Tag Archive for: Fahrmeier

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.

Triple-P Sand Mine Breached Again; East End Park Destroyed for Second Time in Two Years

Correction: The head of Enforcement for the TCEQ notified me that there was a “proposed” fine of $16,875 issued to the Triple-P Mine for the May breach, but that they have not “settled” yet.

The East Fork of the San Jacinto River and the Triple-P sand mine took a terrible toll on Kingwood’s East End Park for the second time in two years during Imelda. Sand several feet thick blanketed about 30 acres of this beautiful ecological gem and the peaceful trails that wind through it. The devastation matched and in some cases surpassed Harvey’s. These pictures tell the story. After Harvey, it took hundreds of thousands of dollars to restore the trails and boardwalks in the park. It will cost at least that much again.

Carried Away

This bench on the Pelican Overlook Trail used to have about 50 feet of trail, trees and river bank in front of it. Imelda eroded the bank and the river cut away the land under the trail. The trail will now have to be moved inland. It no longer exists.

Blanketed by Sand

This boardwalk to Eagle Point used to go over pristine wetlands. It will now require excavation. Photo courtesy of John Knoezer.

Scoured by Flood Waters

Trail scouring occurred in many places. Large parts of the North Loop trail will require replacement. Photo courtesy of John Knoezer.

Taking Destruction to New Levels

This sign used to be chest high. Now it’s knee high. Photo courtesy of John Knoezer.

Giant Trees Uprooted

Trees are down in multiple places and block the main boardwalk. Photo courtesy of John Knoezer.

Covered Up

The main boardwalk is covered with a layer of ultra-slippery silt 1-2 inches thick. Photo courtesy of John Knoezer.

Under Water

In many places, trails have gone underwater. At this location, we found quicksand. See below.

Quick Sand

Rika, the safety pup, says, “Hmmmm. Lucky I don’t have to buy shoes.”

For your own safety and the safety of your shoes, do not venture into the park near the river. It’s dangerous as you can see. Quicksand even exists in some places.

Now for The Bad News

Much of this sand may have come from the Triple-P sand mine on Caney Creek, just upstream from East End Park.

Image courtesy of Charlie Fahrmeier, an expert in turbidity control. Photo taken on 9/22/2019.
Image of same breach on May 17th.
Location of Breach

Once again the mine breached its dike, underscoring the danger of locating mines in floodways. This particular mine sits at the confluence of two floodways: Caney Creek and White Oak Creek. During Harvey, it lost a major portion of its stockpile to floodwaters. Then it happened again.

In May 2019, Tony Buzbee, candidate for Mayor of Houston, witnessed another breach while on a tour on the San Jacinto to investigate sedimentation issues. I notified the TCEQ and they issued a Notice of Enforcement in August. But they did not fine the company. This makes the third documented breach in two years.

Wrong Type of Repair

It appears that Triple P dumped some sand in the breach in a feeble attempt to stop the hemorrhage. But it obviously did not hold for long. Fahrmeier, who discovered this latest breach on his Waverunner, is an expert in turbidity and environmental pollution control. He said that sand is the wrong type of material for repairing dikes and that the repeat blowout was predictable.

Fahrmeier said that as he was coming up Caney Creek, the stream of sediment coming from the mine made it look as though there were two different streams. “There’s still quite a bit of sediment flowing into the river as evidenced by the discoloration.  The pit is pretty large and no doubt contributed a significant volume of water and sediment flowing into Lake Houston since last week.”

KSA Repairs

KSA will begin initiating repairs on East End Park quickly. But many parts of the park are still not accessible. It may be months before all this damage can be repaired. In the meantime, please limit use of the park to the higher parts unaffected by Imelda and Triple P. No doubt some of this sand comes from river bed and bank erosion. But I believe a lot came from the mine, too. I hope KSA decides to sue the mine this time. It’s clear that they do not fear the TCEQ.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 9/23/2019 with images from John Knoezer and Charlier Fahrmeier

756 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 5 since Imelda

The 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.