One-Click Submittal for Suggested Public Comments on Proposed Sand-Mining BMPs

For those wishing to submit comments about sand-mining Best Management Practices (BMPs), but who may feel daunted by the complexity, I’ve compiled a list. If you use a computer-based email application, you should be able to submit it with one click.

To automatically submit the suggestions, click this link.

It should address and title an email, then automatically insert the recommended text shown below. Don’t forget to insert your own contact information at the end of the email, before hitting the send button.

I have not tested the automated link with all email apps, browsers and platforms. So if you run into problems, just cut and paste the text between the separators below. Again, don’t forget to add your contact information.

Please share this with all your friends, family and neighbors. Ask them to submit the comments and share it, too.

Deadline: 8/19/21. 

Dear TCEQ,

After reviewing the Draft Proposed BMPs for Sand Mining in the San Jacinto River Basin, I have several comments that I would like you to consider.

  1. Geographic area should include “all tributaries draining into Lake Houston,” not a limited subset.
  2. Include provision that steps up enforcement. Operators already routinely violate too many of these BMPs.
  3. Introduction: Put the need for BMPs in perspective by including a sentence or two that talks about the $222 million spent by Federal, State, and Local governments to dredge the San Jacinto.
  4. Introduction: Add this thought. “The presence of the Lake Conroe dam can lull operators on the West Fork into a false sense of security. During Harvey, Lake Conroe released 79,000 CFS. All by itself, that would have qualified as the ninth largest flood in West Fork history, even if not a drop of rain had fallen anywhere else in the watershed. Such high rates of conveyance lead to high rates of erosion and sediment transport that require operators to exercise extreme caution in this environment and closely follow the BMPs below.”
  5. Introduction, include a sentence to this effect. “When deviating from standard BMPs, the operator must file documentation with the TCEQ which will be posted for public inspection and obtain written approval from the TCEQ.”
  6. Introduction: In the bullet point after “Geographic Location,” replace “hydrogeology” with “Surface and groundwater hydrology.”
  7. Introduction: After the sentence which ends with “…implemented by the sand mining operators,” Include the following. “All BMPs must be submitted to the Executive Director (ED) of the program for review and approval.” 
  8. 2.1: Replace “next anticipated storm” with “must repair or replace controls immediately when damage is noted during weekly inspections.”
  9. 2.1.1: Define the 100-foot buffer zone as “…measured from the stream bank to the closest disturbed area…”
  10. 2.1.1: After “and 35 feet for intermittent streams” insert the following: “Wider buffer zones might be necessary where riverbank erosion rates are high.”
  11. 2.2: Change Site operators must “inspect disturbed areas” to “inspect and document disturbed areas.”
  12. 2.2: After “…All structural controls must be in compliance with local rules and permitting requirements,” add: “including special restrictions for construction in a FEMA-defined floodway.”
  13. 2.2: Require that operators inspect all structural controls “once every seven (7) calendar days.”
  14. 2.2.5: Specify that “operators must measure and document the depth of sediment basins at least once a year, as well as before and after major floods.”
  15. 2.2.5: Add: “Special consideration must be given to stability of the outer dike (or levee) separating the pits from the vegetated buffer zone adjacent to the river. Lateral erosion of the river can result in breaching of the dike and potentially rerouting the river through the pit area (pit capture).”
  16. 2.2.5: Specify what operators must do “prior to discharge” to have a “permitted” discharge.”
  17. 2.2.6: In the sentence that ends with “…will not erode the receiving stream,” add “…or adjacent properties.”
  18. 2.2.10: Detention ponds big enough to hold an inch of rain seem wholly inadequate in an area where Atlas-14 specifies 16.9 inches for a 100-year event. Harris County Flood Control District recommends minimum detention volumes for developments at .65 acre feet per acre. That’s about 8 inches of rainfall. Please modify required depth.
  19. 3.1: Specify that TCEQ must approve the mine plan.
  20. 3.1: Mention that building mines in floodways requires extreme precautions for virtually every facet of mining. (This section currently makes no mention of floodways, yet virtually all San Jacinto mines are at least partially built in floodways.)
  21. 3.1: Replace the sentence that starts with “An evaluation of…” with “The susceptibility for erosion of on-site soils and lateral erosion rates of adjacent rivers must also be known in the pre-planning stages. If parts of the proposed mine are located in a FEMA-defined floodway, hydrologic and hydraulic analyses performed in accordance with standard engineering practice must demonstrate that the proposed encroachment will not result in any increase in flood levels or erosion of upstream, downstream, or adjacent properties.”
  22. 3.2.1: After the sentence that ends with “…other than TCEQ hold jurisdiction,” replace the next sentence with “Additional erosion controls or increased buffer widths may be needed where river erosion rates are high, receiving streams are listed in the Clean Water Act (CWA) 303(d), or critical facilities (e.g. bridges, pipeline or utility corridors) are adjacent to the proposed operation.”
  23. 3.2.1: Complete the sentence that starts with “Understanding site drainage can be obtained by using…” with “existing LiDAR and aerial photo images.” Delete the part about USGS Topographic maps which show a series of contour lines. Then modify the next sentence in that paragraph to read, “These images (combined with lower resolution USGS topographic maps) can be used to determine slope of the  ground surface through the site to identify drainage patterns.”
  24. 3.2.2: After the sentence that ends with “…water supply wells are located nearby,” add this sentence: “If present, waste management units must be located a minimum horizontal distance from adjacent water wells, in accordance with 16 Texas Administrative Code Chapter 76.”
  25. 3.3: Say “Topsoil material MUST be temporarily stockpiled for future use in post-mining activities.”
  26. 3.3: Add this thought. “Stockpiles may not be located in floodways.”
  27. 3.3.2: After, “…diverting upslope water around a planned area for disturbance is also good practice,” add “however, care must be taken to not have the diverted water result in increased downslope flooding.”
  28. 3.3.3: Change the sentence that starts with “Stockpile protection is most effective when…”, so that it reads, “Stockpile protection  is most effective when stockpiles are not located on the FEMA-defined floodway, are located away from concentrated flows of storm water, drainage courses, and inlets, and when are properly protected with perimeter sediment barriers and covered.”
  29. 3.3.3: After the sentence that ends with “…geoscientists certifying BMPs at the site,” add another sentence that reads, “Additional buffer width or structures may be required where critical structures such as pipeline or utility corridors are located.”
  30. 4.1: Add: “Operators should not dredge a vertical wall at the edge of buffer zones. This can lead to cave ins at the edges that decrease the width of the buffer zones. It may also not leave enough room to taper slopes enough to plant vegetation in the post-mining phase.”
  31. 4.5: Add “All fuel storage tanks must be located outside of floodways.” 
  32. 4.5: Add “New floodplain and floodway maps for the San Jacinto region should be released sometime in 2022 or 2023. Floodways are expected to expand by approximately 50%. Take this into account when planning placement of storage tanks.”
  33. 4.5: Add “Remove all fuel storage equipment and tanks before abandoning a mine.”
  34. 4.6: Add new section that includes this thought. 
  35. 5: Change the first sentence in the introduction to say, “The Post-Mining Phase stabilization plan must be approved by TCEQ, subject to input from the landowner and downstream property owners.”
  36. 5.1: Change “may” to “must” in the second sentence and delete several subsequent words so that it reads, “The following guidelines MUST be used to meet site stabilization objectives.”
  37. 6: Replace the entire introduction with the following: “Prior to operations beginning at a sand mining facility site or portion(s) of the site, an initial stabilization report must be submitted to the executive director for review and approval at (Address). The Initial Stabilization Report must, at a minimum, include and demonstrate that the items described below in section 6.1 Report Requirements will be addressed. This initial report will be updated annually to reflect current mobilization and reclamation areas.”
  38. 6.1: Add: “After completion of mining, remove all vehicles and debris that could be swept downstream in a flood.”
  39. 6.1: Under Structural Controls, after the sentence that ends with “…manage remaining onsite drainage,” add another sentence. “This includes making sure the outer dike (or levee) that separates the abandoned pits from the adjacent river is not breached due to lateral erosion of the river.”
  40. 6.1: Under High Walls, after “The permittee shall demonstrate that all remaining highwalls are stable and safe,” add the following. “This may mean leaving enough buffer between adjoining properties to taper slopes to a gradient that will allow the planing of vegetative controls that prevent erosion.”
  41. 6.1: Add: “Conservation easements on buffer areas, placed before mining, could be utilized to ensure community protection. Conservation easements placed post-reclamation would ensure that site ecology would be monitored, and restoration activities completed. An accredited land trust involved as a conservation partner would provide third-party documentation of adherence to the ecological practices outlined in these guidelines and provide community oversight that is currently missing.”
  42. Glossary: Add “Floodway (Regulatory Floodway) – the channel of a river or other watercourse and the adjacent land areas that must be reserved in order to discharge the base flood without cumulatively increasing the water surface elevation more than a designated height.”

If you would like to provide your own public comments, email with the subject line “BMPs Guidance Document” by the close of business tomorrow.

To see the complete text of all proposed BMPs, click here.

For more explanation about the recommended comments, see these posts:

  1. Scope and Need for Proposed BMPs
  2. Setbacks from Rivers
  3. Vegetative Controls
  4. Structural Controls
  5. Pre-Mining Planning
  6. Mining Phase
  7. Post-Mining Phase
  8. Final Stabilization

Thanks in advance for taking the time to help.

This company lost property (red circles) when a sand mine left highwalls around it that collapsed into the pit.
Photograph of same areas taken on 8/17/2021.

Each of the recommendations above has a story behind it like these pictures tell. Please help by submitting public comments.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 8/19/2021

1451 Days since Hurricane Harvey

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.