Tag Archive for: HB1093

Five Pieces of Legislation That Could Reduce Flooding

Currently in Austin, there are five pieces of pending legislation that could reduce flooding in the Lake Houston Area, Harris County and the entire region. Here’s a rundown on each.

SB2431 and HB5338

Senate Bill 2431 and House Bill 5338 are companion bills that would transform the Harris County Flood Control District into the Gulf Coast Resiliency District with a board appointed by the governor. This would take the District out from under the thumb of Harris County Commissioners court.

The net impact could be a fairer distribution of funds to the areas hardest hit by flooding and a regional focus that reduces flooding for all, not just those in Democratic precincts.

Of the 18 active capital improvement construction projects currently underway by HCFCD, not one is in the last remaining precinct led by a Republican commissioners in Harris County. See below.

Active capital improvement projects
Source: Harris County Flood Control District Active Construction. Note absence of purple dots in Precinct 3 (pink area).

The yellow precinct on the west side of the county (P4) used to be Republican-led until this January. It has only one capital improvement construction project.

The other 17 active capital improvement construction projects are split between the two precincts led by Democratic Commissioners Rodney Ellis and Adrian Garcia.


After Harvey, both the East and West Forks of the San Jacinto River became clogged with sand. Sand mines along the banks of rivers were large contributors.

House Bill 1093 would ensure that when sand mines are played out, the operators have enough financial reserves to clean up the property and replant vegetation before walking away.

Some miners simply abandon property, leaving rusting dredges, excavators, bulldozers, processing equipment, and more to litter the landscape. Likewise, they are supposed to regrade property to eliminate stockpiles that could be swept away in floods. And they are supposed to replant vegetation that could reduce the rates of erosion. But not all do.

HB1093 would force miners to provide financial surety that guarantees cleanup won’t fall on the shoulders of taxpayers. Surety is a common practice in the construction trades. Think of it as a form of insurance. If the miner can’t afford reclamation, the surety company is on the hook, not ordinary citizens.

Without this bill, some irresponsible miners will continue littering the shores of our rivers – the rivers that provide drinking water to 2 million people.

abandoned dredge
Dredge left at abandoned West Fork sand mine on North Houston Avenue in Humble.


House Bill 5341 would create a Lake Houston Dredging and Maintenance District. Its purpose would be to remove sediment, debris, sand, and gravel  from Lake Houston and its tributaries to restore, maintain, and expand the Lake to mitigate storm flows. 

After Harvey, the Army Corps of engineers recommended a regular maintenance dredging program to reduce future flooding. This is it.

The District would have a board appointed by Harris County Commissioners, the Houston City Council, the Houston Mayor and the Harris County Judge.

The District would remove debris under and on the water of Lake Houston and its tributaries, but would be prohibited from doing so in such a way that it would impact water quality or water treatment costs. Dredgers would have to obtain approval from Houston Public Works before conducting any operations.

They could take sand and gravel from Lake Houston and its tributaries without paying a fee or tax.

Before beginning operations, the District would also conduct a funding study. Presumably at a minimum, that would estimate how much money it could make by selling dirt removed from the lake. Such dirt could be used as fill to raise homes and roads.

The District would also have authority to issue revenue bonds and could receive up to $25 million per year for the next two years from the state during that start-up period. It could not impose any taxes or fees.

East Fork Mouth Bar Dredging
Removing part of the East Fork Mouth Bar during dredging operations in 2022.


Senate Bill 1366 redirects surplus revenue from the economic stabilization fund to the Flood Infrastructure Fund. The State’s Flood Infrastructure Fund (FIF) has turned into one of the main sources of funding for Texas Water Development Board grants and one of the main ways that smaller counties and cities can fund flood projects.

FIF covers a wide variety of projects related to flood mitigation and resilience.

Because both revenue estimates and budgets are still in flux, it’s unclear at this point exactly how much would be transferred, according to Senator Brandon Creighton’s office. Creighton sponsored this bill.

Check back often for more about legislation that could reduce flooding.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 4/12/2023

2053 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.

Swollen San Jacinto East and West Forks Sweep Through Sand Mines

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.

Photo taken 4/9/2023 two days after rain stopped.

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.

Looking south from over East Fork San Jacinto toward FM2090.
Looking East along FM2090 across the East Fork.

As the East Fork rose, it invaded the abandoned Texas Concrete Sand and Gravel Mine in Plum Grove.

Abandoned Texas Concrete Sand and Gravel Plum Grove Mine north of FM2090 between East Fork and FM1010

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.

Looking N toward northern end of mine. Water entered mine in upper left and cut off house.
Water then swept under and around house moving south.
Looking S. The water then exited back into the river through several breaches in dikes.
Rushing water carrying silt and sand found two more breaches close to 2090. Left unchecked, the force of this water will eventually erode the banks of FM2090.
Baptist Church Loop Road south of FM2090 was also underwater.

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.

Ironically, a bill introduced by State Rep. Charles Cunningham requiring financial surety for sand mine reclamation remains bottled up in the House Natural Resources Committee. See HB1093.

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.

Urgent Request: Support HB1093 to Improve Water Quality, Reduce Flooding, Save Tax Dollars

State Representative Charles Cunningham has introduced HB1093. The bill would ensure cleanup of abandoned sand mines in the San Jacinto watershed. It requires miners to post a bond that covers cleanup costs. So, if an irresponsible miner walks away from a mine before reclamation, the public doesn’t have to pay the deadbeat’s costs.

A bond is like an insurance policy that guarantees the performance of obligations.

Without a bond, miners who profited for years from a mine can simply walk away when they are done mining, foisting cleanup costs onto the public or leaving blight behind.

How Bad Is the Problem?

Right now, there are at least six mines on the East and West Forks of the San Jacinto that were left a mess. Such abandoned sand mines are increasingly becoming a blight that imperils water quality in Lake Houston, the source of drinking water for 2 million people.

  • Rusting equipment leaks poisons and poses safety problems.
  • Un-stabilized soil increases rates of erosion and contributes to flooding.
  • Steep banks in pits slump away in slabs threatening neighboring properties and businesses.
  • Blight reduces surrounding property values and business activity

Miners are supposed to remove equipment and structures before they abandon a mine. But not all do. See the pictures below.

Leaking equipment near Riverview Drive in Porter on West Fork. Google Earth images show this in same location since 2008.
abandoned dredge
Dredge abandoned in Humble mine in 2017.
Abandoned excavator in Porter mine on West Fork
Abandoned dredge in Plum Grove mine.
Abandoned processing equipment in Humble mine.
Abandoned processing equipment and vehicle in Humble mine since 2017.

Miners are also obligated to grade and stabilize soil before they leave a mine, then replant vegetation similar to the surrounding area to reduce sediment pollution. But not all do.

Ungraded, un-stabilized soil in East Fork Plum Grove Mine.
Ungraded soil and abandoned equipment in East Fork Mine
A flood later swept through the mine above, sending sediment down the East Fork.
Defunct sand pit in Humble. Steep slopes – ungraded and unvegetated – erode and threaten neighboring business.

Community Consequences

Most sand moves during storms. This island appeared after Hurricane Harvey between Humble and Kingwood. It blocked the West Fork by 90%, according to the Army Corps and contributed to the flooding of thousands of homes and businesses.
Confluence of the San Jacinto West Fork with Spring Creek. Images taken on different days from different angles, but in each case the dirty water comes from the West Fork, where we have 20 square miles of mines on a 20 mile stretch of the river between I-45 and I-69.

Most responsible miners will clean up on their own. But experience shows, a few bad apples will not. And when they walk away, the cost to the public can be enormous. Dredging costs alone have exceeded $226 million in the Lake Houston area since Harvey.

How You Can Help

Please help reduce this and related cleanup costs in the future. Ensure that sand miners don’t pass their remediation costs on to taxpayers.

Make sure HB1093 at least gets to the House floor for a vote this year.

In the last session, a similar bill by former Representative Dan Huberty, HB4478, never made it out of the Natural Resources committee.

HB1093 deserves a hearing. Please write the chair and vice chair of Natural Resources asking them to consider it.

The committee will likely recommend King’s HB10. It will fund the creation of 7-million acre-feet of new water supplies for rural areas.

Let’s do something that won’t cost taxpayers a penny to protect a water supply we already have. Support HB1093. And please forward this link to all your friends, family and neighbors.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 3/18/23

2027 Days after 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.

Cunningham Sponsors Bill to Ensure Restoration of Abandoned 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.

Dredge at abandoned mine on North Houston Avenue in Humble.
More abandoned equipment at same mine.
Another abandoned sand mine in Humble. No grading of slopes or vegetation that retards erosion. Note commercial structures threatened by collapsing walls of pit.
Abandoned mine on East Fork in Liberty County should have had soil stabilized with vegetation.
Another shot from same mine. Old structures, materials not removed.
And another. There are no fences to keep children from playing on this abandoned dredge.
At the same mine on May 3, 2021. Note two breaches in dikes sweeping sand down the East Fork.
Excavator in abandoned mine on West Fork.
Collapsing dike of West Fork mine.
Abandoned mine (foreground) next to recreational facility on opposite side of West Fork at I-45.

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.

An active mine empties one of its pits into the abandoned mine in the foreground which drains straight into the West Fork.

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.

Water coming from area with mines typically appears siltier.

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.

From presentation by Stephen Costello, City of Houston Chief Recovery Officer.

The City needs even more money to continue the program and it’s all at your (taxpayers’) expense.

How You Can Help

You can bet that TACA (the Texas Aggregate and Concrete Association) will lobby against this bill. So show lawmakers it has your support.

Write to the Chairman of the Texas House Natural Resources Committee, Tracy O. King.

Also, submit public comments when the bill is going to be heard; I will let you know when that is. Here is the website to make Public Comments.

To learn more, consult the sand-mining page on ReduceFlooding.com.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 3/3/23

2012 Days since Hurricane Harvey