Tag Archive for: Plum Grove

Plum Grove, Splendora, Liberty, Others Receive HUD Grants Through GLO

GLO Commissioner Dawn Buckingham, M.D., announced yesterday more than $43 million in HUD grants for 44 infrastructure projects stemming from 2019 Disasters. The $43 million is the combined total of grants made to counties and cities stretching from the Rio Grande Valley to southeast Texas.

Counties where 2019 community development block grant disaster-relief (CDBG-DR) money will be distributed for infrastructure projects.

The infrastructure-project grants will help communities recover from the 2019 South Texas Floods as well as Tropical Storm Imelda, which devastated SE Texas.

List of Recipients

The funds will be used to improve streets as well as water and drainage facilities in:

  • Counties:
    • Cameron
    • Chambers
    • Harris
    • Hidalgo
    • Jefferson
    • Liberty
    • Montgomery
    • Orange
    • San Jacinto
    • Willacy
  • Cities
    • Beaumont
    • China
    • Combes
    • Daisetta
    • La Feria
    • La Villa
    • Laguna Vista
    • Liberty
    • Mercedes
    • Mission
    • Nome
    • Old River-Winfree
    • Orange
    • Palmview
    • Pasadena
    • Pine Forest
    • Pinehurst
    • Plum Grove
    • Port Arthur
    • Port Isabel
    • Primera
    • Rio Hondo
    • Santa Rosa
    • Splendora
    • Vidor
    • West Orange
    • Woodloch 

“Here to Help”

“Consecutive disasters have devastated communities in the Lower Rio Grande Valley and Southeast Texas, but the Texas General Land Office is here to help,” said Commissioner Buckingham. “These critical infrastructure awards will divert floodwaters away from homes, increase the resiliency of communities to respond to natural disasters, and restore peace of mind when the next storm hits.”

Texas GLO 2019 Disaster-Recovery Funds

The Texas General Land Office (GLO) is administering $227,510,000 in Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) related to 2019 flooding. This is separate from the $750 million in mitigation funding related to Harvey and Harris County.

Out of the $227.5 million, GLO allocated $61,430,000 in disaster recovery funds for infrastructure projects. They will assist disaster relief, long-term recovery, and restoration of infrastructure for local communities. The rest of $227 million was allocated to grants that help individuals recover.

GLO announced the opening of the application for eligible counties and cities on March 15, 2022. Applications closed on August 1, 2022. Each applicant was eligible to submit a total of two applications. All activities had to contribute to the long-term recovery and restoration of infrastructure.

The GLO recognizes that repair and enhancements of local infrastructure are crucial components of long-term recovery and viability of communities.

To learn more, visit https://recovery.texas.gov/2018-floods-2019-disasters/programs/2019-disasters-infrastructure-competition/index.html.

Plum Grove Drainage Improvements – $1,000,000

Tropical Storm Imelda released an unprecedented 3-day total rainfall amount of 28 inches on Plum Grove. That limited the city’s ability to provide an immediate response due to the inundation of flood water. As a result, this project will provide much-needed drainage improvements within Orange Branch Creek which is located in the middle of the city and runs from the northeast down to the southeast. The project will install culverts and restore roads.

Splendora Lift Station Drainage Improvements – $596,625

Imelda flooding submerged the Pinewood Lift Station site, as well as its emergency generator and electrical switchgear located at the northern intersection of Pinewood Drive and First Street. Loss of both primary and emergency back-up power led to a sanitary sewer overflow at Pinewood lift station. Vehicular access, including emergency vehicle access, was not possible because of the depth of flooding in the area. This project includes drainage and generator improvements at the Pinewood Lift Station.

Construction will include the following activities:

  • Regrade ditch and install double headwalls
  • Install reinforced concrete pipe culverts under First Street with road restoration and ditch regrading 
  • Install new natural gas generator and automatic transfer switch
  • Install an elevated metal platform, staircase and skid for generator

Liberty Water, Sewer Improvements – $1,000,000

The project will provide for water and sewer line improvements located within the eastern side of the city along Beaumont Road, Minglewood Road, Glenn Street and Tanner Street. These should reduce overflow concerns for residents and businesses along these streets. The project will make improvements to sewer lines and water lines and remove and replace existing lift stations with gravity sanitary sewer lines.

Descriptions of Other Grants

For a full description of other grants in this batch, see the GLO website.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 3/22/2023 based on information from the Texas General Land Office

2031 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 1280 Days since Imelda

Family Trapped For Three Days As Floodwaters Ripped Through Sand Mine, Then Under Their Home

Yesterday, I wrote how the San Jacinto East Fork seemed to have re-routed itself through an abandoned sand mine. This morning I got a call from a couple who live near the mine. The woman and her husband had been trapped in their home for three days by the river which is now – incredibly – running right beneath their home. As of 5 p.m. Tuesday, floodwaters subsided enough for them to boat to safety. But their story is a gripping lesson in how quickly life can change.

Dream Turned into Nightmare

Jack Arnold bought 25 acres in the country back in 2002 to have a retreat from the noise of the city. He works in structural steel and quiet Plum Grove in Liberty County seemed like the perfect place to unwind. He and his sons built a home in 2011 on steel poles 21 feet in the air about 400 feet east of the San Jacinto East Fork.

The spot Arnold cleared for his home in 2011, east of the East Fork San Jacinto which runs through the woods to the left of the red box.

Then three things happened.

  • In 2012, a sand mine started up about 1100 feet south of him.
  • Later that year, Colony Ridge started building northeast of him.
  • His ex-wife sold 16.5 acres of their property to the sand mine, which then expanded around him.

It didn’t take long for Arnold’s flooding woes to start.

Sand Mine and Colony Ridge Permanently Alter Hydrology of Area

Here’s what the surrounding area looks like today.

Arnold’s home is partially surrounded by a sand mine (white box) on three sides. And the first two Colony Ridge subdivisions are dumping water into the East Fork upstream of him with fewer detention ponds than they likely should have to meet Liberty County regulations.
FEMA’s National Flood Hazard Layer Viewer shows that the sand mine’s dikes have constricted the East Fork floodway (cross-hatched area) about 90%. This puts tremendous pressure on the mine’s dikes as water tries to squeeze through a fraction of the space. That also increases erosion which further breaks down the dikes. The constrictions could be one reason why the river rose 10 feet in 24 hours at this location.

Arnold says his property never flooded in the first five years he lived there. Then in 2015, as Colony Ridge and the sand mine expanded around him, he started flooding regularly. Last Sunday, the water started rising again. This time, it was from an 8-inch rain that areas upstream received. Plum Grove itself received only a little more than 3 inches. Harris County’s meteorologist characterized the 8-inch rain, which fell over a two-day period, as a ten-year rain.

Near Death Experience, Not to Mention…

As floodwater rose around the Arnolds last Sunday morning, they had a hard time understanding why. But it kept coming up and up. Three days later, it’s still four-feet deep (waist high) under their house and moving so fast it could knock strong men over.

Arnold nearly died in a previous flood event when he was swept away. He clung to a tree for two hours until his second wife and stepdaughter rescued him. Then all three had to be rescued by the game warden three days later. Now, Arnold takes no chances. He and his wife have been holed up alone for three days waiting for the water to go down. They each have missed two days of work so far this week, because they couldn’t reach their cars which they parked on higher ground.

Altogether, they have lost nine vehicles, two campers, and a boat since the flooding started. Another reason they were reluctant to leave their home despite being trapped: looters stole all their valuables after they evacuated during a previous flood.

Begging For a Buyout that Hasn’t Yet Come As Flooding Gets Worse

The Arnolds don’t want to move; after all, Arnold built the home with his own hands. But he and his wife just can’t take any more flooding. Now, they just want out. They’re begging for a buyout that hasn’t yet come.

And their flood woes will likely not change. Colony Ridge built the subdivisions north of them using dubious engineering reports that classified the soils as more permeable than the USDA did. That enabled the developer to avoid building detention ponds and maximize the amount of land he sold. But the runoff is likely greater than the developer promised the county engineer. And now the officials have stopped producing documents that might prove suspicions.

Perhaps worse, the sand mine has been sold to a company that wants to turn it into an RV park. Which means there’s no one to fix the dikes which ruptured during the latest flood. In a phenomenon that geologists call pit capture (or river capture), the East Fork rerouted itself through the sand mine and then filled the mine up like a water balloon. The water balloon then broke more dikes on the southern end of the mine in a location that is not aligned with the bridge openings over the East Fork.

The main current of the river has been running through the mine and under the Arnolds’ home for days now.

House Built in the New River Bed?

Now the Arnolds worry they may have a house built in the river. Of course, they won’t know until the flood water goes down. And even though the water level has lessened slightly since yesterday, it is still too high and too dangerous to venture out. See images below.

Looking SE. Sand mine dikes have broken on the lower right and now water rushes out of the west fork, crosses the mine and goes under Arnolds’ house in the trees on the left.
Looking NW. Note how the pressure of the water has collapsed the swimming pool in their side yard.
Looking NW. The water then rushes back into the mine from the south side of the property.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 5/4/2021 based on personal observations and interviews with Michael Shrader, and Jack and Pamela Arnold

1344 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 593 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.

Rampaging East Fork Floodwaters Cut New Path Through Plum Grove Sand Mine

The sign outside the abandoned Texas Concrete Sand and Gravel Mine in Plum Grove tells readers that an RV resort is coming soon. They might want to rethink that concept. Yesterday, rampaging floodwaters destroyed most of the mine except for a small area near the entry on FM1010.

Classic Example of Pit Capture

The East Fork rerouted itself right through the heart of the mine, sweeping away almost everything in its path. The river swelled to more than half a mile wide and ruptured dikes in at least four places when the river rose 10 feet in 24-hours.

The East Fork at this location rose 15 feet in three days, 10 of those in one day.
Normal course of river is red line on west side of mine. During flood, the river broke through the dike on the north side. Then floodwater filled the mine like a water balloon which burst in multiple places on the south side. Water now follows the yellow line.

This is a classic example of what geologists call pit or river capture. The East Fork entered the northern side of the mine and exited at multiple points on the south. Current coming out of the mine exceeded that in the river itself, carrying mud and muck downstream.

Flooding Based on Less than 10-Year Rain

The gage at this location indicated Plum Grove received only 3.36 inches of rain over a three-day period. However, up to 8 inches fell upstream from here, primarily during a two-day period. Jeff Lindner, Harris County’s meteorologist characterized the rains that produced the flood as, “Generally less than a 10-year event for the 48-hour time period.”

Pictures Taken on 5/3/2021

I took all of the shots below on 5/3/2021, three days after the major portion of the rain fell on April 30.

Looking north at the northernmost portion of the mine. The river appears to have entered the mine in this area. Note the dike in the far distance that’s not visible in the tree-line on the left.
Wider shot, still looking north toward entry point shows white water ripping through mine.
Looking south, you can see that the water in the mine is now higher and faster than the water in the river to the right.
Still looking south toward FM2090, now the only way in and out of Plum Grove. FM1485 is closed due to high water and FM1010 was washed out during Harvey by runoff from Colony Ridge to the southeast.
Looking north across FM2090. Where the water exits the mine, you can see that the force of the main flow is now misaligned with the bridge opening.
The width of the mine is now the width of the river…plus the river. Only the entry of the mine at the upper right remains above water at this time.
Looking east from over FM2090.

Danger of 2090 Washout in Next Big Flood?

Unless someone reroutes the river back to its original course and fixes the dikes, the current through the mine will continue to erode the banks of the roadway at the top of the image above.

These images dramatize the need for real sand-mining reform in Texas. There’s some evidence that Imelda did the same thing to this mine two years ago. But the TCEQ forced the company to repair the dikes. Now that the miners are gone, who will do that?

Plum Grove was lucky that upstream rains only amounted to a ten-year event. A larger storm could have cut the City and Colony Ridge off from the only viable evacuation route. More than 20,000 people would have been affected.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 5/3/2021

1343 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 592 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.

Colony Ridge Developer Sues Critics For More Than Million Dollars Based on Questionable Allegations

(Updated 2/2/2021 at 8PM) In the “lawsuits-are-stranger-than-fiction department,” Colony Ridge developer Trey Harris has filed yet another lawsuit against the Plum Grove City Council and Plum Grove’s former Mayor Leann Walker. This time, Harris wants more than a million dollars. Among other things, the suit alleges that by hiring Wayne Dolcefino, they attempted to smear Harris. But in the next sentence, Harris trumpets “Their smear tactic was not successful.” So where was the damage?

More Questionable Allegations

Dig a little deeper and you’ll find several more equally questionable allegations. For instance, he alleges that elected officials acting in their official capacity can be sued as private citizens. To support this assertion, Harris alleges that council members had personal vendettas against him when they tried to defend residents from road damage, flooding and more.

Harris also alleges that:

  • The City Council doesn’t represent the public’s interest. Yet Colony Ridge issues have been front and center in multiple elections during the last decade.
  • Harris is a citizen of Plum Grove although he reportedly lives in Huntsville.
  • Defendants “trespassed” on his property, presumably by driving on a public road.
  • The Council refused Harris’ offer to help repair roads when, in fact, they accepted his $25,000.
  • Stopping road damage and flooding has “nothing to do with what is in the best interest of the public.”
  • Defendants do not like Harris.

Geez! When does a City Council have an obligation to like someone who they believe has destroyed the homes, roads and safety of City residents?

History of Disputes with Multiple Parties Contradicts Vendetta Claim

A long history of legal and political disputes between Colony Ridge and Plum Grove under different councils and mayors contradicts Harris’ claim that current criticisms are “personal vendettas.”

Harris previously sued Walker and lost in 2015. The judge ordered Harris to pay Walker’s legal fees. Harris also sued the City, which was under a different mayor at the time, and reportedly settled.

Numerous Plum Grove residents have complained about Colony Ridge to Liberty County officials for years. Resident’s concerns have included destruction of wetlands, inadequate detention pond capacity, damage to roads, public safety issues, violation of county regulations, plat irregularities and more.

Downstream residents in neighboring counties have also expressed concerns about flooding and road damage related to Colony Ridge construction practices.

TCEQ has repeatedly investigated Colony Ridge contractors and found multiple sewage leaks and substandard construction practices that jeopardize human health. Erosion caused by piling dirt next to ditches has clogged Plum Grove creeks with sediment and contributed to repeated flooding.

Colony Ridge Drainage Ditch Photographed on January 1, 2021, months after the TCEQ warned that such practices could adversely affect human health.
Sediment coming down the East Fork (right) from Colony Ridge on Jan. 1, 2021.

Rumor also has it that the Army Corps in Galveston has an open investigation into wetland mitigation issues in Colony Ridge.

Finally, last year, Plum Grove sued Colony Ridge to get the developer to repair roads his trucks have damaged. Could Harris’ recent suit simply be a countersuit designed to intimidate Plum Grove into dropping its suit? Possibly. But there’s something else going on, too.

Enter Wayne Dolcefino, Investigative Journalist

Having found no way to get Liberty County to enforce its own regulations in Colony Ridge, last October, Walker and the City Council hired Wayne Dolcefino, one of the country’s leading investigative journalists. They hired him to help shine a light on problems there. And for the first time ever, Liberty County started paying attention.

In January, Dolcefino’s reports forced Liberty County officials to investigate irregularities related to engineering reports that may have been falsified and alleged violations of County drainage/development regulations.

A short while later, Harris filed his latest lawsuit.

Intimidating People into Silence

Harris seeks more than a million dollars from the tiny city of Plum Grove. On Page 4 of the suit, Harris alleges, “This action [the hiring of Dolcefino] was not taken with the public’s best interest in mind. It was taken as a calculated and vindictive action in an attempt to harm Plaintiff.” But in the very next sentence, Harris also claims, “Their smear tactic was not successful.” So if he wasn’t damaged, why is he suing? To intimidate people into silence?

I’m not a lawyer and this is not legal advice, but the State’s Anti-SLAPP statute (AKA, the Texas Citizens Participation Act) may help Walker and the council members as individuals without governmental immunity. The act protects free speech on matters of public concern. If a legal claim is dismissed under the Texas Anti-SLAPP statute, the Court must award attorneys’ fees and may sanction plaintiffs from bringing improper lawsuits in the future.

But like the boxer he was, Harris has come out swinging. Things will soon get interesting.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 2/1/2021 and updated on 2/2

1252 Days after Hurricane Harvey and 490 Days 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.

Based on new information obtained on 2/2/2021, mention of the Texas Municipal League paying for legal costs was deleted.

Flooding of the Fifth Kind: By Government Neglect

The National Weather Service distinguishes between four major types of flooding: coastal, riverine, street and sheet flow. After flying over Colony Ridge on New Year’s Day, I would add a fifth: flooding by government neglect.

Despite dire predictions for the New Year’s Eve storm, the Plum Grove/Colony Ridge area in Liberty County only got about two inches of rain. Yet I saw hundreds of flooded lots. They were all in a development that:

Those residents also live in a county that:

Worst of all, when residents asked for help from their elected Liberty County officials, those officials berated and rebuffed them. They refused even to acknowledge problems in Colony Ridge.

Where It Starts

Irregularities that most banks would catch as part of a title search and survey during the mortgage application process never get caught here.

That’s because the developer targets a vulnerable population more likely to use Western Union money orders than banks. He offers them owner financing with low down payments and interest rates five times higher than the market.

These un-savvy buyers are so desperate to own a piece of the American dream that they wind up mired in one nightmare after another. Many speak English as a second language if they speak it at all.

A Two-Inch Rain

Trade those SVUs in for swamp buggies. Here’s what much of the development looked like 24 hours after two inches of rain fell on New Year’s Eve.

Note how the drainage stops in the middle foreground. Also note how it’s not infiltrating like the engineers said it would.
Close up of home in first shot. At least the home didn’t flood although the four-wheeler and dining area did.
Even if an owner builds up one part of his/her lot, it can flood another.
Lot after lot flooded. Water would not sink in. The soils have a low rate of infiltration, not the high rate promised by LandPlan Engineering.
Totally flooded lot. Note how drainage stops to left of driveway.
Do-it-yourself repairs. But are they up to code?
Former wetlands?

Targeting the Vulnerable

Most of these people never complain. The areas in Mexico and Central America where many came from may have conditions far worse. So what you see here may be an improvement for them.

Still, one can’t wonder whether – in its zeal to grow – Liberty County has turned a blind eye to conditions that violate its own regulations as well as human dignity.

Are they turning the county into another Tegucigalpa for their developer buddy? And in doing so, are commissioners mortgaging the county’s future?

Conditions such as these will take generations to improve. In the meantime, the County’s residents are in for decades of pain due to government neglect. Not just in Colony Ridge, but in neighboring communities such as Plum Grove and others farther downstream.

This developer has permanently altered the hydrology of the watershed in a way that increases flood risk for everyone.

And the county has lowered its standards in a way that will likely discourage investment from quality developers.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 1/3/2021

1223 Days after Hurricane Harvey and 472 after 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.

Colony Ridge Declares War on Investigative Journalist, Too

Not long ago, Colony Ridge, the world’s largest trailer park, went to war with the City of Plum Grove. Now they are taking on Wayne Dolcefino, one of the nation’s leading. investigative journalists, too.

Somebody needs to tell Colony Ridge developer Trey Harris to give his employees some media training. When Dolcefino set his sights on Colony Ridge, several employees greeted him with hostile language. The word “threatening” comes to my mind. Surely they should know that this will only focus more media attention on their dubious business model.

Dolcefino Credentials

Dolcefino and his television shows have won:

  • Thirty Emmy Awards from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences
  • Five Charles Green Awards
  • An Edward R. Murrow award
  • A Jack Howard Award for investigative reporting
  • Numerous honors from the Associated Press and Texas Association of Broadcasters
  • An unprecedented three medals from the international journalism organization Investigative Reporters and Editors.

So it was ironic that Dolcefino titled his latest piece on the war between Plum Gove and Colony Ridge an “Unfair Fight.” If you want to see one of the nation’s top journalists at the top of his form, check out this story.

Colony Ridge’s land clearing practices, erosion, and lack of workable detention ponds, have contributed to sedimentation in the East Fork watershed. The developer’s wastewater treatment vendor has also been cited numerous times by the TCEQ for discharging raw sewage into area streams.

But Dolcefino goes way beyond those problems. Check out the revolving-door foreclosures, fake foreclosure auctions, and predatory lending practices that target the vulnerable.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 11/27/2020

1186 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.

Sand Miner Takes Over Troubled Porter Mine While Still Violating TCEQ Regs at Plum Grove Mine

A year after the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) filed a notice of enforcement against a Plum Grove sand miner named Somaiah Kurre, it appears that Kurre still has not complied with TCEQ regulations to restore his abandoned mine. However, he has found time to take over operations at the troubled Triple PG Sand Mine in Porter. The Texas Attorney General is already suing the Porter mine. This raises two serious public policy issues.

Should miners who leave behind environmental issues at one site be allowed to operate another before fixing problems at the first?

Permits Without Performance

It also calls into question state regulations that allow sand mines to obtain operating permits without forcing them to restore mines to nature or alternative uses when done.

Other states force mines to post performance bonds for reclamation before issuing the initial permit to construct a mine. If they restore the land when done mining, they get their money back. If they don’t, the state can use it to cover the cost of cleanup without forcing taxpayers to foot the bill.

Performance bonds are common in the construction industry.

Texas should adopt a performance-bond policy. This case shows why.

Texas regulations state only that a mine needs a reclamation plan to get a permit. However, there are no regulations stating they must execute the plan.

When unscrupulous operators are done mining a site, there’s no reason for them to invest another penny in it.

Texas needs performance bonds and/or a “toxic legacy” law. Companies that abandon unsafe mines should be forbidden to operate anywhere else in the state. They just can’t be trusted.

Troubled History In Plum Grove

Texas Concrete Sand and Gravel, Inc., one of Mr. Kurre’s 16 companies, has a troubled history at its Plum Grove location. Before October 2019, TCEQ investigated it nine times for 17 alleged violations in four years. Twelve involved unauthorized discharges of industrial waste.

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 water quality at designated outfalls.

Abandoned Without Compliance After Imelda

During Tropical Storm Imelda in September 2019, the mine’s dikes breached in four places. The mine discharged industrial wastewater and sediment into the San Jacinto East Fork. The East Fork empties into Lake Houston, the source of drinking water for 2 million Houstonians.

The company eventually fixed the breaches, but cancelled its Multisector General Permit (MSGP) and Aggregate Production Operation (APO) registration.

A company spokesperson told TCEQ investigators that the company had ceased all operations at the site.

However, the TCEQ report notes that terms of Texas-Concrete-Sand-and-Gravel’s permit still obligated the company to stabilize soil on the site or return it to an alternative post-mining use. A year later, that still hasn’t happened. Large portions of the site remain barren and disturbed.

No visible attempt has yet been made to stabilize soil, restore the land that needed it, or convert the site to an alternative use. So the company is still violating terms of its permit.

An excavator, dredge, shed, other abandoned equipment, plus bacteria- and scum-laden ponds remain. See photos below.

Photos Taken 10/25/2020

Abandoned stockpile shows signs of recent activity.
After a year with supposedly no activity, you would think some of this water would have clarified. Can you spot the five different colors of water in different ponds?
Dredge has not moved in months.
Working parts of dredge are crusted with rust.
Large part of site not stabilized. Tracks show trucks entering and leaving the mine, taking sand from the mine’s stockpile. But no signs or permits are posted at the site.

Provisions of Regulations and Permit

The requirements of the Texas Multi-Sector General Permit (MSGP) run more than 166 pages. But a TCEQ spokesperson summarized the relevant portions this way.

“The MSGP contains requirements … to terminate permit coverage after mining activity has ceased. The operator must demonstrate they have accomplished the final stabilization requirements: 1) completion of soil disturbing activities, 2) stabilization to minimize soil erosion, 3) ensuring stormwater runoff does not contribute to a violation of water quality standards, and 4) the site has been revegetated or left in the condition consistent with post-mining land use such as a nature park or lakes.”

“When operators have achieved final stabilization, they must submit a Notice of Termination which has been signed and certified by the responsible signatory authority as described in 30 TAC §305.44,” said the spokesperson.

The TCEQ spokesperson also said that Kurre, who fancies himself a startup impresario, is trying to negotiate payment terms for a $19,036 fine that TCEQ levied against him on April 14, 2020.

Encore Performance?

Meanwhile, another of Kurre’s companies, Texas Frac Sand Materials Inc., has taken over operations at the troubled Triple PG Sand Mine in Porter. It appears from a 9/8/2020 TCEQ investigation of that location that Kurre will operate, not own the mine.

The First Amended Petition in the Triple PG lawsuit by the Attorney General shows that Kurre took over operations at the Triple PG mine in April. However, the amended petition did not specify who the new operator was at the time.

The Texas Attorney General is suing the owners of the Triple PG Mine for more than a million dollars, plus up to $25,000 per day for the period that the mine discharged industrial wastewater into the headwaters of Lake Houston. Yep. Does this sound familiar? The Triple PG case (Cause No. D-1-GN-19-007086 in Travis County) has not yet gone to trial.

Ironically some of the alleged violations that the TCEQ charged Mr. Kurre with in Plum Grove are identical to the charges that the Attorney General lodged against the Triple PG mine in Porter.

The Many Faces of Somaiah Kurre

A search for corporate listings associated with Kurre’s name in the Texas Secretary of State database shows that he controls – wholly or partially – 16 businesses.

  1. Manjari Enterprises LLC
  2. Texas Concrete Enterprise, L.L.C.
  3. Asam LLC
  4. Texas Concrete Enterprise – II, LLC
  5. Shree Radha, LLC
  6. Texas Concrete Enterprise – IV, L.L.C.
  7. Texas Concrete Sand and Gravel, Inc.
  8. Plum Grove Material, Inc.
  9. Rohini Enterprises Inc.
  10. JSR Materials, Inc.
  11. Bright Star Stores, Inc.
  12. US Readymix Inc.
  13. US Fracsand, LLC
  14. Rama Krishna 2, LLC
  15. Texas Frac Sand Materials, Inc.
  16. Texas Concrete Sand and Gravel Enterprise, Inc.

Along the East Fork, Kurre owns or operates mines in San Jacinto, Liberty, Montgomery and Harris Counties. That possibly qualifies him as the largest operator on the East Fork.

Toxic Legacy?

Note unusual blue-green color in pond – a likely indicator of potentially dangerous bacteria.

According to the TCEQ, the color of that blue-green pool on the right in the photo above indicates that it is likely filled with cyanobacteria. Cyanobacteria can produce cyanotoxins. And the CDC says that cyanotoxins are “among the most powerful natural poisons known. They can make people, their pets, and other animals sick. Unfortunately, there are no remedies to counteract the effects.”

Pond near entry road.
Not quite a nature park! Texas Concrete’s legacy in Plum Grove. No identifying signs or permits are posted at the entrance to the site, despite the truck traffic.

Sites like this can unnaturally accelerate the buildup of sediment dams in rivers. Not only do they expose sand, they expose it in the floodways of rivers and streams. After Imelda, a huge sand bar set up at the mouth of the San Jacinto East Fork . It contributed to flooding of nearby residents. The public will have to pay to remove it.

East Fork Mouth Bar after Imelda. Before Imelda, this area was 18 feet deep. Boaters say the deepest part of the channel is now three feet.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 10/29/2020

1157 Days after Hurricane Harvey and 405 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.

How Loss of Wetlands Led to War

In three years of writing about flooding, this is one of the most dramatic case studies I have seen about the value of wetlands. It starts with a developer clearing wetlands and ends with the developer at war with a neighboring town.

Wetlands as Protectors

Michael Shrader lived in a modest home in Plum Grove in Liberty County. It was an idyllic, rural lifestyle in many ways. He did tech work remotely while raising animals on his small plot of land near the East Fork of the San Jacinto and Maple Branch. Shrader never flooded for the first 29 years he lived in Plum Grove despite living on a creek. Not in 1994. Not in Allison. Not in Rita. And not in Ike.

Forests filled with wetlands surrounded him. Water ponded during heavy rains. Much of it soaked in and was absorbed by tree roots. The creeks ran clear.

Before Colony Ridge

In this 2008 Google Earth image, you can see the vibrant greens. And if you look closely enough on a desktop display, you can even see the ponds and wetlands east of FM1010.

Note area east (right) of FM1010.

For those reading on smaller displays, here’s the same image, but with data from the US Fish and Wildlife Service National Wetlands Inventory superimposed.

The bright, solid greens represent wetlands in the national inventory. Superimposition courtesy of Michael Shrader.

Then Came the Bulldozers

In 2016, the developer of Colony Ridge started clearing land and replacing wetlands with ditches that fed into Maple Branch. It runs right behind Shrader’s home. As the developer filled in more and more of the wetlands, water started getting higher in the creek after every rain, according to Shrader. Harvey, May 7th, Imelda: those were the high-water marks. And the low points in Shrader’s life. He flooded all three times.

By last year, the developer had replaced virtually all the wetlands by this.

By 2/23/19, most of the wetlands had been turned into streets with ditches in the world’s largest trailer park. Shrader lives on a stream that cuts across the NW portion of the grid.

Since the satellite image above was taken, even more forests and wetlands farther east and north have been replaced by what is now the world’s largest trailer park.

Eastern area in June, 2020.
Slash and burn development practices at Colony Ridge. Photo June 2020. Note how contractors are draining wetland area on left.

Lives Disrupted

With the wetlands gone, Shrader’s house flooded in 2017 during Harvey (admittedly an extreme event), and twice in 2019. Not only did his house flood, so did most of Plum Grove, including the City Hall. Now, Shrader says, many homes are vacant.

The fence below, immediately downstream from the Camino Real Subdivision in Colony Ridge, was pushed over three times by the increased flow of floodwaters coming down Maple Branch. The owners of the red-roofed house bought this property just before the first of three floods.

Flooded Plum Grove home near Maple Branch and Colony Ridge. Owners stopped repairing the fence after the second flood.

The Domino Effect

To make matters worse:

Soon, Hollywood screenwriters will develop screenplays based on the Plum Grove experience and pitch them as “the next Erin Brokovich.”

Eroded drainage ditch in Colony Ridge that blew out FM1010 at far end. Three years after Harvey, the road still had not been repaired, much to the dismay of residents.
FM1010, one of the main roads into and out of the development, destroyed by out-of-control stormwater. The loss of this road has led to massive traffic jams on alternate access routes, such as FM2090.

Sadly, a little more respect for Mother Nature could have easily prevented all that trouble for the developer. One wonders whether the engineers and environmental consultants whom he hired to obtain permits served him well.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 10/22/2020

1050 Days after Hurricane Harvey and 398 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.

Plum Grove Sues Colony Ridge Developer Over Floodwater, Sewage Leaks

The City of Plum Grove on the San Jacinto East Fork has sued the developer of Colony Ridge over alleged breaches of an agreement that governs development in the City’s extra territorial jurisdiction. Colony Ridge is the world’s largest trailer park. Specifically, the City claims that Colony Ridge:

  • Allowed stormwater runoff from the development to flood the City
  • Failed to contain sewage that overflowed into neighborhoods and waterways

The City wants the developer to fix the problems and live up to the terms of their agreement (see Exhibit 1, Page 15). Plum Grove’s lawsuit cites several instances of both flooding and sewage spills. Only some have previously been covered in ReduceFlooding.com posts.

Parallels with Elm Grove Lawsuit against Woodridge Village Developer

This lawsuit has many parallels with a lawsuit by Elm Grove Village homeowners in Kingwood. They are suing Perry Homes, its subsidiaries and contractors for flooding hundreds of homes last year. Similarities include:

  • Neighboring homeowners vs. a developer that…
  • Clearcut land
  • Filled in wetlands
  • Without allegedly installing adequate detention or drainage

More than $1 Million in Damage to City Hall, Roads and Other Property

Plum Grove seeks damages for Colony Ridge’s “repeated and serious damage to City-owned or maintained buildings, roadways and other property.” The City claims more than $1 million in damages to date. But the City is not seeking compensation for damages. It wants the developer to fix the problems that are causing repeated flooding and sewage spills.

Causes of Action

Lawyers for Plum Grove cite several “causes of action” to support their claims and damages:

  • Breach of Contract
  • Negligence
  • Private Nuisance
  • Violation of Texas Water Code § 11.086
  • Trespass

“The fundamental breach of the Agreement arises from the fact that Defendant has paved over wetland area and/or diverted the flow of surface water without construction of adequate drainage or detention facilities. Because of developments by Defendant without conforming to applicable drainage standards and regulations, Plum Grove and the surrounding area are now experiencing significant flooding after major rainfall events,” says the lawsuit on pages 6 and 7.

Wetlands that used to exist on Colony Ridge Property. Source: USGS National Wetlands Inventory.
From Liberty County Stormwater Regulations. Plum Grove’s agreement with the developer specified that the developer had to comply with these regulations.

A defendant’s actions rise to the level of negligence under Texas law if 1) the defendant “owed a duty” to plaintiffs (had an obligation); 2) the defendant breached that duty; and 3) the breach caused the plaintiff’s damages.


Private nuisance is a condition that substantially interferes with the use and enjoyment of land by causing unreasonable discomfort or annoyance. In that regard, the suit mentions both flooding and the repeated overflow of sewage into creeks, ditches and property.

Water Code Violation

The Texas Water Code, Chapter 11.086, prohibits a person from diverting the natural flow of surface water in a manner that damages the property of another.

“Because of the increased stormwater runoff from Defendant’s developments during significant rain events like Hurricane Harvey, Tropical Storm Imelda, and the May 7, 2019 storm,” says the suit, “City Hall was flooded, City-owned/maintained roads, and residential areas have been inundated and City-owned/maintained bridges and culverts have experienced significant damage. Defendant’s actions constitute the wrongful diversion of surface water onto City property.”

Plum Grove residents allege that Colony Ridge cleared forests, filled in wetlands and re-routed runoff without adequate detention. And as a result, flood risk has increased within tiny Plum Grove which has only several hundred residents left. Many have been driven off already.


The most interesting legal theory is that the stormwater “trespassed” on neighbor’s property. A defendant commits “trespass to real property,” claims the suit, “where there is an unauthorized entry upon the land of another, and may occur when one enters—or causes something to enter—another’s property.”

Problems Became Apparent in 2015

Further, the suit alleges that Colony ridge was aware of drainage violations since at least 2015 (Page 7). Finally, it alleges that had Colony Ridge followed County regulations and standards as required by the agreement with Plum Grove, that flooding and its impact on the City and nearby properties would have been significantly reduced.

Long-Time Resident Verifies City Claims

Resident Michael Shrader says that his property never flooded before Colony Ridge started clearing land upstream from his home on Maple Branch. He has lived in Plum Grove since 1987 and weathered huge storms in 1994 and 2001 (Tropical Storm Allison) without flooding. “The extreme flooding in my yard and home during more recent storms,” said Shrader, “was clearly a result of the Camino Real Colonia’s stormwater run-off that’s all directed to the head of Maple Branch that then runs behind my back yard. Colony Ridge is the only major change to the landscape since I’ve lived here. All the wetlands that were there are now gone!”

Area the way it existed in 2011, before Colony Ridge
Same area in 2019. Colony Ridge is still expanding today. See area at right.
Shrader’s house as water was still rising during Harvey. Shrader says it eventually got up to the windows in the foreground.

Maria Acevedo, another local land owner and activist has seen firsthand the construction practices at Colony Ridge. “Their lack of Best Management Practices has sent silt downstream. That silt as clogged drains and ditches, causing water to back up and overflow. The TCEQ has documented these practices. The longer such abuses continue, the more pushback this developer will get from Plum Grove residents and also residents of Colony Ridge.”

“We are not going away until they comply with the law.”

Maria Acevedo

More on that TCEQ report tomorrow. It’s 184 pages long and deserves its own post.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 10/15/2020

1143 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 392 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.

TCEQ Complaints Against Texas Concrete Plum Grove Plant Still Unresolved

On July 14, 2020, the TCEQ completed another investigation into the Texas Concrete Plum Grove Plant. The investigator confirmed that it remains in violation of stabilization requirements before abandonment.

Small part of an estimated 15 acres still without vegetative cover. Photo taken 7/19/2020.

Moreover the company still has not removed rusting equipment.

Excavator and fork lift parked near entrance on 7/19/2020

13 Previous Investigations

TCEQ investigated the plant 13 previous times in the last five years.

The Texas Concrete Plum Grove Plant was already part of an active enforcement case (#57254) due to an unauthorized discharge and for failing to meet final stabilization requirements before terminating coverage under the Texas Discharge Pollutant Elimination System (TPDES).

“Due to the severity of the unauthorized discharge and the facility’s history of past noncompliance, this case will be referred to the Enforcement Division,” said the TCEQ in its report of a September 24, 2019, investigation.

Meaning of “Final Stabilization Requirements”

Final stabilization requirements include the planting of “vegetative cover” to retard erosion before abandoning the site. Texas Concrete ceased operations at the site and pulled down its signs. However, approximately 15 acres of the site remain unplanted; they have no vegetation.

According to the TCEQ report, the company claims it planted grass, but the grass failed to establish. A company spokesperson was not available for comment.

The definition of final stabilization is as follows: “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% 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 did not respond to a request for an explanation of how it measured 70% of the native background vegetative cover. Background vegetation is this case is a dense pine forest, not grass.

Rusting Equipment Allegedly Sold, But Still on Site

The company also seemingly abandoned rusting equipment on the site. The equipment includes a dredge, excavators, front loaders, dump trucks and trailers. Since the TCEQ’s followup investigations in June 2020, the company removed several dump trucks, but the vast majority of the other equipment remains – despite assurances from the company that it had all been sold. Neither the TCEQ, nor Texas Concrete has volunteered when the company will remove the equipment.

Weeds growing around tanker testify to how long it has remained there. 7/19/2020
Dredge still on site as of 7/19/2020
Cyanobacteria have taken over some of the ponds at the abandoned Texas Concrete Mine. 7/20/2020. The pond was not tested for cyanotoxins.

No Additional Leaks Found

There is some good news from the latest investigation. Texas Concrete plugged previous breaches in its dikes. The investigator did not find any new unauthorized discharges, or discharges that failed to meet water quality specs.

Approaching Peak of Hurricane Season and Year Wasted

Still, three tropical disturbances making their way across the Atlantic at this moment make a stark reminder of why abandonment requirements exist. This site has sat unused for approximately a year. That should have been plenty of time to establish grass at a minimum and to restore this site.

Texas Concrete brags that it is a member of TACA and that TxDoT is one of its customers.

If the State of Texas is serious about enforcing environmental regulations, now would be a good time to start. And this would be a good place.

The only thing that separates neighborhood kids from playing in the sand, climbing on the equipment, and swimming in the colorful water. The security guard sign is a bluff.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 7/20/2020

1056 Days after Hurricane Harvey and 305 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.