because Rivers' numbers against the blitz are impressive, including a 104 passer rating. While 12 of 25 sacks against Rivers came when defenses have sent Continue Reading

Steven Matz already a big hit with Mets in debut

It took seven more innings of Mets hitting futility, in a suspended game that got suspended far longer than most everyone’s tolerance level could bear, before Steven Matz was finally able to make his much-anticipated major-league debut Sunday – and see firsthand for himself what an exasperating challenge it is to pitch for his hometown team. How fortunate it is that the most lethal weapon in the kid’s impressive arsenal may just be his bat. RELATED: MATZ LOOKS GREAT IN DEBUT - BUT WHO DOES HE LOOK LIKE? Those 29,635 fans who came to Citi Field expecting to see the breakneck curve, the 95-plus fastball and the plus changeup that had accounted for a Pacific Coast League-leading 2.19 ERA and 94 strikeouts got the full quota as Matz, after being welcomed to the bigs with a homer by Brandon Phillips, the first batter he faced, settled in and limited the Reds to five hits and two runs until Terry Collins finally came to get him with two outs in the eighth inning. But when they talk about this game years from now, none of that will be remembered. No, all anyone will remember about Steven Matz’s first major league game is how he took it upon himself, with his bat, to make sure it would also result in his first major-league victory. RELATED: WILMER FLORES MOVES BACK TO SECOND BASE We’ll never know if, after the Mets took four extra innings in which they stranded six more baserunners (19 for the game) before finally squeezing out their third straight victory in the completion of Saturday’s suspended game, one of the Mets pitchers – Matt Harvey would be a likely candidate – came to Matz and counseled him with something like: “This is the way it is around here. Get used to it. We have to do everything.” All we know is Matz made baseball and Met history Sunday, becoming the 11th player – and first pitcher — in Continue Reading

With QBs Drew Brees and Philip Rivers possibly in mix, Jets could make moves

Philip Rivers once replaced Drew Brees in San Diego and the two are better than any quarterback the Jets have had since Joe Namath. Connect the dots and it’s not impossible by the time the Jets are on the clock with the sixth pick in the first round on April 30 they will have to make this decision: Rivers or Marcus Mariota? Or: Brees or Mariota? RELATED: NFL MOCK DRAFT Rivers has one year left on his contract and said he has no intention of signing an extension before the end of the 2015 season in part because of the uncertainty of whether the Chargers will be playing in Los Angeles in 2016. Maybe he doesn’t love L.A., but could he love the New Jersey countryside for his wife and kids? Rivers turned 33 in December and has some very good years remaining. Tom Brady won his fourth Super Bowl at the age of 37. Peyton Manning threw an NFL-record 55 TDs when he was 37. San Diego has a private workout planned for Mariota. He has already worked out for the Titans (second overall pick) and will work out for the Bucs (first pick) and Jets. The Chargers are way down at No. 17, which means if they plan to draft Mariota, the spread-offense QB from Oregon, they will have to trade up to get him. Mariota fever is starting to grip the league, and if the Jets want him, they might have to move up. But, just for fun, let’s say he’s still on the board at No. 6. What if the Chargers offered Rivers for the Jets’ pick? I would do it in a second. Mariota is going to be a star, and he’s much better than anything the Jets have, but Rivers is a sure thing. Rivers is making $15.75 million this season and San Diego can keep him next year with the franchise tag. If he does get traded — and the Mariota workout is the reason to believe San Diego would listen to offers — then the Jets would want to sign him to an extension to lower his cap number and make sure they have him for more Continue Reading

Melissa Rivers says Jay Leno snubbed her after her mom, Joan River’s, death

Even in death, Joan Rivers can't get any respect from Jay Leno. The late comedian's daughter, Melissa, told Howard Stern that Leno snubbed her in December at the Hollywood Reporter Women in Entertainment breakfast, just two months after her mother's passing. "I walk in, and I'm standing, having a coffee in the reception area, and Jay looks right at me, and looks away," Rivers said on Stern's radio show Wednesday. EXCLUSIVE: MELISSA RIVERS TALKS ABOUT MOTHER'S DEATH "I sort of wrestled with this. Don't you think you still walk over and say, 'I'm so sorry about your loss, how are you doing?' Or, 'I know there was an issue, but please accept my condolences?' It would have been closure, and it would have been the right thing to do." The elder Rivers died at the age of 81 last September, after complications from an apparently botched endoscopy in a New York City clinic a week earlier. During Leno's 20-year run as host of "The Tonight Show," he never invited Joan Rivers on his show. The long-running snub carried over from his mentor, Johnny Carson, who feuded with Rivers over her decision to leave the "Tonight Show" to start her own late night series on rival Fox. But a rep for Leno insists the whole flap is just a big misunderstanding. "If he made eye contact with her, he didn't recognize it was Melissa, the rep told US Weekly. "Had he done so, he would've come over to extend his condolences. He apologizes if she was offended, but he did not realize it was Melissa." Continue Reading

Big-talking Bill leaves city’s future to the imagination

In his mayoral campaign, Bill de Blasio made bold promises to apply progressive values to transform New York for the better. Now, he’s promising even more — more than anyone could ever imagine. Sixteen months into his mayoralty, de Blasio Wednesday published a sprawling array of intentions in a mission statement that amounted to 322 pages of “huh?” because the grandeur of his goals far exceeded the credibility of his plans for getting from here to there. Following his lead, the mayor says that New York will pull 800,000 souls out of poverty within 10 years, eliminate all the garbage now shipped out for disposal within 15 years, reduce by 25% the number of New Yorkers who die too soon within 25 years and extend the No. 3 and 4 subways to the far reaches of Brooklyn’s Utica Ave. someday. He says New York will also reduce unnecessary incarceration, deliver cheap broadband to all, open breastfeeding rooms, repair public housing’s chronically leaky roofs and become a city whose residents eat lots more fruits and vegetables. RELATED: DE BLASIO SHOWS 'ONE NEW YORK' PLAN FOR POVERTY, AIR, SUBWAY And so much more, in a game plan that conquers environmental ills and social inequality in one giant swoop. Where to begin? Not with funding, details of which were nonexistent. Nor with benchmarks for measuring progress because those, too, were largely absent. Nor with persuasive, confidence-building evidence that anyone in the world could reach de Blasio’s target of reducing the city’s emissions of greenhouse gases by 80% by 2050. Realism also requires noting that de Blasio pins many of his hopes on Albany. If the Legislature and governor fail to approve an agenda that includes funding energy efficiency, overhauling tax credits for cleaning up polluted land and a substantial minimum wage hike, a good portion of the mayor’s dreams are DOA. At the same time, while calling for full funding of the Continue Reading