Crucial Meeting Thursday in Austin on Mouth Bar

At Houston City Council Member Dave Martin’s Kingwood Town Hall Meeting on October 9th, residents received encouraging news on the removal of a giant sand bar at the mouth of the West Fork of the San Jacinto River. The aptly named “mouth bar” forms a dam behind the dam. The encouraging news is a meeting in Austin on Thursday, October 11, that will be attended by all the key decision makers who have a say in removing the giant bar.

High Stakes Meeting

Residents and experts fear that – if not removed – the mouth bar could back water up and contribute to flooding again in the heavily populated Humble/Kingwood/Atascocita corridor.

Also, as Martin pointed out, if the mouth bar can be included in the current U.S. Army Corps project, taxpayers will save approximately $17 million in mobilization and demobilization costs on a separate project.

Attendees at the meeting in Austin should include:

  • Nim Kidd. Chief of the Texas Division of Emergency Management, which screens funding requests for FEMA.
  • FEMA, which will most likely be the source of matching funds for the City’s contribution to the project
  • Regional Head of the Army Corps of Engineers and his staff
  • Governor Abbott and his staff including Reed Clay, Tommy Williams, Luis Saenz, and Steven Schar
  • Stephen Costello, Chief Resiliency Officer for the City of Houston
  • Marvin Odum, Chief Recovery Officer for the City
  • Russ Poppe, Executive Director of Harris County Flood Control
  • Carter Smith, Executive Director of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
  • Director of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality
  • Council Member Martin

As Martin said, “Everybody but President Trump.”

Letter From Turner to Abbott about Mouth Bar

Martin began the Town Hall Meeting by reading a letter from Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner to Governor Gregg Abbott, requesting Abbott to support the removal of the mouth bar.  The letter states in part, “To address additional Harvey related debris strategies, the City proposes to  remove Section A silt deposits located at the  confluence of the San Jacinto River and Lake  Houston as part of the existing FEMA eligible debris removal projects for the City.”

Turner’s letter then continues, “The City will utilize $15-$20 million dollars of the existing Grant funds for this project, specifically to remove silt debris from Lake Houston. Use of the Grant funds would allow the City to address the silt deposits and other debris which remain in the waters of the San Jacinto River and Lake  Houston post-Hurricane Harvey. This debris must be collected and disposed of as soon as possible in the interest of the health, safety and  welfare of City of Houston residents.”

The Ask

According to Martin, the City will use the funds mentioned by the Mayor as the City’s 10% match for a $100 million ask from FEMA.. The request is to remove all the sand and silt in all sections (A, B, C, D) from the initial value engineering report of the U.S. Army Corps of engineers.  See below.

Stages initially identified by the US Army Corps of Engineers for dredging in its Value Engineering Report.

How Dredging Dovetails with Other Area Flood Mitigation Efforts

City of Houston Chief Resiliency Officer Stephen Costello later gave a brief presentation about how the mouth bar project dovetails with other flood mitigation projects and additional dredging.

Other Flood Mitigation Projects for the Lake Houston Area


Next phases of dredging (proposed). Center portion is current project. Mouth bar would come next. Rest of West Fork would come third.

Costello also discussed turning over maintenance of Ben’s Branch to Harris County. This is part of an agreement between the City and County whereby the County will assume maintenance for all above ground drainage and the City will assume maintenance for all underground drainage.

The delay on this project has to do with tracking down deeds and easements that were never properly transferred and recorded when the City annexed Kingwood. The portion outlined in purple is still under investigation. The yellow, green and blue portions have been resolved.

Three different portions of Ben’s Branch currently under review by City Attorney’s office. Purple is still a problem.

Where the Money Will Come From

Marvin Odum, Chief Recovery Officer for the City, then led a discussion of where the money will come from for all these projects. More on that to follow. For now, I’ll just tease you with this chart.

Where the money will come from.

Let’s wish Council Member Martin and the others from Houston “Good Luck” tomorrow. It’s unclear at this point whether they will be able to seal the deal on the mouth bar, but it appears tonight as though they will have everyone in the room who needs to say “yes.” And that’s encouraging. It has taken months of work to get to this point.

Posted October 10, 2018 by Bob Rehak

407 Days since Hurricane Harvey