We need an investigation of the TCEQ investigation

By Bob Rehak

In February 2018, I wrote the TCEQ (Texas Commission on Environmental Quality) to request an investigation of all the sand blocking Kingwood’s drainage ditches, bayous and the San Jacinto River itself.  Yesterday, I received their “final report.” Unfortunately for Kingwood residents, the final report had nothing to do with the request I made.  This leads me to believe that we need an investigation of the investigation.

Here is the text of my request:

I urge you to investigate the discharge of sand from mining operations along the San Jacinto River (east AND west forks) in Montgomery County, just upstream from Kingwood in Harris County.

Dunes up to 15 feet high now block our drainage ditches and the river itself. The attached PowerPoint presentation shows significant blockages at:
1) River Grove Park where a dune now blocks a drainage ditch that empties the western third of Kingwood.
2) About a half mile downstream from River Grove Park, another dune has formed blocking navigation on the river itself for boats that draw 18 or more inches of water.
3) At West Lake Houston Parkway, sand now virtually reaches the height of the bridge itself, blocking approximately half of the river.
4) Where the East and West Forks join, new dunes now separate the river from Lake Houston.

In addition to these major blockages, I have 450 photos showing partial blockages at other locations near Kingwood, Porter, Huiffman, Atascocita and Humble. Combined with satellite and ground photos, they clearly show that floodwater:
• Broke the dikes surrounding the mines
• Scooped up sand
• Deposited the sand downstream in locations that…
• Reduced the drainage capacity of ditches, bayous and the river
• Contributed to flooding

The photos also show that:
• No attempt has been made to restore ground cover after miners work over an area
• The location of dikes (close to the river) leaves no room for the river’s expansion during floods, virtually guaranteeing disaster

During Hurricane Harvey, discharged sand contributed to the flooding of more than 17,000 homes and 3,300 businesses. Houston City Council Member Dave Martin estimates the flood eroded the area’s tax base by an estimated 20-30%.

Hydrologists and engineers tell me that as a result of all this man-made sedimentation, we can expect bigger floods in the future based on smaller rains. Please help us.

Feel free to call with questions. And let me know if you would like me to send you all 450 aerial photos.

I included this presentation, Harvey Flood Condensed 7, with the request.

Within a few days, I received a call from  one of the TCEQ investigators.  Strangely, she did not want to see the photographs (which you can now see in the gallery section of this site). However, she did grill me intensely about who else I had sent the presentation to.

Then yesterday, I received a large envelope from the TCEQ. It contained 44 pages of material labeled as their final report. Read the TCEQ Response here.  They found a broken discharge pipe at the Hallett mine in Porter in February, however there is no mention made of any sand discharged during Harvey. In other words, the answer has nothing to do with the question.

When I contacted the State Attorney General’s office to request an investigation of the investigation, I was informed that the AG had no staff to conduct such an investigation.

Texas has a reputation as a business-friendly state. At some point, it’s going to get a reputation as a resident-hostile state.

Posted 198 Days after Hurricane Harvey