Sand mining best practices throughout the country and the world urge operators to leave vegetation in place until they are ready to mine an area. The reason: to reduce erosion. However, approximately 60 acres of the sand mine below on the East Fork of the San Jacinto where it meets Caney Creek and White Oak Creek was cleared but not mined – just in time for two 500-year floods.
Removing Vegetation Risks Sedimentation Downstream
The cleared area lies totally in the 100-year flood plain and was inundated. Satellite images of the area downstream from the cleared land show a sudden buildup of sand. While the sand did not all come from the cleared area, one wonders how much sedimentation could have been prevented by following best practices.
The following sequence of images shows the rapid removal of vegetation.
Risk from Flooding
Before and After: Results
An Ounce of Prevention
It’s impossible to tell how much of the sand above resulted from the removal of vegetation? Previous posts showed how the mines stockpile also eroded. The river itself contributed sediment. However, if the mine were not in the flood plain and if the miners had not removed so much vegetation so far in advance of mining, we wouldn’t be having this discussion.
So why do miners favor the floodplains and floodways? Why to they remove vegetation years before it will be mined? Is it all about the relentless pursuit of efficiency at the expense of safety?
Tomorrow, we will look at economics, taxation and how some well-intentioned laws passed in the late seventies to protect family farms helped fuel a boom in sand mining.
Posted September 24, 2018
391 Days since Hurricane Harvey