Tag Archive for: Texas Water Development Board

San Jacinto Regional Flood Planning Group Submits Final Recommendations

The San Jacinto Regional Flood Planning Group (SJRFPG) submitted its final recommendations to the Texas Water Development Board on January 10. The 316-page report includes recommendations on floodplain management evaluation, strategies and projects; the plan’s impacts; administration, regulatory and legislative recommendations; and financing.

I discussed the floodplain projects and impacts when I reviewed the draft plan in August of 2022. Not much as changed with the projects and impacts except for some minor details.

Now, with the state legislature in session, I would like to review the administrative, regulatory and legislative final recommendations in Chapter 8.

Legislative Recommendations

The SJRPG made four legislative recommendations to facilitate floodplain management plus flood mitigation planning and implementation.

Provide recurring biennial appropriations to the Flood Infrastructure Fund (FIF):

In 2019, the legislature appropriated money to establish the FIF. However, it did not appropriate additional funds in 2021. We need more money to fully implement the plans in the coming years.

Provide state incentives to establish dedicated drainage funding:

State law provides municipalities with the authority to establish local drainage utilities. Those that don’t use that authority generally rely on federal partners to fund floodplain management and regulatory programs. Or else they use some combination of general tax revenues and municipal bonds. The state should incentivize local communities to fund drainage projects rather than rely solely on federal funding.

Provide counties with legislative authority to establish drainage utilities/fees:

Municipalities have that power. But the unincorporated areas of counties do not. Give counties a reliable source of revenue to implement, maintain and repair drainage projects. Let them establish drainage utilities and drainage fees in unincorporated areas.

Update the state building code on a regular basis:

Texas is missing out on a billion dollars in FEMA’s Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) Grants because of antiquated building costs. To take advantage of those grants, we need to update building codes. Adopt recent versions of the International Building Code (IBC) and the International Residential Code (IRC) at a minimum. Also we should adopt updated codes regularly in future legislative sessions.

Regulatory and Administrative Recommendations

The plan also made the following recommendations for regulatory and administrative changes.

Upgrade TxDOT design criteria:

Require all new and reconstructed state roadways to be elevated at or above the Atlas-14 1.0% annual chance flood level. Use the 0.2% level if Atlas 14 has not yet been adopted. TxDOT should also consider future conditions, such as urbanization and climate variability, in its roadway design criteria. TxDOT does not in all cases design roadways consistent with minimum NFIP requirements. TxDOT should strive to meet NFIP standards, especially for critical infrastructure such as evacuation and emergency routes.

Recommend Minimum Statewide Building Elevation Standards:

Recommend statewide minimum finished floor elevations at (or waterproofed to) the FEMA effective 2% annual chance flood except in areas designated as coastal flood zones. Use the 1.0% annual chance flood elevation where Atlas 14 has been adopted. Incentivize higher building standards. Recent historic floods and NOAA’s updated Atlas-14 rainfall probabilities reveal how much base flood elevations (BFE) can change over time. Jurisdictions that have required a freeboard over the current BFE have mitigated the risk of these increasing BFEs.

Clarify the process and cost to turn Base Level Engineering (BLE) data into Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) panels:

BLE efficiently models and maps flood hazard data at community, county, watershed, and/or state levels. Currently, the state and FEMA are heavily investing in BLE. Clearly communicate to local jurisdictions how to implement this data in regulations and flood insurance rate maps. The steps remain unclear to many local jurisdictions.

Establish and fund a levee safety program similar to the TCEQ dam-safety program:

The TCEQ has a program to inspect dams that fall under its jurisdiction. Levees, on the other hand, are not subject to a similar safety program despite posing similar risks during flooding events.

Promote flood awareness, education, safety and outreach:

Partner with the Texas Floodplain Managers Association (TFMA) to promote public flood awareness, education, and safety in communities. Also, partner with Texas Association of Counties to do the same for Floodplain Administrators lacking technical flooding background (e.g., some County Judges). A well-informed public can make better informed personal choices regarding issues that involve flood risk and also will be more likely to support public policies and mitigation measures to reduce that risk.

Support ongoing education/training for floodplain management:

Provide no- or low-cost online resources including training modules, webinars, and print. Target training for non-technical Floodplain Administrators (e.g., County Judges who may serve as Floodplain Administrators but not have the necessary technical background). This would help to make effective floodplain management more prevalent across the state, especially in smaller counties.

Develop state incentives to participate in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and Community Rating System (CRS) program:

NFIP works with communities to adopt and enforce floodplain management regulations that help mitigate flooding. CRS encourages practices that exceed minimum requirements of the NFIP. Both programs are essential to achieving State Flood-Plan goals.  Implement State-led incentives to encourage communities to participate.

Develop a public database that tracks flood fatalities:

Fatalities have occurred during extreme flood events throughout the state’s history. A statewide database and tracking system with appropriate privacy restrictions could aid in future project planning and regulatory decision making. It could also help with future education efforts regarding actions that frequently lead to fatalities. An example is the importance of not attempting to drive through flood waters. 

Help smaller jurisdictions prepare grant and loan applications or make the process easier:

Provide training for Councils of Governments (COGs) to assist with the funding process. Developing applications for project funding can be difficult, especially for smaller jurisdictions with limited experience and access to funding to obtain expert assistance. Simplifying applications and making funding available specifically for application development would serve to make the process more accessible across the state and help close knowledge gaps.

Develop interactive models that use Base Level Engineering (BLE) data: 

Provide them to Regional Flood Planning Groups and their technical consulting teams. Standardize future conditions and land use data. The State’s and FEMA’s BLE data should be available in most parts of the state.

Allow partnerships to provide regional flood-mitigation solutions:

Flood risk does not recognize jurisdictional boundaries, yet many flood-mitigation programs prevent multiple jurisdictions from working together if they want to remain eligible state funding. Flood-mitigation studies and solutions require inter-jurisdictional collaboration. Update policies to encourage and permit it.

Next Step on Final Recommendations

These final recommendations sound like good ideas to me. Please communicate your feelings to your state senator and representative.

I have summarized the final recommendations above. To see their exact text, review chapter 8. Or see the entire report to put them all in context.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 1/22/2023

1972 Days After Hurricane Harvey

TWDB Approves $10.1 Million to Widen, Deepen Taylor Gully

At its first May board meeting this morning, the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) approved a $10.1 million loan to the City of Houston to widen and deepen Taylor Gully.

Removing 400 Homes from Harm’s Way

The project should help alleviate flooding in Kingwood subdivisions such as Elm Grove, North Kingwood Forest, Mills Branch and Woodstream Forest. Residents in each village experienced disastrous flooding, not once, but twice in 2019. Widening and deepening the gully will increase its conveyance and take more than 400 homes out of harm’s way.

Connected Issues

However, the increased conveyance could also create the need for more more detention capacity to reduce the risk of flooding elsewhere.

This graph of Brays Bayou during the last century shows how runoff accelerates with development. Instead of floodwaters being stored in wetlands and forests, storm drains rush the water to the bayou. That results in higher, faster rises during storms.

Rapid upstream development has put pressure that never existed before on downstream homes. That development decreases the time of accumulation for floodwaters. Without more detention ponds to hold some water back, widening, deepening Taylor Gully could solve a problem in one place and create a problem in another. It could result in faster, higher flood peaks downstream.

Woodridge Village Could Be Part of Taylor Gully Solution

The logical place to put the extra floodwater detention would be on the Woodridge Village property that Harris County just acquired from Perry Homes. Currently, the property is about 40% short of the detention pond capacity needed to absorb a 100-year rainfall under new Atlas-14 requirements. And it has more than 170 acres available to meet that need.

Woodridge Village and headwaters of Taylor Gully (upper left) as they existed in January of 2020

The City loan which will be matched by money from the Harris County Flood Bond and, hopefully the federal government, can be used to address both conveyance and detention issues.

Delicate Dance Between Political, Project Leaders

Thanks to the TWDB, the bulk of construction money is now committed to the project through the City of Houston. That means the lead partner on this project, HCFCD, can tell its engineering contractor to accelerate planning.

Development of such projects is often like a dance between political and project leadership. Neither side can get out of step with the other for long.

At this hour, many details have yet to be worked out on the engineering and cost estimating side. But some of the political and funding clouds are parting enough to see a clear path to completion. However, one thing is perfectly clear.

As watersheds develop, it’s important to set aside room for detention pond capacity. Once a watershed is fully developed, homes and businesses must be bought out to create those ponds.

The buyouts increase the time and cost of projects exponentially.

For the minutes of today’s TWDB board meeting, click here and view Item #6.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 5/6/2021

1346 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 595 since Imelda

NWS Says Chance of San Jacinto River Flooding in Next Three Months is Minor

The National Weather Service (NWS) predicts only minor flood risk for both the West and East Forks of the San Jacinto through the end of May. That’s the good news.

NWS predicts only minor long range flood risk for the East (38.85%) and West Forks (26.22%) of the San Jacinto.

Drought Conditions Expanding Across Texas

But there is a downside: potential drought.

The reason for the low risk has to do with a below-average rainfall pattern across much of Texas. The Texas Water Development board posted two stories in the Texas Water Newsroom last week about the potential for drought. Large parts of the state are already severely behind on rainfall for the year and the pattern is expected to continue through May when weakening La Niña conditions could return us to normal.

Source: Texas Water Development Board as of end of February 2021.

The map above shows that most of the Houston area has received about 90% of expected rainfall year to date. But large parts of the state have received less than 20%. TWDB predicts those dark areas on the map will expand at least through May. At that point, TWDB predicts only the extreme eastern part of the state will not be in some kind of drought condition.

At the end of February, drought covered just over half the state, according to the TWDB. Statewide storage in our water-supply reservoirs is at 82 percent of capacity, about three and a half percentage points less than normal for this time of year. 

Drought Relief Could Come as La Niña Fades

Says Dr. Mark Wentzel, Texas Water Development Board Hydrologist, “The National Weather Service anticipates drought expansion across all but the eastern edge of the state by the end of May. Looking a little farther out there is some good news. La Niña conditions, that are at least partially responsible for drought in Texas, are expected to dissipate after April.”

So, the river flooding outlook could be very different by Hurricane season this year.

Did snow in February not help? Not really. Wentzel points out that snow is mostly air. It takes up to a foot of snow to equal and inch of rain.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 3/14/2021

1293 Days since Hurricane Harvey

TWDB Announces Members of New Regional Flood Planning Groups

This morning, at its October 1 board meeting, the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) announced the members of its regional flood planning groups. Back in April, the TWDB announced the formation of 15 flood-planning regions and started soliciting nominations for members in 12 categories for each region.

Members of San Jacinto Watershed Regional Flood Planning Group

In Region 6, the San Jacinto watershed, the 12 initial members will be:

  1. Agricultural InterestsElisa Macia Donovan
  2. CountiesAlisa Max
  3. Electrical Generating UtilitiesPaul E. Lock
  4. Environmental InterestsSarah P. Bernhardt
  5. Flood DistrictsRuss Poppe
  6. IndustriesTimothy E. Buscha
  7. MunicipalitiesStephen Costello
  8. PublicGene Fisseler
  9. River AuthoritiesMatthew Barrett
  10. Small BusinessesJenna Armstrong
  11. Water DistrictsAlia Vinson
  12. Water UtilitiesTodd Burrer

Regional Flood Planning Group Responsibilities

According to the TWDB, the regional flood-planning groups (RFPGs) will meet as required to develop their own plans. They must:

  • Deliver the first regional flood plan no later than January 10, 2023
  • Adequately represent their associated interest group as it exists throughout the entire region
  • Consider all the region-wide stakeholders when making decisions
  • Commit to regularly attending their RFPG meetings
  • Understand and follow the state flood planning framework and process, as well as review the various materials that will be considered by the RFPG along the way
  • Solicit and consider stakeholder input in a transparent process
  • Participate in directing the work of technical consultants
  • Make decisions and recommendations regarding flood management goals and strategies and flood mitigation projects for their region
  • Ensure adoption of a regional flood plan that meets all requirements, including that no neighboring area may be negatively affected by an element of the regional flood plan

600 Nominees Considered

The TWDB selected RFPG members from more than 600 nominations. Several groups across the state will have smaller groups. TWDB either did not receive nominations or they could not find qualified candidates in some categories. For a complete list of members in all groups, see the last two pages of this agenda item from today’s TWDB meeting.

The TWDB will soon convene initial planning group meetings. All meetings will include opportunities for public input and will be open and transparent. Meeting notices will be posted to the TWDB’s Regional Flood Planning Group Meetings webpage. One of the many important considerations of the new flood planning groups will be the potential to include additional voting and/or non-voting members to the group.

Making Texas a Safer Place to Live

This is a significant step forward in making Texas a safer place to live. The distinguished members of the San Jacinto RFPG should represent the interests of this watershed capably. They have a little more than two years to formulate a plan. Game on.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 10/1/2020

1029 Days after Hurricane Harvey

How LIDAR is Used to Develop New Flood Maps

The Texas Water Development Board published a new video today in their Texas Water Newsroom. The title: “Data from the sky informs flood planning on the ground.” The video explains how Lidar (light detection and ranging) data helps develop accurate, up-to-date flood maps.

900X Higher Resolution

Surveyors can acquire high resolution data quickly from the air using pulses of light.

Lasers mounted under planes pulse hundreds of thousands of times per second producing incredibly detailed images of the terrain.

Texas Water Development Board

The data has one square-meter resolution compared to the old standard of 30 square-meters used in older USGS surveys. That’s a 900x improvement (1m x 1m vs. 30m x 30m) in resolution.

That increased resolution lets mapmakers see much more detail in the landscape, including low areas where water tends to pool during floods.

Play the Video

Filtering Out Buildings and Foliage Reveals Terrain

By filtering out portions of the spectrum, say those that have to do with buildings and foliage…

Screen Capture from TWDB Video

…scientists can reveal the terrain under them.

Lidar Now FEMA Requirement for Mapping

FEMA now requires the use of Lidar in floodplain mapping. As the state continues to grow rapidly, Lidar helps floodplain modelers better understand what is happening on the ground during a flood.

Inspiring the Next Generation

This is a fascinating little video. It has enough meat for curious adults. It also has a wow factor for students that might someday inspire interest in science, technology or engineering careers.

Updated Harris County Floodplain Maps

Harris County Flood Control District uses Lidar data to help develop the next generation of flood maps for the region. FEMA last updated the maps in 2007 as a result of massive flooding from Tropical Storm Allison. The District could release preliminary maps as early as 2022. But it could then take several more years for FEMA to review and approve them. The FEMA process involves a lengthy public comment period.

Source: Harris County Flood Control District.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 9/16/2020

1114 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Texas Water Development Board Wants Input on Their New TexasFlood.org

Hurry. TexasFlood.org Survey Closes September 8

Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) is trying to make flood-related information more accessible and user friendly via an update of their website,  TexasFlood.org. The refreshed website will become a one-stop shop for flood-related data and information throughout the state. Please review it and then give TWDB your input via this short survey. Make sure they’re providing the kind of information YOU want.

Home page of TexasFlood.org


In 2019, the Texas Legislature and Governor Abbott greatly expanded the Texas Water Development Board’s (TWDB) role in flood mapping, planning, and financing.

In addition to existing flood programs, TWDB will administer a new state and regional flood planning process, increase flood-related financial assistance, and advance flood modeling and mapping capacities. 

As the agency expands data, information, and resources related to flooding in Texas, a key priority is to ensure that flood-related information is timely, user friendly, and easy to find.


So judge the new website against those goals.

Purpose of Survey

The purpose of the survey is to understand:

  • What flood-related information you find most valuable
  • How best to present that information on the new version of the site.

Less Than Ten Minutes Will Help Texans Better Prepare for Next Flood

Until now, the TWDB web presence has largely been geared toward water professionals. This site however, targets ordinary citizens. It’s a fresh approach for the Board. The home page for instance, starts with a discussion of what to do before, during and after a flood. You can drill down from there.

The survey should only require 5 to 10 minutes. Hurry. The last day is September 8. So please take the survey today. Your help will benefit Texans for years to come.

If you are trying to find this website in the future, check out the Links page of this website.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 9/7/2020

1105 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Texas Water Development Board Launches New Web Site

The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) has launched a new website called the Texas Water Newsroom.

A new site by the TWDB

Water Supply and Flood Planning

TWDB is the state agency responsible for water supply and flood planning, financing, and research. The agency helps ensure Texans plan and prepare for the perpetual threat of water scarcity and water surplus in Texas.

Water Newsroom Emphasizes Newsworthy Issues

The new website emphasizes news and timely topics. It bridges the gap between water professionals and consumers. It is a filtered, scaled-down, simplified version of the Board’s existing website, which can best be described as voluminous.

The Texas Water Newsroom was created to tell the stories of Texas water—the people, places, issues, and efforts. It contains videos, articles, press releases, and more. TWDB updates the stories regularly. All content is available for public use and reproduction for informational purposes. However, TWDB discourages promotional use.

Currently featured articles include:

A Layer Cake of Information

The story on regional water plans in the Water Newsroom caught my eye. It talked about how sixteen regional water planning groups are putting the finishing touches on their plans to ensure their areas have enough water to survive a drought. It contained a link to the current drafts of the plans by region. Houston is in Region H.

The Region H plan consists of two parts: the 326 page plan and 1576 pages of appendices.

I won’t pretend that I’ve read the whole thing. But I did skim it. And I found buried nuggets of information that revealed political/legal/private agendas in play.

That in itself is inevitable. But some are shocking. One in particular caught my eye: “Flood Liability of Water Supply Reservoirs.” It contains a legislative recommendation that has the potential to take away some of your rights.

More on that in a separate post. Suffice it for now to say that the TWDB really does need public input on these recommendations. And I probably would not have found that recommendation had it not been for the new website. Check it out. Bookmark it. And visit often.

For future reference, I’ve posted it on the LINKS page of this web site.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 6/9/2020

1015 Days after Hurricane Harvey

Texas Water Development Board Now Accepting Applications for Flood Infrastructure Fund Projects

On March 16, 2020, the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) finally started accepting applications for flood infrastructure projects under Senate Bill 7 signed by the Governor on June 13, 2019. We’re now at 941 days since Hurricane Harvey.

What Took So Long

What took so long?

  • Harvey happened shortly after the 2017 legislature concluded.
  • The Governor would immediately release money from the Rainy Day Fund.
  • The next legislature met in January of 2019.
  • It took until the end of May, 2019 for SB7 to work it’s way through the Senate and House.
  • The Governor signed the bill in June.
  • The bill stipulated that the fund had to be approved to voters in November 2019. It was.
  • Then the TWDB had to develop rules for what types of projects would be eligible for assistance, how they would be prioritized, etc.

We Aren’t to Goal Line Yet

What happens next?

  • Cities and counties have until May 14 to submit preliminary, abridged applications.
  • By early Summer 2020, the board will prioritize the abridged applications.
  • They will then invite applicants whose project meet criteria and fit within available funding to submit complete applications.
  • Complete applications will be due by early August 2020, about three years after Harvey.
  • Financial assistance commitments will begin in October 2020.
  • Closings begin later in the fall. Commitments have a six-month expiration period.

Construction of projects can then begin. If they were construction projects. Some grants will cover planning activities such as:

  • Preliminary engineering
  • Project design
  • Feasibility assessments
  • Coordination and development of regional projects
  • Obtaining regulatory approvals
  • Hydraulic and hydrologic studies

Different Types of Projects Eligible

The Flood Infrastructure Fund established by SB7 provides grants and 0% loans totaling $793 million. Eligible projects fall into four categories.

  • Category 1 – Flood Protection Planning for Watersheds
  • Category 2 – Planning, Acquisition, Design, Construction, Rehabilitation.
  • Category 3 – Federal Award Matching Funds
  • Category 4 – Measures Immediately Effective in Protecting Life and Property

Here’s a 36-minute video that explains the incredibly complicated rules for distribution of the funds. Warning: the video is not geared toward the public, but toward City and County employees who will apply for grants. Nevertheless, it’s interesting to see what goes on behind the scenes. Here’s a printed version of the Flood Infrastructure Fund Intended Use Plan that also describes all the rules.

Need to Move Quickly

With construction on many projects taking a year or more, the earliest citizens may see benefits from many of these grants will be 4 years post Harvey.

I understand the need to be cautious when handing out close to a billion dollars. But I also feel the need to act quickly with yet another hurricane season boring down on us. We should not forget that just last September, the fourth wettest storm in US history, Imelda, wiped out large areas between Houston and Beaumont. Sixty-two percent of the homes flooded during Imelda were outside of the 100-year floodplain. So we have lots of room for improvement.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 3/27/2020

941 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 190 since Imelda

Mouth Bar Dredging: First Pictures of Next Phase

Earlier this month, the State, Harris County and City of Houston announced the next phase of West Fork mouth bar dredging. Late last week, it got underway in earnest.

West Fork mouth bar on Monday 1.20.2020 before mechanical dredging started.

How Mechanical Dredging Works

Rachel Taylor took the ground-level pictures below earlier today from her back yard in Atascocita Point. They show mechanical excavators eating away at the mouth bar and loading the spoils on barges.

Sunday afternoon, 1.26.2020, two mechanical excavators worked the western end of the mouth bar. They loaded the spoils on waiting barges (right). Photo courtesy of Rachel Lavin Taylor.
Service boats then pushed the barges upriver. Photo courtesy of Rachel Lavin Taylor.
Barge loaded with spoils passes the Deerwood Country Club. Photo courtesy of Rachel Lavin Taylor.
Barges then anchor at Berry Madden’s property on the south side of the West Fork opposite River Grove Park. That black object jutting into the photo from the lower left is the skid of the helicopter. Photo taken 1.20.2020.
From there, other trucks move the spoils inland. For orientation, that water tower in the upper left is south of Kings Lake Estates. Photo taken 1.20.2020.

Mechanical dredging is slower and more labor intensive than hydraulic dredging, but can mobilize faster. In hydraulic dredging, dredgers pump the spoils to a placement area via pipelines. That is faster, but has higher overhead. It also creates more noise.

Hydraulic Dredging Options

The hydraulic pipelines can stretch miles. In the case of the first phase of West Fork mouth bar dredging, they stretched 10 miles upstream. It took five booster pumps to get the material all that way to a sand mine on Sorters just south of Kingwood Drive.

Luckily for us, the pipe from the first phase of mouth bar dredging is still at the Army Corps dock opposite Forest Cove.

Pipe from the first phase of mouth bar dredging still sits at the former Army Corps command post and could be rewelded into longer sections if needed.
The Great Lakes Dredge also remains at the dock. Here you see the pieces below and behind the crane.

At some point in this project, dredging may switch from mechanical to hydraulic. The fact that the Great Lakes dredge remained here bodes well. It chewed through 500,000 cubic yards of debris at the West Fork mouth bar in less than three months. Officials expect mechanical dredging of 400,000 cubic yards to take 8 -12 months.

Additional Dredging Targets and Financing

Other targets reportedly include the East Fork Mouth Bar and several mouth bars that have formed at the mouths of ditches or streams leading into the lake.

State Representative Dan Huberty helped bring $30 million to this phase of dredging via an amendment to SB500 in the last legislature. That money will funnel through Harris County via the Texas Water Development Board. The County also included $10 million in the 2018 flood bond. And the City is applying $6 million left over from a FEMA/TDEM grant for debris removal from Harvey.

For more details on this next phase of dredging, see the previous post on this project.

Two Phase Project Outlined In Grant

Harris County’s proposal for the grant from the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) calls for splitting the project into two phases. 

  • Phase One will focus on the West Fork Mouth Bar using the City’s $6 million and $10 million from the TWDB grant.
  • Phase Two will focus on the East Fork Mouth Bar using the remaining $20 million from the grant.
  • The $10 million from the County flood bond will fund surveys, formulation of specs, bidding, project management and more.

Progress Result of Pulling Together

All this is great news for the Lake Houston Area. The entire community worked since Harvey to make this happen through all levels of government.

As we look at other flooding problems in the area, it’s important not to get discouraged and to remember that we can make progress if we all pull together.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 1/26/2020 with photos from Rachel Lavin Taylor

880 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Plans For Next Phase of Dredging Announced

Behind-the-scenes work for the next phase of dredging has already started. The City, County and State are working together on a $30 million grant application for submission this month. The legislature earmarked the money for dredging at the confluence of the San Jacinto and Lake Houston. However, the money must go through the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) to Harris County and then the Harris County Flood Control District.

Circuitous Route for Funding

The supplemental appropriations bill, SB500, that the legislature approved dictates the circuitous route for funding. See the exact text from SB500 below.

“Out of funds appropriated in Subsection (1), $30 million is dedicated to the Texas Water Development Board to provide a grant to Harris County for the purchase and operation of equipment to remove accumulated siltation and sediment deposits located at the confluence of the San Jacinto River and Lake Houston.”

DIY vs. Outsourcing

State Representative Dan Huberty, who authored the SB500 amendment, has worked closely with all parties involved to explore the most cost-effective and timely solutions. For instance, Flood Control explored how much it would cost to hire an outside company for dredging versus buying the equipment and doing it themselves. Said Huberty, “In my discussion with the TWDB last week, they have agreed we can buy equipment if we need to, which is the direction we are pushing for at this time.” However, that option would take longer to implement and the money must be spent within the current bi-annum – by law.

Long Term vs. Immediate Needs

Meanwhile, the East and West Forks of the San Jacinto have urgent, immediate dredging needs, too. So the partners could break the work up and pursue both DIY and outsourcing options.

Said Huberty, “I met with DRC (Disaster Recovery Corporation) a week ago. DRC has an ongoing contract with both the City and County for debris removal from Lake Houston and they are still removing debris from the lake. So they might be an option that would let us deploy faster.” 

DRC is the parent company of Callan Marine, a subcontractor during the Army Corps’ Emergency West Fork Dredging project after Hurricane Harvey.

The dredges are gone but the pipe is not. The quarter-mile long sections of pipe used in the initial Emergency West Fork Dredging Project have been broken down into smaller sections for transport, but much of it remains on the West Fork. Photo taken 12/3/2019.

Additional Sources of Funding

Huberty also said that, “In addition to the $30 million, the Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and Council Member Dave Martin committed last weekend to help us fund this in partnership with Harris County Flood Control.” The City committed approximately $6 million, according to Huberty.

The ever-growing mouth bar on the San Jacinto West Fork. Imelda wiped out many of the gains from the Corps’ supplemental dredging program that ended on Labor Day and removed 500,000 cubic yards. Photo taken on 12/3/2019.
The growing mouth bar on the East Fork of the San Jacinto near the entrance to Luce Bayou and the Interbasin Transfer Project.
The Inter-Basin Transfer canal empties into the lower reaches of Luce Bayou, which flows into the northeastern corner of Lake Houston, near the emerging mouth bar. The project costs $351 million and will provide water to the Northeast Purification Plant. Photo taken 12/3/2019.

“In addition,” says Huberty, “I spoke to the Governor’s staff this weekend. We still have money left over from Harvey debris removal. That’s approximately another $16 million. They told us we can spend the money on the river and lake, but not for other purposes. This will let us complete the mouth bar dredging and get mechanical dredging done in areas like Huffman and Atascocita. The scope of the project is expanding, which is very good news. We’ll be able to help more people.” 

Smaller mouth bars have set up around the lake at the entrance to drainage ditches, like this one in Atascocita near Walden. Photo taken on 10/4/2019. Such blockages can force water up, out and over the banks into neighborhoods during large rains.

Next Step: Commissioners’ Court Needs to Approve Grant Request

The ball, at this moment, is in Flood Control’s court. Commissioners’ Court must approve all grant requests made by any part of the County. Says Huberty, “There will be an item on the December 17th Commissioners Court agenda requesting permission from the Court to submit the grant application to TWDB. All parties involved have already had discussions with the TWDB staff and are working on the grant application paperwork.”

Early next week Huberty plans to meet with John Blount, the Harris County Engineer; Stephen Costello, the Mayor’s Flood Czar; and John Sullivan, President of DRC.

Constant Dredging for Foreseeable Future

“In my discussions with all interested parties,” said Huberty, “we should have the application submitted by year end. We have been pushing to get it awarded quickly. It is a formality. We need to spend this money quickly which works to our advantage. We can always go back to the legislature for more after that.”

“All of these initiatives will ensure we can have constant, permanent dredging on the Lake for the foreseeable future,” said Huberty. “I am very pleased with the result and look forward to getting this project started.”   

Posted By Bob Rehak on 12/4/2019

827 Days after Hurricane Harvey and 76 since Imelda