Tag Archive for: Callan

Army Corps Now 70% Complete with Its Portion of Mouth Bar Dredging

The Army Corps has released a new summary of its progress on dredging the mouth bar. The report indicates that Great Lakes, the contractor is now 70% complete. They have dredged 350,000 out of 500,000 cubic yards.

Great Lakes started dredging the mouth bar on June 25th, 2019, as part of a $17,085,861 extension of the original contract (FEMA mission assignment SWD-30).

Current area of operation is the blue area on the far right. Sediment removed from that area is being pumped 10 miles back upstream to Placement Area #2, a sand mine near Kingwood College, on the far left.

Between the start of mouth bar dredging and August 12, Great Lakes dredged an average of 6,363 cubic yards per day. If they can keep that pace up, they should be done by approximately Labor Day – three months ahead of schedule. That’s HALF the predicted time.

Remainder of Project Still Not Decided

What comes next? That still has not been finalized. City, County and State officials have been meeting in the background to determine that. The Army Corps still has not accepted or rejected Berry Madden’s property as a third placement area. And the $30 million appropriated by the State for mouth bar dredging won’t even become available until September 1st.

Meanwhile, Callan Marine, the subcontractor from the original West Fork Emergency Dredging job has pulled its equipment back to the dock opposite Forest Cove. However, Callan has not yet started disassembling its equipment and removing it from the river. According to Houston City Councilman Dave Martin, Callan has agreed to stay temporarily while officials attempt to work out details for the next phase of dredging.

RD Kissling and Tim Garfield, two local geologists who first brought the mouth bar issue to the public’s attention, estimate that 500,000 cubic yards is about one-fourth of the total sediment that must be removed to fully restore conveyance of the West Fork.

How Shallow is It?

The Corps has not yet released (or even developed) plans for mouth bar dredging. We do know the volume they intend to remove, and the general area they intend to remove it from. However, they have refused to divulge how much of a dent their efforts will make in solving the problem.

This photo of a Kings River resident wading across the river shows how shallow it is near the orange channel marker. This resident says boats “beach” behind his property almost every day. Note: Deeper pockets may exist, especially near dredging equipment. The risk of drowning is real. Do not let children attempt this. Photo taken Sunday, August 10, 2019.
The resident made it almost to the channel marker without getting his shorts wet. Shot taken with 6X telephoto lens.
The lake/river within this area averages two to three feet deep. 500,000 cubic yards would lower the average level by another three feet as this calculation shows.

Problem With Stopping after 500,000 CY

The problem with stopping after the Corps finishes its 500,000 cubic yards is that the river behind this area is much deeper. Where the Corps stopped dredging just past Kings Harbor, the river is now 25-30 feet deep. And places are even deeper according to fishermen. That means water coming downriver will be forced to flow uphill in this area. That will force it to slow down and more sediment will rapidly drop out of suspension. Some experts have suggested dredging a deep channel through this area to help restore full conveyance of the river. However, the Army Corps intends to stop after 500,000 cubic yards.

How Army Corps Sees its Role

The Army Corps has prepared a series of FAQs that represent its position on the remainder of mouth bar dredging. Among them:

Q: What is USACE Galveston District’s plan for the rest of the mouth bar?

A. There is no additional work planned for the mouth bar. The current plan for the modification addressing material near the mouth bar can be found on the placemat. USACE Galveston District has no authority to conduct any additional work in the West Fork of the San Jacinto River or Lake Houston. The San Jacinto River is not an authorized federal waterway, the Corps of Engineers dredging operations are currently limited to dredging Harvey-related material. The ongoing work under the contract modification will remove the remainder of material attributable directly to Hurricane Harvey. The sedimentation from recurring annual flows are not within USACE Galveston District’s mission assignment from FEMA. Water flows on the West Fork of San Jacinto River were restored to pre-Harvey levels in December 2018.”

Q: Who can the public contact for additional concerns with the maintenance of the San Jacinto River?

A. For concerns with the maintenance of the San Jacinto River, please contact Harris County Flood Control District, the San Jacinto River Authority and the City of Houston.”


Meanwhile the City is still arguing with the Corps about how they arrived at 500,000 cubic yards. More on that later. I have obtained the Corps’ estimate through a FOIA request to the City of Houston. It raises many questions that I am still trying to sort through. More on that later.

Posted by Bob Rehak on August 14, 2019

715 Days since Hurricane Harvey

First Phase of West Fork Dredging Completed

The Army Corps has completed the original scope of its West Fork Emergency Dredging Project. Great Lakes, the prime contractor, finished its portion of the job in mid-April. This week, Callan Marine, the subcontractor, finished its portion of the dredging.

Subcontractor Callan Marine Now Demobilizing

Callan has already begun demobilizing. So far, the company has unhooked its dredge from its pipeline and is removing its booster pumps and other equipment from the river. Callan should have all of its equipment back at the command site dock by this weekend.

Yesterday, Keith Jordan, a resident of Kings Lake Estates, greeted the news joyfully. “Hallelujah! It’s simply amazing how quiet it is tonight.  It’s been a long 8 months!” Jordan had a booster pump anchored behind his home the entire time and complained several times to the Corps about noise.

Callan operated the blue dredge that worked the area downstream from the West Lake Houston Parkway bridge since approximately January.

Callan dredge near King’s Harbor on Jan. 31, 2019. West Lake Houston Parkway Bridge in background. Callan booster pump on far side of bridge.

Mouth Bar Contract Extension Ahead of Schedule

In other news, Great Lakes is far ahead of schedule on a contract extension. The extension is a separate mission assignment from FEMA to the Corps for slightly more than $17 million. It involves dredging 500,000 cubic yards of sediment from the mouth bar. The Corps originally thought the extension would take until January, 2020. However, at the current rate, Great Lakes could finish next month – in less than half the time predicted.

Five-hundred thousand cubic yards will barely scratch the surface of what needs to be removed and may not even be sufficient to cut a channel through the mouth bar area, thus leaving most of the mouth bar intact. It is unclear at this time what the plans are to restore conveyance through this area of the West Fork.

Current Dredging Photos from Carolyn Daniel

A reader, Carolyn Daniel, sent me several pictures taken earlier this week from the window of an airplane as it descended into Bush Intercontinental Airport. They show the Great Lakes Dredge south of the mouth bar. The company also removed vegetation from leading edge of the mouth bar itself. Perhaps they hoped that river currents could help erode the bar which contains far more than 500,000 cubic yards.

Great Lakes Dredge near Mouth Bar with Kingwood in background. Looking north. Town Center is on left and Kings Point on the right. Photo courtesy of Carolyn Daniel. Taken 8/5/2019.
Seconds later, as her plane descended, Carolyn Daniel grabbed this shot of mouth bar dredging. Also looking north, it shows Atascocita Point in the foreground and Fosters Mill and Kings Point in the background.

These images illustrate the enormity of the task ahead and the need to be ruthlessly efficient with resources and time.

Challenges Ahead

Tomorrow, I will look at some of the challenges ahead, and some of the obstacles to restoring conveyance.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 8/8/2019 with photos from Carolyn Daniel

709 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Army Corps Updates Dredging Status

As of April 15, almost all of the Emergency West Fork Dredging Project was complete. The map below shows the current status. As of April 15, the Corps and its contractors have dredged a total of 1,564,000 cubic yards of sediment.

The Great Lakes dredge has completed its segment (shown in red) and returned to dock where it is undergoing maintenance. Great Lakes has not yet demobilized. It is awaiting a decision from FEMA and the Army Corps on whether they will approve dredging of the mouth bar.

For a full-resolution pdf, click here.

Callan Marine, a subcontractor to Great Lakes, is shown in blue. They are currently dredging just downstream from Kings Harbor. They have about 400 yards to go on the northern half of the channel. Callan should complete its segment around the end of the month.

Great Lakes Dredge has completed its segment and is docked, undergoing maintenance.
Callan still has a short distance to dredge. See the unfilled rectangles in the map above.

Next step: FEMA and the Army Corps need to make a decision on the mouth bar. They have not yet indicated when that might be.

Posted by Bob Rehak on April 17, 2019

596 Days since Hurricane Harvey

March 4 Dredge Update

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers supplied this graphic. It updates the public on the latest dredging progress.

Two dredges, moving west to east (left to right), expect to complete dredging by the end of April, seven weeks from now. It was originally a nine month project scheduled to end around April 1, but heavy weather and multiple floods during December and January set the contractors back.

Great Lakes Dredge and Dock operates the red dredge that started at River Grove Park and is working its way toward the project midpoint.

Callan Marine operates the blue dredge that started at the midpoint and is working its way toward the end.

With roughly 50 days remaining (about 15-20% of the time depending on how many weather days you allow), the corps appears to be about 70% done. That means they must hustle to make up time. The contractors are already working 24/7.

Parents who want to give their kids a treat can take them down to Kings Harbor to watch the dredging. I was there today. It is truly impressive. There’s lots of big equipment on the river moving more sand than the Astrodome can hold. They’re pumping it miles upriver to two old sand pits.

While at Kings Harbor sample some frozen yogurt or one of the restaurants that recently re-opened. Please support the local merchants who bet their financial futures to make your life a little more enjoyable.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 3/7/2019

555 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Corps Finishing Touch-Up Dredging at River Grove, Moving Downriver

Good news for residents. Last week, the Army Corps of Engineers and its contractor, Great Lakes Dredge and Dock, finished dredging the area up to the boat dock at River Grove Park. However, because of the size of the hydraulic dredge, it could not quite finish the job. So on Monday, the contractor returned with mechanical dredging equipment to work in the tight drainage ditch area by the boat dock. See the photo below courtesy of Don Harbour.

Mechanical dredging equipment was able to maneuver into the tight location that the hydraulic dredge could not. Photo courtesy of Don Harbour, a local resident.

The Kingwood Service Association also requested the Corps to reduce the angle on the edge of the remaining side bar. Young people frequently played on the bar. Community leaders were concerned that a cave in near the steep edge could cause a bad accident.  

Contractors scraped back edge of sand bar to prevent cave-ins caused by curious kids.

As you can see from the edge of the bar in the photo above, the Corps has addressed that issue. 

This afternoon when I visited the park, I saw a survey boat checking to ensure the contractors had reached the proper depth.

Survey boat checks for proper depth while mechanical dredge stands by.

Multiple Activities Create Hazards for Recreational Boaters

The River Grove area today was busier than Santa’s workshop on Christmas Eve. However, the main focus of dredging activity will soon move east. Dredge #1, operated by subcontractor Callan Marine is now working close to the West Lake Houston Parkway Bridge. Dredge #2, operated by Great Lakes, is now operating just east of River Grove (see point #4 in photo below).

The river is busy. Stay off it for your own safety.

From the boat dock today, I saw five different clusters of activity in different areas: 1) survey boat, 2) mechanical dredge, 3) debris removal on far side of river, 4) Hydraulic dredge moving towards the country club, and 5) a back hoe removing vegetation from the triangular sand dune  in the distance.

Both dredges will continue to work their way east until they reach their respective goals. 

Latest Schedule

The Corps’ schedule originally called for completion in mid-April 2019. However, crews have been delayed by recent storms and floods, as well as greater than expected sedimentation in the river. Their most recent schedule calls for completion by April 30 and demobilization during the first two weeks of May.

Status of Mouth Bar Project Still Uncertain

Everyone I talk to hopes FEMA and the Corps will grant approval for a second project that addresses the huge sand bar at the mouth of the West Fork before this project reaches completion. If that does not happen, demobilization and remobilization at a future date would cost about $18 million. 

The “Mouth Bar,” a giant sand bar that blocks the West Fork of the San Jacinto, backing the river up into Kingwood and Humble. The mouth bar is not within the scope of the current Army Corps dredging project, but officials have been trying to get FEMA and the Corps to include it. Water depth is generally 1-3 feet around this bar. Max channel depth in places is just 5 feet.

Sources in Austin expected an announcement weeks ago on the mouth bar. Congressman Ted Poe requested a meeting with the head of the Army Corps to discuss the project. However, the  meeting originally scheduled for November 28th was delayed into next year. That means Congressman-elect Dan Crenshaw will inherit the battle. Meanwhile, Senator Ted Cruz has thrown the weight of his office behind the effort to dredge the mouth bar.

Corps to Meet with Super Neighborhood Council Wednesday Night

Eduardo Irigoyen, the project manager of the Emergency West Fork Dredging Project (the dredging currently underway), will meet with the Kingwood Super Neighborhood Council tomorrow night. The meeting at the Kingwood Community Center starts at 7PM. Mr. Irigoyen will update local leaders on the status of the Corps’ project. The meeting is open to the public, but seating is very limited.

Posted by Bob Rehak on December 18, 2018

476 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Second Dredge Starts Dredging

It’s official. There are now two dredges actually dredging on the West Fork. Dredge #2, owned and operated by Great Lakes Dredge and Dock, moved downriver from the command site on October 16.

Getting 2-foot Pipe Through Water One Foot Deep

However, the company had not yet reached placement area #2 with the pipeline. Great Lakes had to dredge their way upstream through water less than one-foot deep in places to get to the placement area with five miles of pipeline that is 2 feet in diameter.

Next Steps: Patches and Pressure Testing

After reaching the placement area with pipe, Great Lakes then had to test it. During testing, dredgers slowly increase pressure in pipe as they look for leaks. The most common place to find leaks is at the joints, but sometimes they need to replace entire sections of pipe. The dredgers then make repairs in the water from pontoons loaded with backhoes and welding equipment. Backhoes bring the pipe up from the bottom of the river and position it in the welding machines.

After that, the dredging company had to test the booster pumps and throttles as they started them up. They also perform dye tests to calibrate velocity measurements. This helps ensure that water in each stage is moving at the same rate of speed. Great Lakes and its subcontractor Callan Marine will each use up to three booster pumps to keep five miles of sediment-laden water moving upriver to their respective placement areas.

One of three booster pumps that Great Lakes will use. This one can be seen from the northbound 59 feeder road.

While dredge #1, which started the same process on September 20 is diesel, dredge #2 is electric. Electric dredges run quieter, but take longer to warm up. As my source said, “An electric dredge slowly heats up the equipment to drive the moisture out; water and electricity don’t mix well.”

Now Working 24/7 Until Completion

With all those steps complete, dredging is now in full swing. By this weekend, both dredgers will be working 24/7 until completion.

To help jumpstart dredging, Great Lakes hired Callan Marine as a subcontractor. Callan had equipment available earlier and started this same process on September 20. The diagram below shows how both companies plan to work together.

Dredge #1 started at the halfway point and will work its way east to the end point. Dredge #2 started at River Grove Park and is working its way toward the midpoint.

Great Lakes will start at the western edge of the project area and work its way to the middle. Meanwhile, Callan, which started in the middle will work its way to the project’s end point – east of the West Lake Houston Parkway Bridge (by Chimichurri’s).

Callan will send its spoils to placement area #1 while Great Lakes will send its to placement area #2.

No News Yet on Next Phase of Dredging

When City of Houston representatives including City Council Member Dave Martin returned from Austin two weeks ago for a high level meeting about the need to remove the mouth bar, hopes were running high. Decisions makers needed only an environmental survey and a placement area before the mouth bar project could proceed. Reportedly, they had reached agreement in principle on all other requirements including funding. However, the City has made no announcements yet about either the survey or a third placement area.

It took 3.5 months for contractors to fully mobilize for the current project. If FEMA, the Corps, the State, and the City can lock down phase two before mid-April, 2019, taxpayers have a chance to save the cost of another mobilization/demobilization – about $18 million.

It would also save precious time. Without having to remobilize, dredgers would have a chance to cut a channel through the mouth bar before the onset of next hurricane season.

Revised, estimated timeline for first phase of the West Fork Emergency Dredging Project

What About River Grove Boat Launch?

Cutting a channel through the side bar at River Grove will probably be the last thing Great Lakes does as part of this phase of dredging. Dredgers are concerned about boater safety and worry that opening the channel now will increase the number of boats on the river and the chance of accidents.

Posted on October 25, 2018 by Bob Rehak

422 Days since Hurricane Harvey