Yesterday, I posted pictures taken from a helicopter of a 7.5-acre sand bar in the San Jacinto West Fork that had been mined without a permit. Then last night, Josh Alberson sent me some video from a boat of the same area. Gabe Gosney, a passenger in Alberson’s jet boat, shot the video on GoPro and wants to share it with the community.
Giant Sand Bar Now Looks Like Example of Pit Capture
The area in question lies on the west side of the river, just south of SH99. When Alberson first saw it, he excitedly texted me, saying he found an example of “pit capture” on the West Fork. The only problem: there was no pit to capture. And no recent flood.
As Alberson sped down the West Fork, he spotted the area and slowed. Gosney shot hand held from the boat. Here’s what the carnage looked like from the river.
Changes to Riverine Environment
Several things become apparent immediately upon viewing the video.
- Humans caused extensive damage to the river ecosystem (property of the state).
- What looked like the edge of a sand bar from 300 feet up in a helicopter is actually small piles of sand left by the miners.
- River current now flows through the mined area, but at a slower rate than the river itself.
- Trees that used to form a small part of the edge of the bar in one area have toppled.
Alberson says the river was up about a foot to a foot and a half compared to normal because of the SJRA’s seasonal release of 529 cubic feet per second from Lake Conroe. He said the current was quite fast – difficult to stand in. He did not get out of the boat to see how deep the water was in the mined area, but his impression was that it was shallow.
Mining Not Permitted According to Authorities
The TCEQ regulates mining in the floodplain. Texas Parks and Wildlife Division regulates mining in the river. And the SJRA has commissioned a study on the possibility of building “sand traps” in the river.
All three groups say they have no record of issuing any permits for river mining in the San Jacinto.
During floods, the dying trees you see in the video will dislodge and float downstream where they will cause property damage or get lodged in bridge supports, form dams, and cause flooding.
When floodwaters spread out in this area, they will slow and deposit their sediment load. However, where the river channel becomes narrower downstream, the river will speed up again and likely accelerate erosion of river banks and other people’s property.
Texas Parks and Wildlife is investigating. More news to follow.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 4/24/2020 with thanks to Josh Alberson and Gabe Gosney
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The thoughts expressed in this post represent opinions on matters of public concern and safety. They are protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution and the Anti-SLAPP Statute of the Great State of Texas.