Tag Archive for: US59 Bridge

Video of Mile-Long Sand Pit Leaking Into West Fork

Correction: This sand pit in this post was sold by Hallett to Riverwalk Porter LLC on January 23, 2024.

Last week, the West Fork San Jacinto rerouted itself through a mile-long sand pit at the five-square mile Hallett Mine in Porter. Some people reported problems understanding how all the images in that post related to each other and where the mine was. To help eliminate confusion, I returned to the site this morning show continuous video from one breach to the other. I’ve also included a wider map below.

Location of Mine and Path of Video

The map below shows the relationship of the pit “captured” by the river to the rest of the mine, Porter and Kingwood.

Arrow indicates location and direction of drone video.

Video and Still Shots of Captured Pit

Clouds were low and I was flying near the base of them. So, the video looks a bit hazy.

One-minute video shot morning of 5/3/24 while flying from south to north. First breach is exit from pit, second is entrance. Water flows toward the camera through the pit to the left of the channel.

Note several things as you watch the video.

  • Size of the entry and exit breaches. They’re impossible to measure precisely, but likely greater than 100 feet wide.
  • Depth of the pond that used to be filled with wastewater before the dikes broke. See exposed sides where vegetation did not grow.
  • Sand being washed downstream before the water receded.
  • Dune blocking the West Fork in the upper right near the end of the video.

Here are some still shots with more contrast that show those highlights and other aspects. I’ll arrange these in the reverse order, i.e., flying downriver in the opposite direction starting from the entrance breach..

Giant dune has totally blocked off West Fork and diverted it into pit (upper left). Local residents say dune is 5-8 ft. high. People on either side of it cannot see each other.

Water now takes the path of least resistance, flowing through the giant pond.

Note freshly deposited sand in pit. The island (right center) is reportedly a burial ground for Native Americans.
Note color difference in water and how pond water now flows downstream. Also note height of pond walls.

Have a cool, refreshing glass of Hallett.

This flows straight into Lake Houston.

Downstream Photos Taken on 5/13/23 at US59 Bridge

Looking S across West Fork toward Humble. Note ripples in fresh layers of sand under US59 Bridge.

The City of Houston is launching a new $34 million dredging program to remove another 800,000 cubic yards of sediment accumulating in the West Fork downstream from the bridge.

Hallett contends that sand cannot escape its pits and that this sand comes from river bank erosion on other tributaries such as Spring and Cypress Creeks.

Robin Sedewitz, Kingwood resident contributed the three photos and video below.

Note height of debris in bridge supports.

Trees swept downstream in the May flood are forming a dam on the south side of the old bridge.
Trees caught under the southbound lanes of US59.
30-second video by Robin Sedewitz panning from upstream to down showing accumulations of debris in bridge supports.

During Harvey, debris such as this got caught in supports for the old railroad bridge and dammed the river, backing water up into Humble and Kingwood businesses. The railroad ultimately built a new bridge that would let trees pass through. No trees got hung up on the new bridge supports during this flood.

Where to Report Problems

Harris County Flood Control now surveys the river after floods and removes debris. They just haven’t gotten to this debris yet.

If you see problems that need HCFCD’s attention, you can report them here.

The TCEQ regulates sand mines in the State of Texas. To report sand mine issues, visit: https://www.tceq.texas.gov/compliance/complaints/.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 5.13.24

2449 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.

River Wakes Up From Flood With Bad Hangover

After January’s five-day hydro-fest, Houston area rivers, streams and ditches look like they woke up with a bad hangover. Some areas are hiding under broad blankets of sand. The root balls of uprooted trees jutted up from the San Jacinto riverbed like tank traps on a battlefield, a testament to how shallow the river has become once again. And sand, in at least one case, has totally blocked off a drainage ditch.

Photos at US59 Bridge over San Jacinto West Fork

Kingwood-area resident Robin Seydewitz took the three images and video at the US59 Bridge this morning (2/5/24).

Newly deposited sand.
y20-second YouTube video by Robin Seydewitz, panning west to east under bridge. Shows debris build-up.

Sediment Build Up Alarming

The January flood was not as bad as Harvey. This was a much smaller flood – the type that happens far more frequently – like every 2 to 5 years depending on where you live.

The danger is not so much what this flood deposited, but what similar floods can deposit over time and how they can reduce the conveyance of rivers, streams and ditches. All the accretions add up like hairballs in your shower drain.

Here’s how one minor storm totally blocked a ditch after one storm.

Northpark ditch blocked by sand/sediment after January flood. Pictures taken before the storm last November show it flowing freely. Taken 2/5/24.

Upstream of this blockage along the ditch, the Northpark South development, built on wetlands, is dumping its drainage into the abandoned sand mine on the right.

The 5-square mile Hallett sand mine is upstream on the left. Two residents/neighbors of the mine have witnessed the company pumping sludge from its settling pond on several occasions since the flood. The latest was tonight as I posted this article. They may have contributed to the build up also.

The Hallett operation is so large that the company actually mines sand on both sides of the river. You can see a small part of their operation below at the top of the frame.

Reverse angle. Taken 2/5/24.

Of course, some of the sediment shown in these photos comes from river bank erosion.

But some also comes from sand mines and new developments that have clearcut thousands of acres without taking precautions to control runoff. See examples below.

Northpark South developer clearcut wetlands and is draining through sand mine into West Fork where blockage appeared. Picture taken Jan. 24, 2024 during lull in rain.
Looking back at 2023
Evergreen Development at SH242 and FM1314
Colony Ridge drainage ditch in East Fork Watershed. Few if any of the ditches and detention ponds in the development have erosion protection measures installed per Liberty County regulations. Colony Ridge is now 50% larger than Manhattan.

Of course, we have many responsible developers and sand miners. But we also have some who are not.

Turning Natural Events into Unnatural Disasters

Robin Seydewitz is the river enthusiast, canoeist, kayaker, and flood activist who took many of the photos above. She said, “Sand mines that don’t operate safely are a big part of the problem. So are developers who clearcut land without barriers or natural vegetation to stop sediment from running off. The lack of enforcement for drainage regulations is another part of the problem. We need more protection for the public. This is my opinion. We are not protected; the mine owners, operators and developers are.”

The moral of this story?

We need better enforcement of drainage regulations. And we need another river survey, like the one we had after Harvey, to see how much conveyance has been reduced.

“It is foolish to keep dredging parts of the river downstream without addressing root causes upstream.”

Robin Seydewitz

Posted by Bob Rehak on 2/5/24

2351 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.