Newly elected State Representative Charles Cunningham has introduced a bill aimed at restoring sand mines to productive use after operators cease production. Cunningham filed HB1093 in December and it was referred to the House Natural Resources Committee on 3/2/2023.
Aimed at Protecting Water Supply for 2 Million People
HB1093 amends Section 28A of the Texas Water Code. It applies to aggregate production operations (APOs) located within 1500 feet of the San Jacinto. It deals with the reclamation of such mines and ensure water-quality in the river(s) around them.
The goal is to reduce adverse water-quality impacts to the San Jacinto and Lake Houston which supply drinking water to more than 2 million people. Additional benefits will accrue to recreation, wildlife, and environmental safety.
Requirements in Bill
Before abandonment, the bill requires APOs to file a reclamation plan signed by a licensed engineer. Such a plan would typically include measures such as revegetation, erosion control, grading, soil stabilization, and backfilling. The plans must also address:
- Removal of materials used in production, waste, structures, roads, equipment and railroads.
- Slope stability for the walls of remaining detention ponds
- Closure of waste disposal areas
- Costs for all of the above
- Financial assurance (such as a performance bond, typical in the construction industry) designed to enable cleanup without cost to taxpayers if the operator walks away from the site or declares bankruptcy.
While we need sand to make concrete, we need clean water even more.
Why We Need This Bill
Think these issues aren’t real? They’re all around us. See the pictures below taken recently.
Part of Sedimentation Problem
Lake Houston has lost 20,000 acre feet due to sedimentation and continues to lose on average 380 acre feet annually.
In the 1980s, only one or two small mines existed on the San Jacinto West Fork. Today, sand mines occupy more than 20 square miles in a 20 mile reach of the river between I-69 and I-45. And many empty their pits into the river.
The montage below shows the effect of such issues on water quality where Spring and Cypress Creeks join the West Fork. The angles vary. But in each shot, the dirtier water comes from the West Fork. This is typical and easily visible on most days.
Cost of Dredging
To maintain the capacity of Lake Houston and the conveyance of its tributaries, the City of Houston and Army Corps have dredged almost continuously since Harvey. To date, they have removed almost 4 million cubic yards of sediment at a cost of $226 million.
The City needs even more money to continue the program and it’s all at your (taxpayers’) expense.
How You Can Help
You can bet that TACA (the Texas Aggregate and Concrete Association) will lobby against this bill. So show lawmakers it has your support.
Also, submit public comments when the bill is going to be heard; I will let you know when that is. Here is the website to make Public Comments.
To learn more, consult the sand-mining page on ReduceFlooding.com.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 3/3/23
2012 Days since Hurricane Harvey