After January’s five-day hydro-fest, Houston area rivers, streams and ditches look like they woke up with a bad hangover. Some areas are hiding under broad blankets of sand. The root balls of uprooted trees jutted up from the San Jacinto riverbed like tank traps on a battlefield, a testament to how shallow the river has become once again. And sand, in at least one case, has totally blocked off a drainage ditch.
Photos at US59 Bridge over San Jacinto West Fork
Kingwood-area resident Robin Seydewitz took the three images and video at the US59 Bridge this morning (2/5/24).
Sediment Build Up Alarming
The January flood was not as bad as Harvey. This was a much smaller flood – the type that happens far more frequently – like every 2 to 5 years depending on where you live.
The danger is not so much what this flood deposited, but what similar floods can deposit over time and how they can reduce the conveyance of rivers, streams and ditches. All the accretions add up like hairballs in your shower drain.
Here’s how one minor storm totally blocked a ditch after one storm.
Upstream of this blockage along the ditch, the Northpark South development, built on wetlands, is dumping its drainage into the abandoned sand mine on the right.
The 5-square mile Hallett sand mine is upstream on the left. Two residents/neighbors of the mine have witnessed the company pumping sludge from its settling pond on several occasions since the flood. The latest was tonight as I posted this article. They may have contributed to the build up also.
The Hallett operation is so large that the company actually mines sand on both sides of the river. You can see a small part of their operation below at the top of the frame.
Of course, some of the sediment shown in these photos comes from river bank erosion.
But some also comes from sand mines and new developments that have clearcut thousands of acres without taking precautions to control runoff. See examples below.
Of course, we have many responsible developers and sand miners. But we also have some who are not.
Turning Natural Events into Unnatural Disasters
Robin Seydewitz is the river enthusiast, canoeist, kayaker, and flood activist who took many of the photos above. She said, “Sand mines that don’t operate safely are a big part of the problem. So are developers who clearcut land without barriers or natural vegetation to stop sediment from running off. The lack of enforcement for drainage regulations is another part of the problem. We need more protection for the public. This is my opinion. We are not protected; the mine owners, operators and developers are.”
The moral of this story?
We need better enforcement of drainage regulations. And we need another river survey, like the one we had after Harvey, to see how much conveyance has been reduced.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 2/5/24
2351 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.