Tag Archive for: setbacks

We Must Strengthen Sand-Mining BMPs: Minimum Setbacks Just Part of Solution

At long last, the State of Texas could soon adopt minimum setbacks from rivers for sand mining.

The Lake Houston Area Flood Prevention Initiative has been working with the Texas Aggregate and Concrete Association (TACA) and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) for two years to create a set of Best Management Practices (BMPs). The BMPs would apply only to sand-mining operations in the San Jacinto River Watershed.

The TCEQ has published a draft of proposed regulations and is now seeking public comment. Comments are due by August 19.

The proposed regulations are a great step forward in one sense. They plug some gaping holes that Texas has compared to other states. However, I believe they can and should be stronger.

Texas Currently Has No Minimum Setbacks

For instance, take minimum setbacks from rivers. Right now, Texas has no minimum setback. Some mines can and do mine right up to the edge of rivers, leaving only the width of a flimsy dike made out of sand between them and a raging river when floodwaters rise.

  • Most states define 100 feet as the minimum setback.
  • Alaska sets the minimum from a public water supply at 1,000 feet.
  • But other states, such as Arizona, take another approach altogether. Instead of specifying fixed widths, they define “erosion hazard zones.”

Erosion Hazard Zones Substituted for Defined Distances in Some States

Erosion hazard zones would take into account factors such as whether mining occurred on the eroding side of a river or on the side where sand is building up. An erosion hazard zone might also take into account the steepness of the surrounding slopes. Such zones are based on site assessments by engineers and may even take into account rates of river migration.

An erosion hazard zone might also take into account being downstream from the Lake Conroe Dam which released 80,000 CFS on top of Harvey’s already prodigious floodwaters. By itself, 80,000 CFS would have been the ninth largest flood in West Fork history.

The draft regulations currently under consideration specify a minimum 100-foot buffer zone adjacent to perennial streams wider than 20 feet, 50 feet for perennial streams less than 20 feet wide, and 35 feet for intermittent streams.

To learn more about how other states and countries handle setbacks, see the links on the Sand Mining page.

Minimum Setbacks By Themselves Are Only Part of Solution

Since Harvey, I have flown up and down the East and West Forks of the San Jacinto dozens of times and taken more than 27,000 photographs.

I have witnessed many dike breaches. Sometimes they are intentional.

Sometimes a large storm causes rivers to erode into pits – a phenomenon called pit capture.

Here, one mine leaks into a second mine (abandoned in lower right), which in turn leaks into West Fork 1200 feet away.
Breach in 400-foot wide buffer zone that happened sometime after Harvey. Exact date unknown.
This mine along Caney Creek had a 150-foot-wide vegetated buffer, that held just fine through Harvey, but miraculously couldn’t survive the unnamed flood of May 2019.
Stream level photo of breach above. Note the trackhoe marks on the side of the breach.

The point is this. Even with 100 foot setbacks, many breaches still occur. If a mine wants to get rid of wastewater, it will find a way.

It can always just pump water over the side of a dike.

One of many pumping operations I have documented.

Some put pipes through dikes to ensure wastewater never exceeds a certain level.

One of many pipes I have documented.

Or they can build dikes out of materials designed to fail under pressure.

Former dike at Triple PG mine being sued by Texas Attorney General

The hundred foot setbacks would, however, make many of these practices more difficult by making them more conspicuous.

And the requirement to have the buffer zone vegetated (another BMP), would eliminate situations like the narrow strip below.

Easily erodible, unvegetated buffer strip with steep sides at mine on West Fork (foreground).

My Take

All things considered, when the penalty for non-compliance averages $800 per incident, some will continue to ignore BMPs. Not all. But some.

As of August 2018, TCEQ had raised a half-million dollars in fines for more than 13,000 incidents statewide during the previous five years. If you look just at the last half of 2017 (after Harvey), the TCEQ levied about $140,000 in fines STATEWIDE – far less than it cost to repair ONE average home in Kingwood as a result of Harvey.

That’s why I say that by itself, the width of a buffer strip will help, but not solve the problem.

How do you feel? $220 million of your tax dollars are going toward dredging. Please share your feelings with the TCEQ.

How to Make a Public Comment

Submit written comments on BMPs to Macayla.Coleman@Tceq.Texas.gov with the subject line “BMPs Guidance Document” before August 19, 2021.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 8/11/2021

1443 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.

Latest Sand Mine Breaches and Near Breaches

In the continuing saga of sand mining on the East and West Forks of the San Jacinto, I present the results of my January 20, 2020, flyover. I found three breaches and two near breaches between I-45 and the East Fork. See below.

Liberty Materials Mine in Conroe

Let’s start upriver on the San Jacinto West Fork near Conroe. These first two images come from the Liberty Materials Mine that the TCEQ cited for allegedly discharging 56 million gallons of white slime into the river.

In this photo you can see that road (upper right) has repairs blocking a previous breach. However, discharge continues to flow through the dike. This indicates potential structural instability that might jeopardize the dike in a major flood and cause another massive discharge.
A couple hundred yards away at the same mine, there’s so little road left, driving a car across it could cause collapse of the remaining dike. That jeopardizes safety of workers and the safety of drinking water. Only four or five feet separates a massive mining pond from the West Fork in the foreground.

There sure is a lot riding on that little spit of sand. If this one blows out, I pray the TCEQ and Attorney General goes after them for gross negligence. How could they ignore this?

Hallett Mine in Porter

The next two shots come from the Hallett Mine in Porter. They show the same issue from two different angles.

Looking toward the pond.
Looking toward the West Fork. Another portion of the mine lies on the far side of the river.

Abandoned Mine in Porter

This is the drainage ditch that parallels Northpark Drive before it enters the river. This mine appears to be abandoned. Regardless, sediment, seems to consistently wash out of it. This breach has been open for since 2015.

Triple PG Sand Mine in Porter on Caney Creek

The Attorney General is suing this mine for breaches that remained open for months after the May floods last year. Currently, the mine is operating (but not dredging) under a temporary injunction until the case goes to trial on June 22. While mine owners have closed other breaches on White Oak and Caney Creeks, this breach remains open. Technically, it doesn’t connect with with river until a flood. But during floods, photographic evidence shows that Caney Creek reroutes itself through the mine, raising pressure that causes dikes in other places to collapse.

The shot below shows headward erosion toward five pipelines carrying highly volatile liquids.

Such breaches and near breaches create a good argument for creating minimum setbacks for mines from the creeks and rivers that supply our drinking water.

Sadly, legislation that could have done that died in committee during the last session. But there’s always next year. I will continue to monitor how well the mines do until new measures can be reintroduced. Pressure is building throughout the state to control air and water pollution from aggregate mines.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 2/12/2020

897 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.

Pipeliners Vs. Sandminers: An Update

The expansion of sand mines into easements occupied by pipelines puts both the public and the pipelines at risk – not to mention sand mine employees. In the last week, we have seen two areas where erosion triggered by sand mining undercut and exposed pipelines. Here’s an update on how the industry and regulators have responded.

Pipelines in general are the safest form of transportation known to humankind, even though they often carry highly flammable gases or liquids. However, undercutting and exposing them increases the risk of explosions, leaks and fires. It felt comforting, therefore, to see that the pipelines were aware of the problems and working to address them.

Exposed and Threatened Lines at Triple PG Mine In Porter

After posting the story about the exposed natural gas pipeline at the Triple PG mine, I received three calls from Kinder Morgan managers between 12 and 3 a.m. Saturday morning. I received another at 8 a.m. on Monday morning.

This satellite image shows the relative locations of the gas and HVL pipelines that cross the Triple PG property. It also shows the progression of erosion after Harvey but before Imelda. See post-Imelda erosion below.

Exposed Pipeline Now Replaced by One Buried 75-Feet Deep

Hurricane Harvey first exposed the natural gas pipeline in question shortly after Triple PG started mining right next to it. Water flowed through the mine from Peach and Caney Creeks (top to bottom above) during Harvey. It created severe erosion that left the pipeline hanging in several places. See below.

Exposed by erosion during Harvey and Imelda, this pipeline at the Triple PG sand pit in Porter is now “abandoned.”

After Harvey, the company immediately stopped the flow of gas through that pipeline and spliced in a new 2,000 foot section. It now runs 75-feet beneath Caney Creek and the erosion. Kinder Morgan filled the old section with inert gas and covered it up. However, Tropical Storm Imelda uncovered it again. But the pipe above has technically been abandoned. It no longer poses any danger to the public.

Kinder Morgan has not re-buried the pipeline because the Triple PG owners have not repaired the road to the pipeline.

At this mine, erosion has not yet reached the other five pipelines carrying highly volatile liquids (HVLs). But it is close.

Looking NW shows how close erosion and pits are to both sides of pipeline corridor.
Looking southeast at Triple PG mine and the massive erosion that occurred during Harvey and Imelda. Note pipeline corridor in bottom left.

During Harvey and Imelda, this erosion extended more than 1,700 feet (approximately 1/3rd of a mile) toward the HVL pipelines. The next large storm could take it across the corridor, exposing more pipelines.

Exposed and Undercut Pipelines in Conroe

Farther northwest in Conroe – up this same utility corridor – the HVL pipelines HAVE become exposed through headward erosion.

Mining here has moved toward the utility corridor in the foreground from the San Jacinto West Fork in the background.

Liberty Materials operates this mine. That’s the same company cited by the TCEQ for allegedly discharging 56 million gallons of a milky white substance into the West Fork from another mine last month. The other mine is about a mile south of this one. These are just two of nine facilities that Liberty operates in the area according to the TCEQ.

Looking south across the utility corridor and one half of the mine toward the West Fork. Notice water and sediment trying to drain to the river. See close up below.
Stormwater running across the utility corridor has undercut and exposed five pipelines. This process started in 2014 when the operator mined next to the utility corridor and triggered headward erosion..

Railroad Commission Response

In Texas, the Railroad Commission regulates pipelines. Jennifer Delacruz of the Texas Railroad Commission (TRRC) received several complaints and is aware of this situation. She told Josh Alberson, one of the complainants, that four of the five pipelines are interstate and therefore regulated by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. TRRC forwarded the complaints to them.

Wide shot of same area looking south across utility corridor to southern half of mine.

Mustang operates the one intrastate pipeline. According to Alberson, Delacruz had already discussed the situation with Mustang before he and she talked. Delacruz told Alberson that Mustang and the other operators had filed a lawsuit against the mine operator for damages and repairs, but it seemed to be going nowhere. The pipeline told her that it and the other pipeline operators are currently working together to protect the pipelines. They plan to start construction of earthworks or a concrete bridge in January. TRRC intends to closely monitor this going forward.

However, the depth of the pits on either side of the corridor may make bridging the erosion difficult because of soil instability. See below.

Note depth of newly excavated pit on north side of corridor.

As the northern pits get deeper and approach the utility corridor in the middle, the erosion under the pipelines will also get deeper. This seems like a losing battle for the pipelines. And there’s no guarantee that another area won’t wash out.

Industry Response

A pipeline manager at one of the world’s largest oil companies looked at these photos and said, “You could try to limp along with supports and erosion control, but Mother Nature will eventually ruin most anything that can be installed.” He felt that temporarily shutting the lines down and drilling under the mine would be the safest alternative, much like Kinder Morgan did at the Triple PG mine.

Legislative Response

Given the wholesale expansion of sand mining on the West Fork, and the unwillingness of the mines to keep a safe distance from pipeline easements, pipelines need to figure out a new strategy. To date, the state has refused to impose any meaningful setback regulations on sand mining.

TACA, the Texas Aggregate and Concrete Association, killed legislation that might have done that earlier this year. They lobbied heavily against developing best practices for sand mining. The bill died in committee. As a consequence, we now have worst practices.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 12/11/2019 with help from Josh Alberson

834 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.

Liberty Materials Sand Mine Built in Floodway, Floodplains, But Flooding Not Likely Cause of Breach

A Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) investigation into the mysterious white water on the West Fork, focused on sand mining upstream. TCEQ cited Liberty Materials for allegedly discharging 56 million gallons of milky-white water into the West Fork.

The mine’s manager said he “didn’t have a clue” about when, why, or how one of the mine’s pits lost 4 feet of water. A water sample showed nearly 25 times the normal amount of dissolved solids.

West Fork on November 4, 2019. It angles from left to right. Spring Creek, by contrast comes from top to bottom.
Color of the water on November 4, 2019 on the West Fork San Jacinto, about a half mile upstream from US59.

The Liberty Materials mine, like virtually all of the mines on the West Fork, sits in the floodway and floodplain. It’s a mile and a half wide and almost three miles long. About a 1000 acres altogether.

San Jacinto West Fork is white ribbon cutting diagonally through image. Floodway = Cross-hatched area. 100-Year Flood Plain = aqua. 500-Year Flood Plain = Brown. Source: FEMA’s national flood hazard layer viewer.

That’s a lot of sand and sediment exposed to the ravages of floodwater.

But the irony in this case is that there was no flood immediately before the breaches.

The gage at State Highway 242 near the Liberty mine shows 2.4 inches of rain during a 3 day period starting six days before the white-water incident.

Rainfall at SH242 and San Jacinto West Form from October 27 through November 3, 2019. Source: HarrisCountyFWS.org.
Late October rainfall caused the West Fork to rise about 3 feet, but the river had another 18 feet to rise before flooding.

That amount of rainfall caused the river to rise about 3 feet. But it was still 18 feet away from flooding!

Alternative Breach Scenarios

So if flooding didn’t do it, how did the water get out of the mine? One possibility is that the terrain funneled rainwater into the pond and caused it to overflow. The overflow then started a fissure which widened into the Grand Canyon of the West Fork.

Several mining engineers suggested other alternative scenarios:

  • Industrial sabotage by a disgruntled employee
  • Liquefaction of the sand around the perimeter of pits as they filled with rainwater
  • A heavy truck driving over sand about to liquify
  • They needed to clean out the pond and intentionally lowered the level
  • Needed purer water to create acceptable frack sand
  • “The Boss Made Me Do It”, possibly related to one of the two points above

I’m not saying there was a deliberate breach, but we’ve seen it happen before.

“Dunno What Happened!”

The mine manager interviewed by the TCEQ claims he doesn’t know when, why, or how the breach happened. Yet it caused a four-foot drop in the level of a major pond for more than a week.

To paraphrase the famous quote from Hamlet, “Methinks, the man professes ignorance too much.” By that I mean, the denials cause him to lose credibility. If your swimming pool suddenly dropped four feet, wouldn’t you want to know the cause?

His responses hint that something else is going on here. We may never know what. Despite tens of millions of gallons of pollution being poured into the West Fork, these cases rarely go to trial.

All the more reason to establish greater setbacks from rivers for sand mines.

The state legislature needs to make it more difficult for “accidents” like these to happen.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 12/2/2019

825 Days after 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.

Earth Week Part 4: Slope of Sand Mine Dikes, Riparian Vegetation and Cost Offsets

Yesterday, I posted about how greater setbacks from rivers could improve safety for sand mines and downstream residents. Setbacks reduce the potential for erosion, sedimentation and consequent flooding. Here’s a related post that shows what happens when you try to build too close to rivers.

Note repairs to dike. I took this photo two weeks after Harvey.

First, understand that the closer you mine to the river, the steeper the slope of dikes must be. At a certain point, the slope becomes so steep that:

  • Grasses and trees can’t take root in it.
  • The loose soil becomes prone to erosion.
  • During floods, water in the river rises faster than in the pit.
  • It exerts pressure on the dike.
  • The dike can collapse through one of more of several mechanisms (piping, erosion, overtopping, sloughing, etc.)
  • The river invades the pit.
  • Depending on the depth of the pit, the volume of sediment in it, and the force of the flood, sediment could be carried downstream.

Another factor leading to dike collapse in the photo above is the road built on top of it. Running heavy equipment over the sandy soil causes it to compact and push outward. Vehicle traffic also keeps vegetation that could bind the soil from growing.

Accidents Waiting to Happen

It doesn’t take a Harvey-scale flood to breach these loose dikes. The unmemorable July 4th flood of last year breached the dike shown above.

Another flood on December 7th last year breached a dike in another sand mine downstream from the first one in three places!

Repairs to one of three dike breaches at a sand mine in Dec. 7 flood last year. Photo by Don Harbour Jr.

Here’s another breach at the same mine that hadn’t yet healed when I photographed it on September 28th last year.

Site of a breach in the dike of a sand mine. Note how the loss of vegetation has led to erosion and sloughing in the sandy soil.

When such breaches happen on both sides of a point bar, the river will “capture” the pit by rerouting through it – the shortest distance between two points.

West Fork sand mines on 8/30/17, one day after the peak from from Harvey

West Fork vs. East Fork and Value of Riparian Vegetation

Almost all of these problems could be solved by greater setbacks from rivers. That would retain more natural riparian vegetation and allow lower, more gradual slopes on dikes. It would also allow additional re-vegetation to take hold.

Shooting across the West Fork from on top of the dike shown in the first photo above. Note how loose the soil was in the foreground and how difficult it is to establish vegetation on the opposite shore in the middleground. Floods have torn away the erosion blankets trying to establish grass on the steep slopes.

Imagine 131,000 cubic feet per second ripping through a channel like this. That’s how much came down this portion of the West Fork at the peak of Harvey. It’s easy to see how the river could erode these dikes and invade the mines.

That’s why we need greater setbacks. It will allow more conveyance through the normal channel. And if we just leave native negation in place, it should help hold the dikes in place.

Now contrast the images above with this one taken on a portion of the East Fork where there are no sand mines.

Lush riparian vegetation and trees held the banks in place during Harvey.

Here’s another.

Offsetting Opportunity Costs with Conservation Easements

Mother Nature’s solution to sedimentation is free. If we could only just learn to respect the river and its flood plains. Yes, there would still be some sedimentation to deal with, but not nearly as much.

The loss of sand close to the river is an opportunity cost, not an out-of-pocket cost. Groups like the Bayou Land Conservancy can help offset some of that opportunity cost by providing income in exchange for conservation easements. I wish miners would explore this option more…for everyone’s benefit including theirs. It certainly might reduce their legal costs.

Posted by Bob Rehak on April 27, 2019

606 Days after Hurricane Harvey

River Migration: Another Reason for Greater Sand-Mine Setbacks

River migration can imperil sand-mine dikes and that can imperil people downstream.

In the case presented below, the San Jacinto river migrated 258 feet toward a dike in only 23 years and now threatens it. The river has eaten away at a dike by migrating an average of 12.4 feet per year. The dike is now only 38 feet wide. This a textbook case for why we need greater separation between mines and the San Jacinto river. Another dike failure could exacerbate downstream sedimentation and flooding, as it has before.

River Migration Raises Questions about Setbacks and Abandonment

This example of river migration raises serious questions about the lack of setback requirements for Texas sand mines. As rivers migrate toward mines, they can breach dikes and increase the risk of future breaches. Sediment then sent downstream can block rivers and streams, and contribute to worse flooding.

In some cases, mining companies may still be around to repair breaches. But what happens when the mine is played out and no one is there to repair the dike? Hundreds of acres of silt could suddenly be exposed to river currents and washed downstream. As more and more mines on the West Fork approach the end of their lives, this is becoming a huge concern.

Before Sand Mines

This series of satellite images from Google Earth starts in 1995, before there were any sand mines on either side of the river at this location. I created the red line in a separate layer above the satellite images. As we move forward in time, the location of the line will NOT change; but the location of the river WILL.

1/18/1995 before sand mining in this area of the West Fork

By 12/31/2001, the river had shifted slightly. We now have a sand mine on the east side of the river. Note the width of the dike and the road on top of it.

By 1/25/2004, the river had eaten away at the dike and threatened the road. 

1/14/2006: The river has almost completely shifted from its original bed and wiped out a large part of the road

1/8/2008: The dike has become dangerously thin, and the road has completely disappeared.

3/14/2014: The mining company has shored up the road by adding fill to both sides of the dike, increasing sedimentation in the river.

On 5/31/2015, the Memorial Day Flood inundated the mine and wiped out the road again. Note the large body of water at the far left. This was a new pit started on the west side of the river that year. Notice how the dike on the left has been breached and silt from the mine is flowing directly into the river.

7/31/2015: The dike on the left remains open and erosion from the Memorial Day flood has eaten the road on the right dike. Twenty years after the start of this sequence, the river has now completely migrated from its original path.

Then along came the Tax Day Flood of 2016.

By 1/23/17, we see sediment building up at the south end of the both pits from the storm during the previous year. This shows that the current was strong enough to move sand within the pits, something the miners say is impossible.

By 8/30/17, the entire area was inundated. Peak flow during Harvey actually happened the day before this photo was taken.  It was four times greater than what you see above.

On 10/28/17, two months after Harvey, the dike on the right has almost disappeared. It is now a mere 38 feet wide. The red line, which represents the original riverbed, no longer overlaps the current river bed. The pond next to the G in Google has almost completely filled in, more evidence of sediment migration within the pit.

Reckless Endangerment?

This series of river migration images shows the relentless forces of erosion. Mining in the floodway so close to the river increases sedimentation, and as a consequence, the risk of flooding.

We’re already spending tens of millions of public tax dollars to dredge the San Jacinto and restore its carrying capacity. Sediment clogged it, in large part, because sand mine dikes have failed repeatedly to protect the mines from floods.

At what point does the honorable pursuit of profit become reckless endangerment? At what point does hope that the dikes will hold become willful blindness? Since when does one man’s unfettered right to mine sand give him the right to damage others and imperil public safety? Why do legislators allow business practices that endanger neighboring communities? When will regulators see the partial truths spread by TACA for what they are – an deceptive attempt to escape liability for egregious business practices? And above all, what happens when miners walk away from the property but floods continue as they always have.

Property Rights Vs. Public Safety

Miners claim they have the right to do what they want on their property. But not at the expense of public safety. Should the owners of commercial buildings be allowed to operate without fire alarms, sprinkler systems and safety exits just because it’s their property?

Miners have choices. They don’t need to compromise safety. The meander belt of the San Jacinto stretches for miles. There’s plenty of sand out of the floodway to mine.

At the current rate, without human intervention, river migration should capture the mine on the right side of these photos in about three years. It won’t be the first time something like this has happened.

To prevent such disasters in the making and protect public water sources, other states and countries have established setback regulations from rivers. Texas should do the same.

Posted on August 29, 2018 by Bob Rehak

365 Days since Hurricane Harvey flooded the Lake Houston Area

As always this is my opinion on a matter of public policy and is protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and the Anti-SLAPP statutes of the Great State of Texas.