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Life Out of Balance

In addition to monitoring sand mining legislation, I have spent the last several days drafting and redrafting my own letter to the Army Corps and TCEQ about the proposed new high-rise development for Kingwood.

I’m not done with my letter yet. I keep discovering alarming facts. They raise questions about the wisdom of such a development in a fragile, wetlands environment.

Surprising Discoveries

A marina to hold 640 yachts could fill the the entire West Fork. Lined up bow to stern, they would stretch at least 16,000 feet – the entire distance from the marina to the mouth bar. Talk about traffic jams and impacts on navigation! (Hint: Navigation is one of the things that the Corps considers.)

Then I started to think about the population increase and the water supply. Five thousand condos at 2.71 people per household (Kingwood average) PLUS a 50 story hotel, would add about 15,000 people to Kingwood’s population – about a 20 percent increase.

Kingwood is on well water drawn from the Evangeline Aquifer. USGS shows that the water level in the aquifer is decreasing at the rate of 1.7 feet per year, but only recharging at one-tenth of one inch per year, We’re using up the aquifer 200 times faster than the recharge rate! A twenty percent increase would kick that rate up to 240X. (Hint: the Corps also considers impacts on the water supply.)

Depletion rate of the Evangeline aquifer near the site of the proposed high-rise development in Kingwood is unsustainable.

Think maybe this could have to do with increasing rates of subsidence and your foundation problems? Check out this AP article that shows what subsidence is doing in Tehran. (Hint: the Corps considers environmental impacts, safety, economics, and the welfare of the public, too.)

Wrong Number and a Hang Up

With that pleasant thought, I decided to call the developer to see if we could talk about some of my concerns. Surprise! The developer does not answer the phone number listed in the Public Notice. The people who answer the phone tell me I have the “Wrong number” and hang up. So I sent a certified letter requesting a public meeting to discuss these issues. We shall see if he responds. Many of the phone numbers for the developers’ other companies are not live. It kind of makes you wonder who you’re dealing with.

Putting it All into Perspective

The deeper I dig, the more concerned I become about connections between the high-rise development, sand mining and legislation. Are we encouraging unsustainable practices? Stay with me for a second.

It all reminds me of a classic 1952 science fiction book called The Space Merchants by Pohl and Kornbluth.  I read it decades ago.

In a vastly overpopulated near-future world, businesses have taken the place of governments and now hold all political power. The public is constantly deluded into thinking that all the products on the market improve quality of life.

The book illustrates how production/consumption cycles thrive. On a small scale, think about movie theaters putting more salt on popcorn, so you’ll buy a $5 soft drink that costs a penny to make.

On a grander scale think about sand mining in the flood plain to get cheap sand. So that these developers can build high rises in the flood plain. And sell them thanks to below-cost government flood insurance. That you and I pay for with our taxes. When all we really wanted to do was take a walk by the river and enjoy the serenity … that’s being destroyed.

Nesting pair of great egrets seconds after their first egg hatched. I call this shot, “Proud Parents.” By Bob Rehak.

It also reminded me of a movie called Koyaanisqatsi released in 1982. Francis Ford Coppola executive-produced it. It’s 90 minutes of world-class cinematography. The visual tempo increases from languid when we see nature photography in the beginning – to frenetic at the end when we see nature being overpowered by man and technology. Imagine time-lapse photography applied to evolution that accelerates at a dizzying pace.

The title, a Navajo phrase meaning “life out of balance”, is revealed at the end. The movie makes its point without speaking a word. It created an impression that’s still vivid after 35 years. I highly recommend it if you want to feel what’s happening to the San Jacinto in your bones.

You can buy or rent the movie through the iTunes Store or Amazon Prime Video. It’s a classic in the documentary genre.

Connecting the Dots

The book, the movie, the high-rise development and the sand mines make you want to scream “Enough already.” We need to restore balance. Live life in harmony with nature. Isn’t that what we wanted for our children when we decided to buy homes in Kingwood?

I’m sure that someone will say, “But we need the tax revenues.” To which I will say, “If we weren’t destroying our own environment maybe we wouldn’t need such high taxes.

A couple hundred million tax dollars to dredge!? Maybe that sand isn’t so cheap after all. I know emotion won’t sway the Corps and TCEQ, but dammit, “Enough already!”

Posted by Bob Rehak on January 25, 2019

514 Days since Hurricane Harvey

As always, these represent my opinions on matters of public police. They are protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and the Anti-SLAPP statute of the Great State of Texas.