West Fork Mouth Bar Getting Snack Sized

Mechanical dredging is slowly but surely downsizing the San Jacinto West Fork Mouth Bar. It’s still about a billion times larger than a snack-sized McDonald’s Oreo McFlurry, but it’s a vast improvement over what it was. It now appears to be about one third of its size in January when most people would have called it super sized.

A Sisyphean Task

Snack-sized puns aside, the job is a Sisyphean task. For those not familiar with the term, Sisyphus was a figure from Greek mythology who angered Zeus. Zeus sentenced him to rolling a boulder up a hill for the rest of eternity only for it to roll back down again every time he got near the top.

Historians and storytellers see many morals in the tale. Be persistent. Work hard. Never give up.

And so it is with those three lonely excavators working on giant sand bar at the mouth of the West Fork where it meets Lake Houston.

Day in and day out, they remove one bucketful at a time. Six months after they started, much of the above-water portion of the sand bar has now been removed. But they still haven’t started to address the matter of cutting a channel that connects the dredged portion of the river with the lake.

Meanwhile, more sand and silt comes down river with every storm.

Comparing Post-Harvey with Recent Photos

Still, if you compare post-Harvey photos with photos taken recently, you can see progress.

Dredgers are slowly reducing the dam behind the dam.

Looking south toward FM1960 in 2017.
Looking south today. Little length has been removed, but the width is about a third of what it was after Harvey. Photo taken 6/16/2020.

The dredgers keep nibbling the south edge of the bar, taking row after row of sand, much like eating an ear of corn.

Looking west, upstream, from eastern end. Photo 7/5/2020.
Western tip of bar is now only a little wider than the tracks of one excavator. 7/5/2020.
Looking east at sunrise on 7/5/2020. Note FM1960 bridge in the extreme upper right.

In the next few months, they may run out of room to maneuver on the bar.

Survey Boat Spotted on Lake Last Week

Residents recently reported seeing a survey boat out on Lake Houston. That’s a good sign. It says that the City, County and State are now looking at what should come next with the $30 million that State Rep. Dan Huberty got the legislature to commit last year as an amendment to SB500. Harris County Flood Control also committed $10 million to dredging in the 2018 flood bond fund.

The City is currently funding the mechanical dredging with $6 million left over FEMA disaster recovery funds. Those should be running out soon if they haven’t already.

To my knowledge, no one has yet addressed the issue of long-term maintenance dredging, although everyone acknowledges the need for it. That river just keeps on bringing sediment.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 7/6/2020

1042 Days after Hurricane Harvey