Tag Archive for: Josh Alberson

Getaway During Lockdown: Cruise Down Ben’s Branch in Josh Alberson’s Jet Boat

When I saw this meme, it made me realize that people feel walls closing in on them from the virus lockdown.

So take a quick getaway. Cruise down Ben’s Branch with Josh Alberson in his jet boat. Jetboats have a very shallow draft, so they can get into areas too shallow for propeller-driven boats.

First Video Shows HCFCD Excavation Work Up Close

Josh sent in two videos. One shows the area where Harris County flood control is currently excavating the last of almost 80,000 cubic yards of sediment. In this video, Josh’s boat moves slowly so as not to create wakes that endanger workers.

As he moves under the West Lake Houston Parkway Bridge, you can see an excavator stacking wet soil on the shore where it will drain before trucks haul it away.

Video courtesy of Josh Alberson

Said Beth Walters of Harris County Flood Control, “The material placed along the south bank of Ben’s Branch is drying out. It will be disposed of offsite. The south bank of the bayou will remain in the same location. This is a maintenance project to restore the channel.”

Second Video: High Speed to Lake Houston

The second video is more exciting. It makes you want to go out and buy a jet boat and explore the river and its tributaries.

As Josh moves past the YMCA and approaches the Deerwood Club, he pulls the throttles out all the way to Lake Houston.

Says Josh, “The Mouth Bar really extends all the way to shore. From the visible island to the park in the Cove, it is all only 2 ft or so deep. While Ben’s Branch may be up to 6 ft deep, it dumps out into a 2 ft deep flat.”

Video courtesy of Josh Alberson

But that’s City property and another project for another day.

Plans for Area South of Kingwood Drive

These videos do not show Ben’s Branch immediately south of Kingwood Drive to the Kingwood Library. Many readers ask about the aesthetics of that reach. Even though the construction has moved past that area, it still looks ragged.

Said Walters, “The contractor will be required to dress up the site so that turf grass establishment can occur. Contractors typically dress up the site and complete all final grading just before moving off site. Once dressed, HCFCD’s vegetation team will place turf grass placed upon it. The final condition of the entire project site will be as it was before, with turf grass on all of the earthen berms and banks.”

Posted by Bob Rehak on 4/8/2020 with thanks to Josh Alberson, Beth Walters and HCFCD

953 Days since Hurricane Harvey

TCEQ Goes After Texas Concrete Mine With Four Breached Dikes, Unstabilized Soil and Lapsed Permit

In October, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) issued a notice of enforcement (NOE) to a Texas Concrete Plum Grove sand mine for discharging wastewater into the East Fork. During Imelda, the mine’s dikes breached in at least four separate places. The TCEQ also issued another NOE for failure to stabilize soil in the mine before letting its permit lapse.

No Activity at Plant for Months

TCEQ investigator Christian Eubanks says they saw no activity at the plant for two months before the investigation after Imelda. No one at Texas Concrete answered phone calls to discuss their intentions for the mine.

Citizen Complaint Leads to Investigation

When floodwaters swept through the mine, sediment and industrial wastewater washed into the East Fork. Shortly thereafter, Josh Alberson, a Kingwood resident, noticed a distinct difference in the color of water coming off Caney Creek and the East Fork while boating. His personal investigation led to the mine at 7530 FM 1010 Road, Cleveland in Liberty County. After seeing the breaches, he then filed a complaint with the TCEQ which conducted a formal investigation.

12 Allegations of Unauthorized Discharges in 4 Years, Then This One

Texas Concrete Sand and Gravel, Inc. has a troubled history at its Plum Grove location. TCEQ investigated the operation nine times in the last four years for 17 alleged violations. Twelve involved unauthorized discharge of industrial waste. Then came this investigation, adding to their home run count.

Previous alleged violations included failure to:

  • Prevent unauthorized discharge of industrial waste (7 investigations plus 5 complaints)
  • Renew registration
  • Document steps taken to address benchmark exceedances
  • Comply with record keeping and reporting requirements
  • Maintain compliance with permitted numeric effluent limitations
  • Sample at designated outfalls.

Four Breaches Photographed At Texas Concrete Plant

TCEQ investigators photographed four breaches in the 70-acre mine‘s dikes.
Breach 1. This and all photos below were taken by Christian Eubanks of the TCEQ.
Breach 2
Breach 3
Breach 4

Failure to Meet Final Stabilization Requirements

On October 1, 2019, the mine allowed its permit to lapse. A TCEQ overflight on that same day found that large portions of the plant consisted of exposed soil. However, before the mine can legally terminate its permit, it must stabilize soil on the property.

TCEQ defines final stabilization as: “All soil disturbing activities at the site have been completed and a uniform (e.g. evenly distributed, without large bare areas) perennial vegetative cover with a density of 70 percent (%) of the native background vegetative cover for the area has been established on all unpaved areas and areas not covered by permanent structures, or equivalent permanent stabilization measures (such as the use of riprap, gabions, or geotextiles) have been employed.”

TCEQ photo from flyover on 10/1/2019. Note exposed soil circled in red.

Stabilizing soil helps prevent erosion and water pollution. Pollution that could escape through breaches in the mine’s dikes and affect water quality all the way down to Lake Houston.

Need for Greater Setbacks of Mines from Rivers

Since Harvey, I have campaigned to increase the setback distance of mines from rivers to prevent this type of tragedy. Texas has no minimum setbacks. Most other states require at least 100 feet and Alaska requires 1000 feet.

Texas Concrete underscores the need to establish minimum setbacks that would keep dikes from breaching. Once the owners of this mine are gone, who will be there to repair the dikes after the next flood?

Kudos to Josh Alberson for having the curiosity to investigate a problem he saw and the tenacity to follow through. People like Josh make this community great.

For the full text of the TCEQ Report, click here.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 11/18/2019, with appreciation for Josh Alberson and the TCEQ

811 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 60 since Imelda

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.