Texas Water Development Board Approves $30 Million Grant for Mouth Bar Dredging

Today, the Texas Water Development Board formally approved the $30 million grant that will extend the mouth bar dredging program started by the City of Houston last week. Approval had been expected, but in the often-delayed world of flood mitigation projects, the signed deal was a welcome relief. This means that mouth bar dredging can continue in a timely way before hurricane season starts.

Pieces of Puzzle Now in Place

The TWDB grant stemmed from an amendment to SB500 offered by State Representative Dan Huberty in the last legislative session. It will be combined with $6 million that the City had left over from a FEMA grant through the Texas Division of Emergency Management and $10 million allocated to dredging in the 2018 Harris County Flood Bond.

Harris County’s proposal for the grant calls for splitting the project into two phases.

  • Phase One will focus on the West Fork Mouth Bar using the City’s $6 million and $10 million from the grant.
  • Phase Two will focus on the East Fork Mouth Bar using the remaining $20 million from the grant.
  • The $10 million from the County flood bond will fund surveys, formulation of specs, bidding, project management and more.

Going Beyond Harvey Dredging

Since Harvey, dredging efforts have focused on identifying and removing deposits related strictly to Hurricane Harvey itself. See below.

Previous phases of dredging focused upstream of the fat blue area near the mouth bar.

Recently completed projects effectively removed sediment deposited by Hurricane Harvey; however, more dredging needs to be completed in the area farthest to the right. That will help restore conveyance and reduce flooding by removing a sediment dam behind the dam. It should also help improve lake capacity.

Additional details on dredging plans and progress reports should become available in the coming weeks. In the meantime, crews appeared to be busy assembling equipment today at the old docks used by the Army Corps.

Crews assembling braces on pontoon that will hold the spudpoles. The spudpoles will hold the pontoon in place while a mechanical excavator scoops sediment into waiting barges to ferry it back to the placement area. Photo taken 1/16/2020.

The City plans to kick off the program with mechanical dredging equipment because it can mobilize quickly. At some point, they may switch over to hydraulic dredging to take advantage of that technology’s greater efficiencies.

The Great Lakes Dredge from Phase 1 is still sitting at the Army Corps dock in pieces while new equipment mobilizes around it. Rumor has it that the Great Lakes dredge is for sale. Photo taken 1/16/2020.

Huberty has already started lobbying for additional funding to help with longer-term maintenance dredging.

Two More Steps Before Kicking Into High Gear

Late today, John Blount, Harris County Engineer who authored the grant request said that there are two more formalities before the program can kick into high gear.

  • Harris County Commissioners Court, which previously approved the grant request, must now also approve receipt of the award and sign an inter-local agreement with the City of Houston. The latter will govern the working relationship between the City and County. The next Commissioners Court meets on January 28.
  • The permit to use Berry Madden’s property as a placement area must be amended to accept mechanical dredging spoils, not just hydraulic.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 1/16/2020

870 Days since Hurricane Harvey