By Bob Rehak
After Harvey, I explored the damage caused by the storm. I was astounded to see sand dunes more than ten feet tall blocking the boat ramp at River Grove Park, covering trials in East End Park, and stretching into treetops near the West Lake Houston Parkway bridge. If the sand was that high onshore, I wondered what happened to the river itself, where did the sand come from, and did it play a role in the flooding?
To find answers, I started by exploring Google Earth satellite photos and noted the presence of several sand mines on the East and West Forks of the San Jacinto river. Then I rented a helicopter to tour the mines and the river. I went from the 59 bridge up to the Riverwalk community off FM1314 in Porter on the West Fork. Then I circled the sand mines, headed back toward Costco, and followed the West Fork all the way to Kings Point where it joins the East Fork at the head of Lake Houston. From there, I went up the East Fork and circled the sand mine on Caney Creek and returned to Hobby Airport.
What I saw horrified me. Trails of sand leading from the mines to blockages of bayous, drainage ditches and the river itself.
I believe this is a matter of public interest. According to the SBA, 17,000 homes and 3,300 businesses in Lake Houston communities suffered flood damage. According to our city council member Dave Martin, damage could stretch into the billions and the areas tax base could be affected by 20-30%.
Although Harvey was a record storm, record rainfall was not the sole cause of all the damage. Much coverage in the media pointed to the release of water from the Lake Conroe Dam as a complicating factor. But I believe that siltation played a role also. If I am correct and if we ignore the reduced carrying capacity of the river, we are inviting future disaster.
‘This web site is a record of my exploration. I do not claim to be an expert, though I have consulted with many.