Tag Archive for: DRC

City of Houston Contractors to Begin East Fork Debris Removal

Disaster Recovery Corporation, a contractor for the City of Houston will soon begin debris removal on the San Jacinto East Fork.

Scope of Work

The scope of this particular phase of debris removal extends from just north of the southern tip of Lake Houston Park to about halfway up the east side of the 5000 acre park. See the start and stop points on the satellite image below.

The City of Houston should begin debris removal on the east side of Lake Houston Park next week.

The distance covered equals 2 miles as crow flies or 3 miles as the fish swims.

Debris Includes…

Here are FEMA guidelines for debris removal. Debris can include trees, sunken boats, old tires, vehicles, and other things washed downstream in floods. It is basically any debris in the water, or below the surface at a depth that is equal to the maximum draft level of the largest vessel that would use the waterway plus 2 feet. Debris also includes trees that are leaning or that pose a threat to public safety.

Beginning First Week in June

Work should start the first week in June. Authorities eventually expect the work to extend up to the Harris County line at FM1485 near the extension of the Grand Parkway.

Debris Removal to Date

Debris removal to date in other places on the East and West Forks and their tributaries has consisted mainly of the removal of downed trees. On Lake Houston, debris removal began almost exactly two years ago.

The trees pose hazards to navigation and can form logjams that back water up in floods, threatening homes and businesses. They also can get hung up on bridge supports and the Lake Houston Dam, threatening infrastructure.

During Harvey, trees swept downstream and caught up in the supports for the Union Pacific and the southbound Highway 59 bridges over the West Fork in Humble. Both bridges had to be replaced. Trees also blocked flow at the FM1960 bridge and the rail bridge in Lake Houston.

Trees enter the waterway when floodwaters undermine river banks or simply rip trees out by their roots.

Downed trees on West Fork after Hurricane Harvey flood. Photo taken September 14, 2017
Dead tree removal on Lake Houston in June 2018.
This pontoon carried dead trees as well as fencing that had been swept into the river. September 2018.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 5/29/2020

1004 Days after Hurricane Harvey and 253 since Imelda

East Fork Mouth Bar Rapidly Developing

In the 2+ years since Hurricane Harvey, many East Fork residents complained that the West Fork was getting all the media attention and remediation dollars. Imelda may have just changed that narrative. An East Fork Mouth Bar rapidly increased in size during the storm.

Rapid Increase in Sedimentation Between Royal Shores and Luce Bayou

Between Luce Bayou and Royal Shores, Josh Alberson, an East Fork resident and boater says the channel recently measured as much as 18 feet deep. Last weekend, when checking cross-sections on the depth finder of his jet boat, the deepest part of the channel measured three to four feet in that same area. Here’s what it looks like from a helicopter pointing south toward Lake Houston and the FM1960 Bridge.

East Fork Mouth Bar. Photo taken one week after Imelda on 9/27/19.

It’s clear that portions of these bars preceded Imelda, just as portions of the West Fork Mouth Bar preceded Harvey. You can tell that by the vegetation. However, you can also see the immense recent growth of these bars in the areas without vegetation.

Shots taken from the boat show vast expanses of sand now clogging the East Fork.

Looking south toward the entrance to Lake Houston. Photo taken on 9/29/19. Channel between here and Luce Bayou (out of frame on the left) averaged 3-4 feet deep.
Looking west toward Royal Shores from same location. Photo taken 9/29/19.
Looking east toward Luce Bayou, I captured this shot of a dead tree on 9/29/19. It underscores how shallow the river is at this location. More than half the root ball sits above water.

Hundreds, Possibly Thousands of Trees Down

Upstream, hundreds, if not thousands of trees were uprooted by Imelda. The City and DRC had just completed removing such hazards. They did a thorough and beautiful job. However, Imelda will mean starting over…at least on the East Fork.

Giant Sand Bars Now Filling More than Half of River

The sand bar opposite East End Park migrated downstream. It also expanded outward and may have contributed to significant erosion on the parks northern shore. It now cuts off more than half the river. Not surprisingly The river appears to have migrated south in this area by at least 50 feet.
Opposite the massive sand bar above, entire trails have been washed away in East End Park. Beware of possible bank collapse. Very dangerous conditions exist on trails. Do not use the park until repairs have been completed.
The storm deposited other sand bars father upstream, like this one in the approximate area of Woodstream. It was just below where Taylor Gully enters the river at Dunham Road.

Fourth Breach Discovered at Sand Mine

Still unknown: how much of a role multiple breaches at the Triple PG mine played in sedimentation.

Charlie Fahrmeier discovered yet another breach at the mine on Monday; this one partial.

View of partial breach near north end of Triple PG mine from Caney Creek. Photo by Charlie Fahrmeier. Taken on 9/30/19.
Above the partial breach shown in the photo above. Fahrmeier says he found the grass all laying down in one direction indicating rushing water inundated it recently. Photo taken on 9/30/19.

Role of Sand Mine Under Investigation

Dan Huberty today announced that Ken Paxton, the state attorney general, has agreed to investigate the Triple PG mine. A spokesman for the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration said investigators were headed to the site today. The TCEQ has also launched an investigation.

Clearly, the mine is not responsible for all of the sand in the river. But its location in TWO floodways, four possible breaches, and loss of a major portion of its stockpile indicate it played some role in the massive sedimentation.

Looking south across the Triple PG Mine’s main stockpile. White Oak Creek swept in from the right and Caney Creek from the left. The stockpile measures approximately 20 acres and has risen to an estimated 90-100 feet at times. On this day, 9/27/19, it was much smaller. Whether that was due to erosion or sales is unknown. Notice all the equipment laying on its side to the right of the metal buildings.

Substantial Repairs?

After a breach in May, the mine simply dumped sand in the hole which quickly eroded again. Photo taken 9/29/19.

I doubt this meets the TCEQ requirements for substantial repairs.

Close up of breach repair. It appears to be nothing but sand. Photo 9/29/19.

Whether these repairs were intended to fail or whether the operator didn’t care if they failed, the result was the same. More sand in the river. And more gunk in your drinking water supply.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 10/2/2019 with thanks to Josh Alberson and Charlie Fahrmeier.

764 Days after Hurricane Harvey and 13 since Imelda

All thoughts expressed in this post represent my opinions on matters of public policy and safety. They are protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution and the Anti-SLAPP statute of the Great State of Texas.