The hand of sand miners weighs heavily on the San Jacinto watershed. Not all miners. But many.
While exploring the river basin by helicopter last week, the contrast between two scenes struck me: 1) The natural blanket of green in Lake Houston Wilderness Park. 2) Sand mines that lined the banks of the East and West Forks for miles.
The trees and natural wetlands inhibit floods. They slow floodwaters down, hold them back during heavy rains, and reduce erosion. The sand mines do not. They may provide some floodwater detention, but the pits are often filled to the brim and their dikes often break.
How you treat the land determines how it treats you. Especially during floods. This aerial photo essay shows how the San Jacinto River Basin used to look and how it looks today.
Lake Houston Wilderness Park
Peach and Caney Creeks border Lake Houston Wilderness Park on the west. The San Jacinto East Fork borders it on the east. The shot below represents the way the whole Lake Houston area used to be.
Compare That With These Shots
This first provides a direct comparison.
Below, note the difference in water levels between the creek and mine. No doubt, you also noticed a difference in water color. That bright blue/green in the mine water likely comes from high chloride levels.
More Mine Photos from West Fork
I’ll provide five more shots here, all from the West Fork San Jacinto. They represent more than 500 similar shots I took on 7/22/22.
When I see all this environmental degradation, my mind starts swimming – despite the scary water.
- How much sediment gets swept downstream in floods?
- Can this land ever return to productive use?
- Do other cities allow mining in urban environments upstream from their water sources?
- What effect does mining have on the water quality in Lake Houston?
- What percentage of our water bills goes to cleaning up this water?
- Why doesn’t Texas have performance bonds that ensure sand miners leave the land in habitable shape?
The sand makes concrete. It supports growth. But is all growth good?
- Is growth in one area at the expense of public safety in another worthwhile?
- Should we limit the concentration of mines in an area?
- Why do mines expect the public to pay their cleanup and reclamation costs?
- Is it safe to build mines below a dam that releases enough water during floods to break the mines’ dikes?
- Are there no alternatives?
I encourage rebuttals from any mine owner who wishes to address these questions.
Posted by Bob Rehak on July 27, 2022
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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.