Note: I have created several posts about SB 2126, a bill proposed by Senator Brandon Creighton. While I support the Senator’s efforts and objectives, I feel the bill’s language could open the door to river mining. Senator Creighton disagrees and offers following.
To the Editor
First off, I would like to thank Mr. Rehak and ReduceFlooding.com for being a leader in our communities on all aspects of flooding. Your efforts represent the sort of grassroots organizations that impact government and the community. Reduceflooding.com also serves as a useful resource for residents to educate themselves on flooding, policy initiatives and upcoming events.
Since Harvey made landfall, we have worked tirelessly with one another to do what is best for the Lake Houston area. We have been on tours together with statewide officials and we have been in dozens of roundtables in Austin and in Kingwood. These meetings included state agencies such as the GLO and TCEQ, local representatives like Council Member Dave Martin, myself and Representative Dan Huberty, Commissioner Cagle, Congressional members such as Ted Poe and Dan Crenshaw, and most importantly, members of the community. Our meetings resulted in helpful policy recommendations on what needed to be done back then, and a vision for the long-term. And now, the long-term is here and we must act this session.
The Bigger Picture
One of the biggest actions taken thus far was the Senate’s passage of hurricane preparedness and response packages, S.B. 6, S.B. 7, and S.B. 8. My bill, Senate Bill 7, creates the Texas Infrastructure Resiliency Fund, a new fund that will provide unprecedented state funding to cover the nonfederal, local match resulting from Hurricane Harvey as well as provide funding for future mitigation projects that will include upgrading the water gates on the Lake Houston Dam. The state playing the nonfederal role will bring billions of your tax dollars back to Texas from D.C. and will finally result in the feds helping Texas as we have stepped up to assist other states time and again.
Aggregate Related Proposals
We also filed bills to increase the enforcement of sand mining along the San Jacinto River basin. Senate Bills 2123, 2124, and 2125 were discussed in our roundtable meetings and were generally supported. These bills increase penalties, direct funds to enforce penalties for illegal sand mining, increase the frequency of mandatory sand inspections from every three years to every two, and creates a best practices guide for aggregate producers to follow.
Where SB 2126 Fits In
Senate Bill 2126 was the next step. This bill passed the entire Senate this week and heads to the House of Representatives. This approach was one of the many discussed at these roundtables and I appreciate you acknowledging the good intentions of this bill. I hear your concerns, and I respect your point of view, however I believe this program will yield many benefits for the community.
How Safeguards Would Be Implemented
I want it to be clear, this bill will not open up unbridled sand mining in the San Jacinto River basin, and there are many precautions in place to ensure the river basin is protected. Rather than prescribing arbitrary guidelines in the bill, we will depend on the San Jacinto River Authority and Harris County flood control district expertise to formally and publicly adopt rules, controls, best practices and other safeguards.
Alternative to Repetitive Dredging
This solution is an outside-the-box approach to a problem identified by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. While we have worked hard to expedite and fund the current dredging project underway in the River, it is inefficient and impractical to come back every 10 years to dredge in the River. There must be a long-term solution, and I think this legislation can play a role.
SB 2126 will allow the San Jacinto River Authority and the Harris County Flood Control District to place traps in the River. These are stationary traps that will capture sand that naturally deposits in undesirable locations. This does not allow for sand mining to continuously occur in the River or on the banks. We are delegating this authority to these public entities because they are accountable to you. They are entrusted with carrying out many other important duties to protect the resources of all Texans and this is one more way for them to play that role.
Offsetting Costs Through Sale of Sand
Kaaren Cambio, a newly appointed SJRA board member from Kingwood recently said, “A long term maintenance plan for the San Jacinto River is key to protecting the adjacent communities. We must have many options available to make this plan effective and financially feasible. Public-private partnerships are critical to achieving this goal. SB 2126 gives the SJRA the opportunity to have specific areas dredged and the cost of the dredging is offset by the sale of the sand.”
Council Member Martin’s Endorsement
Houston City Council Member Dave Martin, who has been an invaluable voice as we address flood mitigation expressed the following sentiment, “Senate Bill 2126 is a key legislation item that will allow aggregate production operators to be part of the sand remediation solution by giving them the ability to introduce sand traps into the West Fork of San Jacinto River. The ability to use sand traps on the West Fork will allow for sediment to fall out of an otherwise sediment rich body of water, thus reducing sediment deposits downstream which can clog up the river and lake. As the Houston Council Member who represents Lake Houston, this bill will help our area avoid additional mouth/sand bars and sediment buildup. I hope this piece of legislation serves as a pilot study the rest of the State can learn from.”
Support of Game Wardens
You noted that Texas Parks and Wildlife testified as a resource for the bill. State agencies remain neutral on legislation because they are agents of the State, but the Texas Game Wardens Peace Officers Association did support the bill at the hearing. They recognize the problem we have and how SB 2126 can be a practical solution.
Plea to Continue Working Together
Recent floods, and especially Hurricane Harvey exposed serious weaknesses, and I hope that this bill and other components of our legislative flood solution package will serve as effective solutions for Kingwood, Lake Houston and surrounding areas. If we identify any problems down the road, I hope that you will be a partner and advocate for getting projects back on track. I know we will continue to work together to ensure the best mitigation efforts are followed.
Again, I am so appreciative of the work you and all the community leaders have done to make the Lake Houston area a better place to work, live, and raise a family. I look forward to our continued collaboration to achieve that goal. Please feel free to reach out to me and my staff if we can ever be of assistance. We have made some incredible progress – see my newsletter here – and hopefully these policy initiatives will pass during the legislative session and improve our readiness for future storms ahead.
Senator Brandon Creighton
Senator Creighton’s letter posted by Bob Rehak on 5/6/19
616 Days since Hurricane Harvey