Mouth Bar Dredge Idle Over Holiday Weekend; Not Much Progress Yet

New images by RD Kissling, a Lake-Houston-area geologist and canoeist, show two things. The Great Lakes dredge near the mouth bar sat idle this holiday weekend. Also Great Lakes has not made much progress yet.

Dredge seems to be hugging the south shore of the mouth bar. An excavator has removed vegetation and loosened sand in that area.

Kissling Video Underscores Immensity of Undertaking

Also, Kissling shot more video. This 32-second clip shows him standing in less-than-knee-deep water approximately 300 yards from the mouth bar. This video dramatizes the immensity of the task at hand. It also shows where the channel currently lies relative to the mouth bar itself.

Video showing RD Kissling in shin-deep water 300 yards from the south shore of the mouth bar.

History of Mouth Bar Dredging

The Corps excluded the mouth bar in the first phase of dredging. Instead, it focused on a 2.1 mile stretch upstream. Since the Corps revealed its Phase-One plans, residents have been organizing to ensure dredging through the mouth-bar reach.

Kissling and Tim Garfield, another local geologist first brought the dangers of the mouth bar to the public’s attention. Massive deposits of sand cause water to flow uphill by 30+ feet between the end of Phase-One dredging and the mouth bar. That backs water up during floods. The channel width and depth simply don’t have enough conveyance capacity to move floodwaters through. As a result, the floodwaters slow down, drop their sediment load, enlarge the blockage, and start to spread out overland.

The mouth bar of the West Fork of the San Jacinto. Photo taken two weeks after Harvey.

Clampdown on Communications

Neither the City, County, State, FEMA or Corps have made their plans clear yet. This contrasts with the start of Phase-One dredging when the Corps and City proudly trotted out presentations in community meetings.

I submitted a FOIA request to the Corps for their plans several weeks ago. However, I have not yet received those plans. I did receive a request for clarification asking what I meant by “plans”? I responded that I could not imagine the US Army staging an operation this large and expensive without a plan. They thanked me for the clarification.

The FOIA stalling and clamp down on communication from all parties involved suggests that the Federal government and local authorities have not yet reached a mutually satisfactory agreement. It has been nine months since they announced an agreement in principle after the “everybody-but-Trump” meeting in Austin.

To be fair, this has been a holiday week and many people are on vacation. Perhaps things will become clearer when they return.

To date, the small amount of excavation completed has focused on the edge of the mouth bar itself, not widening or deepening the channel near Atascocita Point. This July 2 Community Impact article suggests that the Corps intends to dredge the edge of the mouth bar but offers no other detail or explanations.

Impact of Dredging on November Elections

With City elections fast approaching, it will be interesting to see if progress – or the lack thereof – affects how the Lake Houston Area votes. We’re running out of time to make reasonable dredging progress before November. With two years in the rear-view mirror since Harvey, I suspect voters will look at performance more than promises when they go to the polls.

In coming weeks, I will post about where the candidates line up on the three major goals for the Lake Houston Area: additional dredging, detention and gates (Plea for DDG). I also hope that this will be the first of weekly reports on mouth bar dredging. So if you are out on the water, please send pics of what you see.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 7/6/2019

676 Days since Hurricane Harvey