Rape of the West Fork: A Photo Essay

Thirteen years ago, American Rivers named the West Fork of the San Jacinto one of the ten most endangered rivers in America. It’s only gotten worse since then. Sand mines now form long strips along both shores of the river between I-45 and I-69. You can’t see them from the ground. They’re hidden by “beauty strips” of trees, berms, and “keep out” signs. So here’s a look from a helicopter I rented on 10.2.19.

I use the word “rape” in a metaphorical context. I am not alleging any illegal acts by mining companies, though I suspect there may be some going on here in terms of illegal discharges. Can you count the leaks?

Other than that, a majority of the state legislature actually encourages what you see below. So does Montgomery County. MoCo gives most of these mines tax breaks in the form of timber exemptions, which the State Comptroller says they should not get; they should be taxed as depleting assets.

Is the West Fork naturally sandy? Yes. That’s a true statement. Is it unnaturally sandy, too? Is sand mining contributing to the loss of Lake Houston capacity? Does it contribute to flooding though massive sediment plugs such as the mouth bar? You be the judge.

From I-69 to I-45 in 72 Photos

The sequence of images below starts at I-69 and goes northwest just past I-45. The first image is at the confluence of the West Fork and Spring Creek. Note the difference between the color of the two. The West Fork splits off to the left. It’s the Lake Houston tributary with virtually all the mines. Below, a small sampling of the destruction that occurs every day in the name of construction…out of sight and out of mind.

I apologize in advance if some of the photos seem repetitive. It’s important to understand how much of the West Fork that mines consume.

Warning: this post contains many photos. WIFI connection, patience, and large screen advised.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 11/3/2019

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The thoughts expressed in this post represent my opinions on matters of public policy. They are protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution and the Anti-SLAPP Statute of the state of Texas.