Senate Bill 500 is an omnibus appropriations bill passed by the Texas Senate on March 13. The bill passed to the House for committee review and consideration the same day. Last Friday, March 22, State Representative Dan Huberty offered an amendment to SB 500. It would allocate $30 million to dredging the mouth bar where the West Fork of the San Jacinto meets Lake Huston.
Text of Huberty Amendment
The text reads:
“Out of the funds appropriated in Subsection (1), $30 million dollars is dedicated to the Texas Water Development Board to provide a grant to Harris County for the purchase and operation of equipment to remove accumulated siltation and sediment deposits located at the confluence of the San Jacinto River and Lake Houston.”
Great News for West Fork Residents
This is great news for Lake Houston and West Fork residents. We faced six floods last year on relatively small rains. The mouth bar and other sediment dams left by Harvey created backwater effects that exaggerated flood heights. The exaggerated response of the river to these modest rains forced the City to prerelease water to avoid flooding.
It’s not clear how much funding the City will get from FEMA, if any, to address the mouth bar. The two sides have been arguing for more than a year about how much of the sediment is due to Harvey. Stephen Costello, the City’s Chief Recovery Officer, told a town hall meeting in Kingwood last week that there was at least 1.5 million cubic yards of sediment that needs to be removed to restore the river’s natural conveyance. Local geologists estimated that at least a third of that was due to Harvey.
Matching Funds for County
Last year, the County Flood Bond approved by voters in August included a $10 million match for dredging of the East Fork, West Fork and Lake Houston. The project description read: “Potential partnership project with the City of Houston, Coastal Water Authority, and the State of Texas to permit, design, and complete dredging of the East Fork, West Fork and Lake Houston area waterways to reduce flooding risks.”
The County expected to provide one-fifth of the total $50 million projected cost.
If the Huberty amendment and the appropriations bill pass, suddenly we have a clear path to funding… regardless of what FEMA does and how long it takes their money to get here.
Includes Purchase of Equipment
The Huberty amendment calls for the purchase and operation of equipment. That means the equipment could be owned and used wherever needed. For about a year, the Army Corps has emphasized the need for maintenance dredging to prevent re-accumulation of massive deposits.
Matching Funds Mean Higher Priority
There’s a lot to like about this simple amendment. Consider this. Many have worried lately about prioritization of flood bond projects, i.e., which would kick off first. Readily available matching funds would give the dredging project a very high priority. That would accelerate execution of the project.
Posted by Bob Rehak on March 25
573 Days after Hurricane Harvey