Sand trap recommendation

Lake Houston Area Flood Prevention Initiative Takes Position on SJRA Sand Trap Proposal

Bill McCabe of the Lake Houston Area Flood Prevention Initiative submitted this letter in response to the SJRA’s Request for Public Input on its Sediment Removal and Sand Trap Pilot Study proposal. He raises a concern that no one else has so far: The proposal may run afoul of the recently adopted Best Management Practices for Sand Mining in the San Jacinto River Watershed. The essence of the study’s recommendation: allow sand miners to remove sediment from the point bars outside mines. However, the BMPs stipulate undisturbed buffer zones between mines and the river.

Page 8 of the Freese & Nichols Sediment Removal and Sand Trap Study for the SJRA shows this schematic of the recommended solution.

McCabe has given permission to reproduce his letter. See below.

To the SJRA:

Thank you very much for the opportunity to respond to the Sand Trap Study you have formulated. I think your initial work is excellent and commend you on your data gathering.  However, there are a few points I would like you to consider before proceeding.

As you know, my group worked very hard with TCEQ to establish Best Management Practices (BMPs) for Sand Miners in the San Jacinto watershed.  This Rulemaking was approved in early 2022 and incorporated into 30 TAC Chapter 311, Subchapter J.  Also approved was corresponding Regulatory Guidance document RG 555, implementing the BMP Rules.

Key Provision: Undisturbed Buffer Zones

A key provision of the Regulatory Guidance is:

2.1.1 Vegetative Buffer Zones Vegetative buffer zones are continuous undisturbed or planted vegetated areas that surround a development, or land disturbance activity, or that border an intermittent stream or permanent water body. Buffer zones aid in sediment filtration and removal by slowing surface water flow through these areas. Disperse construction site runoff over the entire buffer zone if possible. A minimum 100-foot buffer zone is required adjacent to perennial streams greater than 20 feet wide, 50 feet for perennial streams less than 20 feet wide, and 35 feet for intermittent streams. Measure buffer zones from the stream bank to the nearest area of disturbance at the site.”

Study Recommendation is “Counterintuitive”

We had fought very hard to establish these buffer zones (at one time we had proposed buffer zones of 1,500 feet).  The very essence of this provision was to KEEP the miners out of the San Jacinto riverbed.  Now to go back and allow in-stream mining seems counter-intuitive to me.

Legal Complications of Waiving Buffer Zone

Additionally, I am not certain how you would get this buffer zone condition waived.  HB 1824 issues a waiver per the Parks and Wildlife Code, Sec. 86.017.  However, it does not address TCEQ regulation at 30 TAC Chapter 311(J), which was implemented AFTER HB 1824 was passed.  You need to have your staff look at the interaction between the two conflicting provisions.

More Holistic Approach Needed

Before proceeding, I would suggest looking closely at Bob Rehak’s Holistic approach to reducing sedimentation, as outlined in one of his recent articles:

  • Revegetating riverbanks
  • Dredging more often where the sand builds up near the mouth of the West Fork
  • Dredging a channel through the mouth bar area
  • Reinforcing sand-mine dikes to withstand floods
  • Leaving more natural green space between mines and the river
  • Moving sand mine stockpiles out of floodway/floodplain areas
  • Only clearing areas actively being mined
  • Decreasing the slope of sand mine dikes
Yours truly,

William McCabe, Lake Houston Area Grassroots Flood Prevention Initiative 

If you have questions or comments on the SJRA’s Sediment Trap Proposal, please submit them via email to:

Deadline: No later than April 29, 2022

Posted by Bob Rehak on 4/15/22 based on a letter by Bill McCabe, Chairman of the Lake Houston Area Flood Prevention Initiative

1690 Days since Hurricane Harvey