As floodwaters worked their way down the East and West Forks of the San Jacinto from last week’s heavy rains, they invaded sand mines on both rivers on Easter Sunday, 2023.
Up to 9 inches of rain fell in the headwaters of both rivers during 3 days from 4/5 to 4/7. Atlas-14 rainfall probability statistics indicate that equals a 5-year rain.
The Lake Conroe Dam intercepted much of the West Fork rain and is now releasing it at about 6400 cubic feet per second. There are no dams on the East Fork and the flooding there appears much worse.
West Fork Near Northpark South Development
Near the Northpark South Development on Sorters Road, the West Fork snakes its way through four square miles of sand mines. In the image below, the Hallett Mine on the right seemed secure. But the abandoned sand mines on the left and top center both opened to the river.
East Fork Near FM2090 on 4/9/2023
Normally, the East Fork at 2090 is about 30-40 feet wide – the size of the opening in the woods circled in red below. But today, the river swelled to about 2000 feet wide.
As the East Fork rose, it invaded the abandoned Texas Concrete Sand and Gravel Mine in Plum Grove.
Water entered the northern end, swept through the mine, and punched through the dikes on the southern end, carrying silt and sand with it. See sequence of pictures below.
Mine Fails to Meet Guidelines for Abandonment
This mine does not meet TCEQ guidelines for abandonment. The miners left equipment, including a dredge. They also failed to grade stockpiles, remove buildings, and plant grass. Yet somehow, the TCEQ gave them a pass.
This is the second time in less than two years that this mine has been inundated. The public will bear the cost of dredging all the sand carried downriver.
I guess the miners need the money more than you do.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 4/9/2023
2049 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.
https://i0.wp.com/reduceflooding.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/04/20230409-DJI_0542.jpg?fit=1200%2C799&ssl=17991200adminadmin2023-04-09 19:10:132023-04-10 17:15:03Swollen San Jacinto East and West Forks Sweep Through Sand Mines
Newly elected State Representative Charles Cunningham has introduced a bill aimed at restoring sand mines to productive use after operators cease production. Cunningham filed HB1093 in December and it was referred to the House Natural Resources Committee on 3/2/2023.
Aimed at Protecting Water Supply for 2 Million People
HB1093 amends Section 28A of the Texas Water Code. It applies to aggregate production operations (APOs) located within 1500 feet of the San Jacinto. It deals with the reclamation of such mines and ensure water-quality in the river(s) around them.
The goal is to reduce adverse water-quality impacts to the San Jacinto and Lake Houston which supply drinking water to more than 2 million people. Additional benefits will accrue to recreation, wildlife, and environmental safety.
Requirements in Bill
Before abandonment, the bill requires APOs to file a reclamation plan signed by a licensed engineer. Such a plan would typically include measures such as revegetation, erosion control, grading, soil stabilization, and backfilling. The plans must also address:
Removal of materials used in production, waste, structures, roads, equipment and railroads.
Slope stability for the walls of remaining detention ponds
Closure of waste disposal areas
Costs for all of the above
Financial assurance (such as a performance bond, typical in the construction industry) designed to enable cleanup without cost to taxpayers if the operator walks away from the site or declares bankruptcy.
While we need sand to make concrete, we need clean water even more.
Why We Need This Bill
Think these issues aren’t real? They’re all around us. See the pictures below taken recently.
Part of Sedimentation Problem
Lake Houston has lost 20,000 acre feet due to sedimentation and continues to lose on average 380 acre feet annually.
In the 1980s, only one or two small mines existed on the San Jacinto West Fork. Today, sand mines occupy more than 20 square miles in a 20 mile reach of the river between I-69 and I-45. And many empty their pits into the river.
The montage below shows the effect of such issues on water quality where Spring and Cypress Creeks join the West Fork. The angles vary. But in each shot, the dirtier water comes from the West Fork. This is typical and easily visible on most days.
Cost of Dredging
To maintain the capacity of Lake Houston and the conveyance of its tributaries, the City of Houston and Army Corps have dredged almost continuously since Harvey. To date, they have removed almost 4 million cubic yards of sediment at a cost of $226 million.
https://i0.wp.com/reduceflooding.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/20210817-DJI_0349.jpg?fit=1200%2C799&ssl=17991200adminadmin2023-03-03 19:17:032023-03-07 11:24:33Cunningham Sponsors Bill to Ensure Restoration of Abandoned Sand Mines