Urgent Request: Support HB1093 to Improve Water Quality, Reduce Flooding, Save Tax Dollars

State Representative Charles Cunningham has introduced HB1093. The bill would ensure cleanup of abandoned sand mines in the San Jacinto watershed. It requires miners to post a bond that covers cleanup costs. So, if an irresponsible miner walks away from a mine before reclamation, the public doesn’t have to pay the deadbeat’s costs.

A bond is like an insurance policy that guarantees the performance of obligations.

Without a bond, miners who profited for years from a mine can simply walk away when they are done mining, foisting cleanup costs onto the public or leaving blight behind.

How Bad Is the Problem?

Right now, there are at least six mines on the East and West Forks of the San Jacinto that were left a mess. Such abandoned sand mines are increasingly becoming a blight that imperils water quality in Lake Houston, the source of drinking water for 2 million people.

  • Rusting equipment leaks poisons and poses safety problems.
  • Un-stabilized soil increases rates of erosion and contributes to flooding.
  • Steep banks in pits slump away in slabs threatening neighboring properties and businesses.
  • Blight reduces surrounding property values and business activity

Miners are supposed to remove equipment and structures before they abandon a mine. But not all do. See the pictures below.

Leaking equipment near Riverview Drive in Porter on West Fork. Google Earth images show this in same location since 2008.
abandoned dredge
Dredge abandoned in Humble mine in 2017.
Abandoned excavator in Porter mine on West Fork
Abandoned dredge in Plum Grove mine.
Abandoned processing equipment in Humble mine.
Abandoned processing equipment and vehicle in Humble mine since 2017.

Miners are also obligated to grade and stabilize soil before they leave a mine, then replant vegetation similar to the surrounding area to reduce sediment pollution. But not all do.

Ungraded, un-stabilized soil in East Fork Plum Grove Mine.
Ungraded soil and abandoned equipment in East Fork Mine
A flood later swept through the mine above, sending sediment down the East Fork.
Defunct sand pit in Humble. Steep slopes – ungraded and unvegetated – erode and threaten neighboring business.

Community Consequences

Most sand moves during storms. This island appeared after Hurricane Harvey between Humble and Kingwood. It blocked the West Fork by 90%, according to the Army Corps and contributed to the flooding of thousands of homes and businesses.
Confluence of the San Jacinto West Fork with Spring Creek. Images taken on different days from different angles, but in each case the dirty water comes from the West Fork, where we have 20 square miles of mines on a 20 mile stretch of the river between I-45 and I-69.

Most responsible miners will clean up on their own. But experience shows, a few bad apples will not. And when they walk away, the cost to the public can be enormous. Dredging costs alone have exceeded $226 million in the Lake Houston area since Harvey.

How You Can Help

Please help reduce this and related cleanup costs in the future. Ensure that sand miners don’t pass their remediation costs on to taxpayers.

Make sure HB1093 at least gets to the House floor for a vote this year.

In the last session, a similar bill by former Representative Dan Huberty, HB4478, never made it out of the Natural Resources committee.

HB1093 deserves a hearing. Please write the chair and vice chair of Natural Resources asking them to consider it.

The committee will likely recommend King’s HB10. It will fund the creation of 7-million acre-feet of new water supplies for rural areas.

Let’s do something that won’t cost taxpayers a penny to protect a water supply we already have. Support HB1093. And please forward this link to all your friends, family and neighbors.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 3/18/23

2027 Days after 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.