On October 24, 2019, Congressman Dan Crenshaw, along with Texas Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz and Representative Kevin Brady (TX-08), sent a letter to Acting FEMA Administrator Peter Gaynor. The letter requested FEMA’s swift approval of the City of Houston’s new plan to dredge more of the San Jacinto river mouth bar.
Letter in Response to New Request Filed by City
The letter came in response to the most recent request from the City for FEMA aid on or about October 11, 2019.
While FEMA has already completed its initial 500,000 cubic-yard debris-removal mission, sediment brought by Hurricane Harvey still exists in the San Jacinto river mouth-bar. To protect Houston, Kingwood, and Humble residents from future flooding, it is imperative that the remaining debris is removed, said Congressman Dan Crenshaw.
“The City of Houston recently filed a Project Worksheet (PW) for debris removal as Category A work under the Public Assistance program,” the group of legislators wrote.“We urge you to use any and all necessary FEMA resources to expeditiously review and approve the city’s PW. Delay will only increase costs and prevent FEMA from fully leveraging presently available dredging assets.”
Great Lakes Dredge and Dock has finished its Army Corps assignment at the mouth bar. I photographed workers continuing to dismantle the company’s dredge this afternoon.
The last line of the letter (“leveraging presently available dredging assets”) refers to assets other than the dredge itself. Such assets include the command post opposite Forest Cove, a second launch point in Atascocita, pipe, cranes, and other assets that could soon be removed. See photos above.
TDEM to Forward Request to FEMA
As of yesterday, according to Houston City Council Member Dave Martin, TDEM still had not forwarded the request to FEMA. However, this reportedly falls within TDEM’s normal processing time for such requests. I wouldn’t read too much into it yet. But let’s hope they hustle up. Those crews at the command site were working late into Saturday night. I’m guessing that represents overtime.
You can clearly see from the pictures above how much equipment it takes to support a dredging operation. And remember, each 40-section of dredge pipe weighs 4,000 pounds and there are about 10 miles of it! This request should not be taken lightly.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 10/26/2019
788 Days since Hurricane Harvey
https://i0.wp.com/reduceflooding.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/RJR_3783.jpg?fit=1500%2C1000&ssl=110001500adminadmin2019-10-26 19:16:202019-10-26 19:19:42Crenshaw, Brady, Cruz and Cornyn Ask FEMA to Dredge More of West Fork Mouth Bar
Last month, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers predicted that dredging could take until early May. They allowed another month for de-mobilization. However, one of the two dredgers on the job, Great Lakes, finished this week. Their early finish could affect a series of decisions on the mouth bar.
Early Finish, New Possibilities
The early finish could let mouth-bar dredging start sooner. However, it also could put pressure on the Corps to consider options not in play a week ago.
At the end of March, the City of Houston submitted an application to FEMA to fund mouth bar dredging. The purpose: remove 1.4 million cubic yards of sediment from the giant sand bar at the mouth of the San Jacinto West Fork. Separately, the City also submitted a permit application to the Army Corps to store the dredging spoils on property in Humble, across from Kingwood’s River Grove Park.
Officials hoped that decisions could be made on both requests before the dredgers began demobilizing. That could save up to $18 million in re-mobilization fees. From a taxpayer-savings point of view, it’s more economical to keep the dredgers dredging than organize a second separate project.
However, Great Lake’s early finish is forcing everyone from Galveston to Houston to Austin to Washington to scramble.
As of this afternoon, the Army Corps said it was still reviewing the storage application permit to use the property in Humble. The permit review plus site prep, if approved, could take months though.
This raised the question of a backup site and the obvious one in my mind is one the Corps is already using – Placement Area #2 (PA2) on Sorters Road south of Kingwood College.
But that would require a much longer run, additional booster pumps, more pipe, and most likely…the larger, more powerful dredge that just finished.
Experts tell me that it is technically feasible to pump the sand all the way from the mouth bar to PA2 – IF the sand mine operator would allow it.
Will the higher cost of the longer run eat up any savings that come from avoiding a second mobilization? The Corps has not yet had time to explore all possibilities and run the numbers, but it’s good to know another possibility may exist…
…if FEMA acts right away
…if the Humble property runs into problems
…if the Corps needs to move quickly to take advantage of the larger dredge.
To help keep all options open, officials throughout Texas at every level have leaped into action.
City officials have scrambled also. Dave Martin, Houston City Council Member said, “I’ve been in communication all day, and had multiple conversations with Great Lakes; Congressman Dan Crenshaw’s office; Chief Nim Kidd of the Texas Division of Emergency Management; Stephen Costello, the City’s Chief Recover Officer, and more.” Reportedly, even Governor Abbott got involved at one point.
According to Martin, “Our #1 goal is a Mission Assignment.”
Still Time to Save Re-mobilization Costs
Martin added,”Nothing is being disassembled, yet. They are not removing any pipe yet. They are taking advantage of this down time to check the pipe’s condition so that it can be replaced if necessary. I’m guardedly optimistic at this time.”
One experienced dredger explained that pipe can wear out. Coarse sand, he said, can be very abrasive, especially with steel pipe.
So for the time being, dredgers are performing necessary maintenance and inspections. That could take days or weeks. However, it probably will not keep them here months. Bottom line: the clock is ticking … louder now than before.
Contractors can’t tolerate downtime indefinitely. How long they decide to wait will most likely depend on the certainty of future work. That depends on FEMA and how quickly it acts.
Update on Funding
FEMA has not yet committed any funding. Stephen Costello has said in the past that the amount they fund will depend on their assessment of the City’s assessment. The two sides need to agree on how much mouth-bar sediment came from Harvey.
Keep in mind though that we must also budget for dredging beyond the mouth bar. We need East Fork, remainder of the West Fork, and maintenance dredging.
All the pieces are falling into place. Keep your fingers crossed and your eyes on FEMA. This is a high-stakes, political drama for the Lake Houston area!
Posted by Bob Rehak on April 12, 2019
591 Days since Hurricane Harvey
https://i0.wp.com/reduceflooding.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/GLDD-Dredge-Back-At-Dock.jpg?fit=1500%2C1000&ssl=110001500adminadmin2019-04-12 14:48:222019-04-12 20:29:50Great Lakes Finishes Dredging Early; Accelerates Need for Mouth Bar Decision