Tag Archive for: vehicles

BMPs for Final Stabilization Report Omit Crucial Elements

This is the eighth in a series about Best Management Practices (BMPs) proposed by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) for sand mines in the San Jacinto watershed. This post will focus on the Final Stabilization Report that operators should file after mines cease operation.

As we saw yesterday, operators abandon many mines with little thought to stabilization, cleanup, or reclamation. When that happens, mines become a blight on communities and the environment.

The seven previous posts have talked about:

  1. Scope and Need for Proposed BMPs
  2. Setbacks from Rivers
  3. Vegetative Controls
  4. Structural Controls
  5. Pre-Mining Planning
  6. Mining Phase
  7. Post-Mining Phase

Below is the text of proposed BMPs for the Final Stabilization Report. I will provide my comments at the end. Here is a link to the complete text of all BMPs proposed by the TCEQ.

Final Stabilization Report

BMPs within the final stabilization report show what the TCEQ values. One made me scratch my head and sigh “Huh?” Others represent glaring omissions. Below, see the proposed text.

6  Final Stabilization Report

Prior to operations terminating at a sand mining facility site or portion(s) of the site, a final stabilization report must be submitted to the executive director for review and approval at the following address:

  • Texas Commission on Environmental Quality Stormwater Team Leader (MC-148)
  • P.O. Box 13087
  • Austin, Texas 78711-3087

The Final Stabilization Report must, at a minimum, include and demonstrate that the items described below in section 6.1 Report Requirements have been addressed.

6.1  Report Requirements

Vegetative Cover:

  • The operator shall establish perennial vegetative cover in all areas except where ponds, highwalls, permanent structures, or paved areas exist.
  • Perennial vegetative cover must be uniform (i.e. evenly distributed with no large bare areas) and have a density of at least 70 percent of the native background vegetative cover for the area.

Vehicle and Equipment Storage and Maintenance Areas:

  • The operator shall remove fluids and batteries from, and thoroughly clean all vehicles and equipment remaining on-site.
  • All fuel and chemicals must be removed from maintenance areas. Maintenance areas must be thoroughly cleaned and cleared. If maintenance areas are unpaved, these areas must have vegetative cover established.

Structural Controls:

All temporary structural controls must be removed from the site. Remaining permanent structural controls must be adequate to manage remaining on-site drainage.


  • Highwalls: The permittee shall demonstrate that all remaining highwalls are stable and safe.
  • Waste: All waste must be removed from the site and disposed in accordance with applicable TCEQ rules.
  • Landowner Agreement: If applicable, a copy of all existing agreements with landowners regarding stabilization of the site must be included.
  • Certification: The Final Stabilization Report must be signed and certified by a Texas licensed professional engineer or a Texas licensed professional geoscientist.


I have several comments on these.

The first has to do with vehicles and equipment “remaining” onsite. The BMP only requires that the operator must “thoroughly clean all vehicles and equipment remaining on site”! Really? Why not require removal?

This BMP lets operators turn old mines (and our river system) into junk yards. It’s a recipe for urban decay. Rivers flood periodically and will inundate the old equipment and abandoned vehicles. Simply cleaning it before it floods and rusts is a joke.

If operators don’t want the equipment and vehicles they should sell them to another operator or for scrap, not just clean them. Don’t turn them into a blight on the landscape or communities.

Sand mining equipment abandoned for years between downtown Humble and the West Fork.
One operator’s idea of cleaning an excavator before abandoning it. This pit is now open to the river through erosion.

Second, the Final Stabilization report BMPs make no mention of removing debris.

Give me a home…where the deer and the antelope roam! Abandoned West Fork Mine.

Third, nor do they mention removing old buildings which could attract squatters and drug users.

Abandoned East Fork Mine with rusting buildings still on site.

Fourth, they make no mention of ensuring that outer dikes (or levees) separating abandoned pits from adjacent rivers are not breached due to lateral erosion of the river.

Abandoned mine after Harvey on right, West Fork on left.
Same area today. Lateral erosion breached dike allowing sediment to escape.

Finally, as with the BMPs in previously covered sections, enforcement is an issue here, too.

So where’s the vegetative cover?
The high wall of this pit has partially collapsed endangering properties around it and people standing near it. The wall was not properly stabilized.

Public Comments Due by 7/19/21

Please submit your thoughts on the Final Stabilization Report and other BMPs to the TCEQ. Email Macayla.Coleman@Tceq.Texas.gov with the subject line “BMPs Guidance Document” before August 19, 2021.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 8/17/2021

1449 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.

Resilient Houston: Boiling the Ocean

Earlier this month, the City of Houston released an epic 186-page report called “Resilient Houston.”

Cover photo from Resilient Houston. To see the entire report, click here.

Defining Resilience: The First Challenge

After Harvey, one heard lots of talk about “resilience.” Frankly, it became the cliché of the day in many circles. One could not go to a seminar or public meeting without hearing someone spout the term with the zeal of a freshly minted MBA trying to impress his/her boss. The word-du-jour bestowed an air of insider knowledge that commanded attention in a room full of people looking for answers.

The problem with such amorphous terms is they fail to calibrate expectations and set boundaries. Because no one knows exactly what they mean, they can be twisted to mean almost anything and serve any parochial interest.

Making the City More Resistant to Flooding?

I, for one, thought it was all about making the city more resistant to flooding. Silly me. I should have known better. When I opened the final report last week, I found a blueprint for transforming the City into a Utopian society. The sentiments were all noble and borne of an egalitarian ethic. But very little of the report addressed ways to flood-proof the city.

180 Degrees from Flood-Bond Approach

This was nothing like the Harris County Flood Bond a year after Harvey. During that year, Flood Control put the county under a microscope. It met with residents, business owners and community leaders in every watershed. Then flood control developed a project list, estimated project costs, and gave voters something tangible to vote on – a $2.5 billion bond. After voters approved it, approximately half of the mitigation projects had begun within another year.

Instead of asking how can we prevent or reduce flooding, Resilient Houston looks at the City through the other end of the telescope. It asks how can we prevent or reduce the impacts of flooding on the poor, the elderly, the mentally ill, the hungry and more. Noble sentiments, no doubt. I have no quarrel with them. But from a pragmatic point of view, how do you address such a broad agenda? Wouldn’t it be easier just to reduce the flooding? Where do you find the money to address all those related issues? How do you measure results?

Boiling the Ocean

Business people have their own term for such overly ambitious plans: “boiling the ocean.” By attempting the impossible, no matter how noble, ocean-boiling exercises collapse from their own weight.

Yes, it’s good to have a vision for where you want to go.

But does the City of Houston really need to solve the problems of climate change, income inequality, disparities in health care, housing affordability, urban sprawl, carbon neutrality, homelessness, full employment, aging infrastructure, public transportation, wealth generation, and street crime in order to repair a sewer?

Why is it necessary for the City to invest in local arts, build “community cohesion,” and celebrate “neighborhood identity” to clean out a ditch?

You get the idea. It’s as if every group in the City needing a handout saw “resilience” as a meal ticket. “Yeah, let’s hitch our wagons to that star. Sink our hooks into that. That’s good for a grant or two.”

Making Room for Water

On page 99, the report finally declares that we need to “Make Room for Water.” Now, they’re talking! As long as it’s not in my living room.

This report has plenty of good ideas. Goal #11 says, “We will modernize Houston infrastructure to address the challenges of the future.” Gee. Where have I heard that before?

Wait! Ten years ago. The drainage fee. Prop A. A billion dollars later, where has the money gone? Why are the ditches still clogged?

Positives in Plan

Maybe it’s unfair to ask for an actionable plan and accountability in a report like this.

It does lay out an attractive vision for the City’s future.

After all, if you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll never get there. And it’s hard to have a beating heart and not feel for the people highlighted in this report.

Shortcomings of Plan

On the other hand, Resilient Houston has everything but a Gannt chart (showing a project’s key steps and critical path), a deadline and a budget.

Meanwhile, I know of hundreds of people in Elm Grove who flooded twice in five months last year. They just need someone to make Perry Homes get off its ass and build some detention ponds. They don’t have time to “Leverage Smart City Investments to Address our Most Critical Resilience Challenges” (Section 43), one of which is street flooding.

And if the City really wants to “Enable Houstonians to Make Mobility Choices that Improve Well-Being and Reduce the Cost of Living” (Section 50), the City could start by keeping floodwater out of people’s crankcases.

New vehicle destroyed by May 7th flood in Elm Grove.
Another new vehicle belonging to same family destroyed by Imelda flood in Elm Grove just five months later.
Vehicle destroyed in Imelda flood on Village Springs in Elm Grove. The street was full of such vehicles. This family lost two also.

Harris County Flood Control estimates that more than 300,000 vehicles flooded across Harris County during Harvey. Many were at homes, parking garages, and dealership lots.

In May of 2019, the average price of a new car purchased in the U.S. climbed to $36,718. Replacing those 300,000 vehicles cost $11 billion.

If you want to reduce transportation costs for Houstonians, wouldn’t that be a good place to start? Like NOW. Do we really need to drag bike lanes and sidewalks into this debate? Yikes.

It took the City nearly 900 days to produce this report.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 2/19/2020

904 Days after Hurricane Harvey