Sand Mine Dike Breached 3 Times in 1 Week During Minor Flood

I’ve posted dozens of times about the dangers of mining in floodways. A local canoeist, Don Harbour, Jr., paddled down the West Fork of the San Jacinto twice during the last flood. He says he saw three breaches in one sand mine. The water was moving too fast to get pictures of all three, he says, but he did manage to get several shots. They eloquently illustrate the dangers of mining so close to the river.

Harbour, Jr. says he paddled by this mine on Saturday, December 8, and noticed water rushing into it.

River breaching into mine. Photo courtesy of Don Harbour, Jr.

The following Wednesday, December 12, he paddled down the river again and saw the reverse.

Sand mine sending sediment into river as flood went down. Photo courtesy of Don Harbour, Jr.

On that same trip, he photographed the owners frantically trying to plug the leaks in dangerous conditions.

Repairs to other breaches. Photo courtesy of Don Harbour, Jr.

Altogether, Harbour, Jr. says he saw three breaches in one mine in one week.

I have seen video of a fourth breach at the same mine last August. It appeared as though it was created with a backhoe. Six months later, the TCEQ says it is still investigating the August breach.

When Pro Business Means No Business,
It’s Time to Rethink Mining in Floodways

Breaches allow the escape of sand and silt. They contribute to the buildup of sediment dams in the river. Those then contribute to downstream flooding.

When a rain that averaged only 5 inches across the watershed breaches the dike of one mine three times in one week, it’s time to rethink mining in floodways.

Such dangerous business practices can reduce growth.

  • The growth rate in the Humble ISD this past year dropped from 6% to 1% due to flooding, in part, caused by sedimentation.
  • 44% of the businesses in the Lake Houston Chamber were damaged or destroyed during Harvey.
  • 100% of the businesses in Kingwood Town Center and Kings Harbor were damaged or destroyed.

Move Miners Back from River

We don’t want to drive miners out of state; we just need them to move out of the floodway.

We don’t allow unsafe vehicles on the road. Why do we allow unsafe mining on the river?

Here’s the dike of another mine farther upriver. I took this picture shortly after Harvey. But the same dike breached again during the July 4th flood this year.

Sand mines on the West Fork come right up to the river where floodwaters repeatedly breach dikes.

Texas is the only state that has no minimum setbacks of mines from rivers. In contrast, Alaska allows no mining within 1,000 feet of a public water source. Other states and countries establish erosion hazard zones taking into account factors such as:

Many geologists and engineers believe erosion hazard zones represent a safer approach to determining setbacks.

Posted by Bob Rehak on December 21, 2018

479 Days since Hurricane Harvey