Last weekend, I posted about a statewide flood assessment by the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) that will help shape public policy toward flooding. After reading the report, I became concerned by the lack of a serious discussion about the role of sedimentation in flooding. So I urged readers to send feedback before Wednesday at 5pm – the close of public comment.
If you haven’t had time to read the report yet…
Consider sending an adaptation of the email below.
Address email to:
In subject line put:
Public Comment on State Flood Assessment
First, thank you for an excellent report. I support all of your findings, but am concerned about one critical omission: sedimentation.
I live n the Humble/Kingwood/Lake Houston area. Sedimentation was and still is a major contributing factor to flooding here. The Army Corps of Engineers agrees. As a result, as taxpayers, we’re about to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on dredging. It could take a year or more to unclog our river and drainage ditches.
Here’s an example of a sand bar that largely formed during Harvey, blocks the San Jacinto West Fork where it meets Lake Houston. This giant bar elevated flood levels throughout the highly populated Humble/Kingwood corridor where more than 3300 businesses and 16,000 homes were damaged or destroyed.
Sadly, a large part of the sediment we received during Harvey was preventable. It came from sand mines upstream from us on both the East and West Forks of the San Jacinto. While this sand didn’t cause the flood, it exacerbated the flood.
Moving sand mines out of the floodway would be a simple way to reduce sedimentation and flood risk. Many states have minimum setback requirements in their permitting procedures and best practice guides. Texas has no such requirement. Neither does Texas require sand mines to:
- Reclaim land when a mine is played out.
- Slope banks to reduce erosion and strengthen dikes.
- Avoid clearing land until it is ready to mine.
- Post performance bonds to cover the cost of damage they cause.
Simply observing common-sense best management practices used in other states and countries could radically reduce the sediment escaping from sand mines during floods.
Additionally, I would point out that some counties (like Montgomery) may unwittingly encourage sand mining by giving miners timber exemptions on their real estate tax that they don’t qualify for.
For instance, one Montgomery County mine on the East Fork pays $288 a year in tax on 218 acres! All because of a timber exemption that hasn’t been valid for more than a decade!
- Recognize the contribution of sedimentation to flooding
- Document sources of sedimentation
- Encourage legislation that reduces sedimentation from the sources we can control.