Tag Archive for: flood notes

Flood Notes: Quick Updates on Multiple Flood Related Topics

Below are updates on seven flood-related topics from around the Lake Houston Area and Texas.

Plugging of Noxxe Wells in Forest Cove Delayed

Peter Fisher of the Texas Railroad Commission reports that its Oil & Gas Division is about eight to 10 weeks away from plugging the NOXXE wells in Forest Cove. Noxxe abandoned the lease when Harvey cleanup costs forced the company into bankruptcy. The Commission’s General Counsel notified Fisher on March 4th that another operator is attempting to take over the NOXXE leases.  “At this time we do not know for sure which wells they are interested in.  Therefore, we are currently in a holding pattern on plugging the NOXXE wells,” said Fisher. TRRC has already finished cleanup of the rusting tanks in Forest Cove, but several wells still appear to be leaking based on aerial photos that show oil on ponds and in the public water supply.

Black substance in West Fork/Lake Houston stretched for about a half mile on December 7, 2020, next to one of many abandoned Noxxe wells.

Texas GLO and Houston Declare Truce for Time Being

Last year, the Texas General Land Office (GLO) tried to claw back funds allocated to the City of Houston for several Harvey-related disaster assistance programs. Why? The City fell seriously behind deadlines, even as the reimbursement program was expiring. Then the two sides reached a settlement and the City took back some programs. Houston will continue to administer $835 million in programs – Homeowner Assistance (reimbursement program), Single Family Development, Multifamily Rental, Small Rental, Homebuyer Assistance, Buyout, Public Services and Economic Revitalization Programs.

However, the GLO included strict program benchmarks with language that includes: “Program Benchmarks: Subrecipient’s failure to achieve a Program Benchmark in the Subrecipient Agreement may result in the termination of the Program and/or funds being removed from the Contract, at the GLO’s sole discretion.” HUD’s rules include that funds be expended – not allocated – by August 2024, plus one more year for close out, or else HUD will retain the funds.

City’s Homeowner Assistance Applications

In the meantime, the GLO is keeping the City’s Homeowner Assistance Program. Many who first applied through the City have been caught in limbo due to missing, incomplete and poorly formatted documents.

On December 30, 2020, the GLO received 48,000 documents that had no discernable naming conventions, were not grouped by applicant, and were mostly unsearchable. The GLO had to open each document to determine which applicant it belongs to and file accordingly. On January 27, 2021, the GLO received a transfer of additional files that appear to be mostly environmental assessments, but once again, were not organized. The GLO has sorted the files from the City of Houston and the GLO team is contacting applicants to request missing or outdated documentation to move them towards construction.

We received data for 7,176 files, but nearly half had none or only one of the documents needed for a complete application to achieve HUD eligibility. “We are in the process of contacting all applicants to determine which ones still wish to participate and request the documents we need to complete their files,” said a GLO spokesperson.

Court Reverses Air Quality Permit for APO

Texans for Responsible Aggregate Mining announced that on March 5, a district court in Austin struck down an air-quality permit for a quarry. Alabama-based Vulcan Construction Materials needed the permit to proceed with a controversial project.

Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) had initially granted the permit in 2019 after two years of heated legal wrangling between Vulcan, the nation’s largest producer of construction aggregates, and an alliance of Comal County citizens, community groups and Comal ISD.

459th Civil District Court Judge Maya Guerra Gamble ruled that:

  • TCEQ’s assertion that the quarry would not harm human health or welfare was not supported by evidence.
  • Vulcan’s emissions calculations were not representative and not supported by substantial evidence.
  • Vulcan’s air quality analysis did not account for cumulative impacts or emissions from the quarry and roads.
  • Vulcan’s choice of background concentration was arbitrary or capricious.
  • In the contested case hearing, the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH) judge erred in allowing Vulcan to hide behind “trade secret” claims.
  • Plaintiffs were denied due process when the SOAH judge allowed Vulcan to conceal data using the “trade secret” excuse and did not allow plaintiffs to cross-examine Vulcan.

Vulcan’s proposed mining operation in the Texas Hill Country would stretch across nearly three miles of the environmentally sensitive Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone, the primary water supply for over two million people in New Braunfels and San Antonio.

Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District Punts on Subsidence Again

After several filibusters, the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District Board again deferred publicly adopting a position on subsidence or approving the second half of its subsidence study in a mercifully brief March 9th meeting. The District’s general manager and counsel are reportedly querying stakeholders on the subject. But time is running out before GMA-14 meeting. The LSGCD may have to call a special meeting before the next GMA-14 meeting on April 9th to resolve those issues. It will be interesting to see what they come back with. Simon Sequeira, of Quadvest, one of the largest independent water pumpers in the county is a stakeholder.

Kerr County Commissioners Support Best Management Practices for Local APOs

The adoption of best management practices by sand mines in the San Jacinto watershed has been a legislative goal of area groups since Harvey. It was during Harvey that floodwaters swept through mines and flushed sand downstream where it contributed to the flooding of thousands of homes and businesses. Now the Hill-Country group, Texans for Responsible Aggregate Management reports they have achieved a victory of sorts.

On March 1st, 2021 the Kerr County Commissioners’ Court unanimously passed a resolution supporting TRAM’s legislative goals, as well as a resolution encouraging Kerr County APOs to adopt Best Management Practices (BMPs) in order to minimize adverse health effects and nuisance issues. The resolution was sparked by concerns over West Texas Aggregate LLC’s desire for a permanent rock and concrete crusher facility near the airport east of Kerrville.

LCRA Adopts Commercial Dredging Moratorium on Highland Lakes

On February 24, 2021, The Lower Colorado River Authority Board of Directors adopted a one-year moratorium prohibiting commercial dredging on the Highland Lakes until new rules are established. This action states that LCRA will not review pending permit applications such as the Collier Materials Inc. permit application for commercial dredging on the Llano River and cancelled the public meeting scheduled for March 10, 2021.

The Board determined that new rules are necessary to address commercial dredging projects and their potential impact on water quality, aquatic life and public safety on the lakes. Over the next year, LCRA will review potential water quality impacts of commercial dredging, coordinate with other entities, and conduct a robust public and stakeholder input process.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 3/18/2021

1297 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.

Flood Notes: Highlights of Current Happenings

Welcome to Flood Notes. So much has been happening lately on the flood front, it’s hard to keep up with it all. So this post will be a digest of things that affect flooding on the local, state and national fronts.

TCEQ Sand Mine Rule Making

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) held a stakeholder meeting yesterday about sand mines in the San Jacinto River watershed. TCEQ intends to post video of the meeting as well as stakeholder presentations here, but they have not yet done so. In the meantime, those who wish to see a summary of the meeting can find one here. And those who wish to make public comments can do so by emailing Outreach@tceq.texas.gov.

Humble ISD North Transportation Center Construction Update

We have had ideal construction weather in the last month and contractors at HISD’s north transportation center on Ford Road in Porter had made a lot of progress. They have completed the detention pond. More than half the remaining site is covered with concrete parking lots. And it looks as if the foundation for a building has also been poured. Humble ISD anticipates shorter routes for half the district will save taxpayers $2 million per year. The District hopes to open the Center in 2021.

Humble ISD North Transportation Center 11.7 acre site. Photo taken 11/07/2020.

Colony Ridge

This massive development in Liberty County has turned into the world’s largest trailer park. The developer of Colony Ridge keeps expanding at a record clip. Perhaps he’s anticipating a sales boom when the Grand Parkway creates better access. At the moment, he appears to be cutting and burning another 3000 acres. Nearby Plum Grove residents have complained about the smoke.

Colony Ridge expansion. Photo taken 11/1/2020.
Colony Ridge expansion. Photo taken 11/1/2020.
Colony Ridge expansion. Photo taken 11/1/2020 after a long period without rain. Notice the wet areas covered up with fill. Wetlands once criss-crossed this area.

Chlorine Creek

Plum Grove residents who live next to Colony Ridge also report the strong smell of sewage and chlorine coming from a new sewage treatment facility along Maple Branch a quarter to a half mile away. TCEQ fined the company that provides these services not long ago for the illegal discharge of 48,000 gallons of raw sewage into the same creek from a lift station.

Sewage treatment plant creating strong odors for Plum Grove residents as well as those in Colony Ridge itself.
Wastewater from this plant is apparently discharged into Maple Branch just inside the tree line at the top of the frame.
The discharged water has a heavy chlorine smell to it. All life in the creek seems to have died according to residents. That includes, fish, tadpoles, minnows, etc.

Michael Shrader, a Plum Grove resident who lives adjacent to Maple Branch, has affectionately renamed it Chlorine Creek.

HUD Approves New GLO Plans for Disaster Funding

On 11/4, Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush announced that the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) approved two state action plans detailing the distribution and eligible uses of more than $285 million. The Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funds will assist in long-term recovery efforts following severe flooding in 2018 and 2019 in South and Southeast Texas. To view the action plans, please visit recovery.texas.gov/action-plans. To expedite the recovery process, the GLO will directly administer and oversee the funds.

TWDB Accepting FEMA Flood Mitigation Assistance Grant Requests

This one affects government officials in Cities, Counties, Special Districts, etc.. FEMA’s Flood Mitigation Assistance (FMA) grant program provides federal funding to help communities pay for cost-effective ways to reduce or eliminate the long-term risk of flood damage to flood prone structures that are insured under the National Flood Insurance Program. FMA program funds can be used for planning and projects. The deadline to apply to the Texas Water Development Board is December 1, 2020. For more information, please visit www.twdb.texas.gov/flood/grant/fma.asp

FEMA Program Helps Enforce Building Codes, Floodplain Management

FEMA announced the release of a policy to provide communities with resources to enforce building codes and floodplain management following a major disaster declaration. The “Building Code and Floodplain Management Administration and Enforcement” policy can provide funding for the first 180 days following a major declaration for:

  • Costs associated with extra hires or contracted support
  • Reviewing and processing building permits and occupancy and compliance certificates
  • Conducting building inspections and initial substantial damage field surveys
  • Reviewing disaster-related development in the floodplain
  • Providing educational services to the public on floodplain requirements.

The policy is a result of the Disaster Recovery Reform Act of 2018, Section 1206. This policy applies to all major disaster declarations declared on or after August 1, 2017.

Climatologist Explains La Niña’s Impact on Texas

This interesting article in the TWDBs Texas Water Newsroom explains how La Niña can bring both droughts and hurricanes to Texas. It’s a fascinating, well written article.

Texas Coastal Study

Remember to sign up for one of the Army Corps presentations on the Texas Coastal Study virtual public meetings. Even if you live inland, the region’s economy depends on protecting the infrastructure ringing Galveston Bay.

Goodbye to Eta

CBS aired a chilling story tonight about the floods brought by Hurricane Eta. The storm dumped up to 7 inches of rain on the Carolinas. It washed out roads and bridges. In fact, a reporter was standing on one bridge when pieces of it started to fall into the raging floodwater. Very dramatic footage if you missed it.

Eta nearly tied Gordon for the longest hurricane on record. Jeff Lindner, Harris County Meteorologist, says that had the storm lasted until tomorrow, it would have taken the longevity record.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 11/12/2020

1171 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.