Tag Archive for: West Fork

Kingwood Diversion Ditch Completely Blocked At River Grove

5/26/24 – Now that the flood has completely receded, aerial photos show that the Kingwood Diversion Ditch at River Grove Park has become completely blocked by sand again … for the third time in six years.

Without serious sand-mine reform (which is an unrealistic dream), dredging will become more frequent and costlier. We’re on an unsustainable path. Let’s look at the problem and a possible solution.

Already Dredged Twice Since Harvey

The mouth of the ditch has already been dredged twice since Harvey: once by the Army Corps and once by the Kingwood Service Association (KSA). But earlier this year, two floods redeposited sand that now blocks the channel mouth again.

Boaters report that river access has become increasingly difficult. Now it’s virtually impossible.

KSA owns the park and the boat launch, but not the Diversion Ditch which cuts through the park. The City and County have responsibility for that.

Regardless, KSA has obtained dredging bids north of $800,000 to keep the boat docks open. To put that in perspective, it’s one third of the organization’s cash reserves. And that will force KSA to decide whether it wants to continue funding a boat launch.

But a bigger, more important question remains. If the sediment continues to accumulate, how many people will flood? Hundreds flooded behind a Diversion-Ditch blockage during Harvey.

As sand builds higher, the problem will become more dangerous. So, where is all the sand coming from?

For this story, I started at River Grove and worked my way upriver toward a hellish, out-of-control sandscape on the West Fork just above Kingwood. It typifies 20 square miles of sand mines in a 20-mile reach of the West Fork between US59 and I-45. But let’s talk about River Grove first.

River Grove Boat Launch Blocked

Today, on a hot Memorial Day Weekend, every boat owner in Kingwood would normally flock to River Grove. But the parking lot was virtually empty this morning. Here’s why.

An emerging sand bar has totally blocked the boat launch.

While I took pictures at this location, one man with a small, flat-bottomed johnboat came in. He had to get out of his boat and drag it on foot across the sand bar. The sand bar totally blocks larger boats. To that point, note the virtually empty parking lot in the picture above.

Following the Sand Upstream

So, I took a short drive upstream to see where the sand came from. The next stop: the confluence of Spring Creek and the West Fork, a few hundred yards upstream from the US59 Bridge. The confluence has looked like this for the last month.

Slightly upstream from the US59 bridge. Spring Creek (left), West Fork San Jacinto (right). 5/26/24.

That water on the right looked very dirty. So I followed the sediment trail upstream. It led to the hellish sandscape mentioned above. See below.

Full Scope of Damage Near Hallett Mine Now Apparent

As floods have receded, the damage to mines in the river’s floodway and floodplains has become apparent. So has damage to the river system itself.

During the storms, the river cut through the dike of an abandoned sand pit owned by Hallett until January 2024. That’s when Hallett sold it to a real estate developer, according to the Montgomery County Appraisal District records.

Within days of the sale, the year’s first flood breached the dike at the downstream, southern end of the pit. Later, in May, a second flood breached a dike on the upstream, northern end.

Then the river started flowing through the mile-long, half-mile-wide pit and abandoned its normal channel. It churned up massive amounts of exposed sand and carried it downriver. The river’s velocity was more than sufficient to transport sand.

As more and more stormwater went through the sand pit, less and less went down the normal river channel. Water velocity slowed in the channel and sand dropped out of suspension. That created an enormous blockage that now appears to have cut off the river channel.

No one has yet taken steps to rebuild the broken sand mine dikes. Nor has anyone cleared the river channel. Meanwhile, the West Fork is running through an abandoned sand mine and carrying sediment downstream. See pictures below.

Looking upstream over West Fork San Jacinto. Channel has filled in with sand and river has rerouted itself through an abandoned pit (upper left).

In the picture above, it’s hard to tell where the river even was. It formed an S starting at the lower left.

Where river exits southern end of pit and continues down river.

Between the entrance and the exit, the river looked like this.

Former West Fork Channel. The channel is totally cut off by sand. Nearby residents estimate the depth of the sand to be 5-6 feet high near the northern breach.

This one-minute video shows where the river now enters the sand pit and the blockage in the former river channel.

Video shot on 5/26/24

Rain, River-Depth Impacts on Photographs

Environmental factors often influence photography. So, I recorded the following.

Harris County’s Flood Warning System shows that it hasn’t rained at all in the last week. That has reduced rates of flow in the West Fork.

I took all pictures above on 5/26/24. At the time, Lake Conroe was finally approaching its normal level of 201 feet above mean sea level. But the San Jacinto River Authority (SJRA) was still releasing water at a modest 350 cubic feet per second (CFS).

Screen capture from SJRA dashboard, 12:07PM, 5/26/24.

The SJRA release from Lake Conroe increased flow in the river past the sand mines.

Downstream, the Coastal Water Authority was discharging almost 4,000 CFS from Lake Houston at the same time in preparation for some repairs on the dam beginning later this week.

Screen capture from Coastal Water Authority website at 12:18 PM, 5/26/24.

The CWA release would lower the water level slightly in Lake Houston and near River Grove Park. But it would not affect areas as far upstream as the sand mines.

The Lake Houston water level was several inches to a foot below normal when I took these pictures. The CWA lists the normal pool at 42.4 feet. However, the Texas Water Development Board says that the spillway on the lake has a crest elevation of 41.73 feet.

So, What’s Next?

Note that the Kingwood Diversion Ditch affects drainage of the entire western half of Kingwood. The Harris County Flood Control District listed it as one of the top two priorities among flood-mitigation projects in the Kingwood Area.

Leaving this ditch silted in is not an option. Take boating out of the discussion. Hundreds of homes flooded during Harvey near this ditch when it previously became silted in and backed up.

KSA, a small, volunteer organization, cannot continue to fund the dredging of City and County property as dredging intervals become more frequent. Especially since no one is attempting to reign in irresponsible mining practices upstream.

Kingwood needs help. As a result of the disaster declaration that came after recent flooding, the Harris County Flood Control District should explore using FEMA debris removal funds to remove this dangerous blockage immediately.

The Diversion Ditch project would be an excellent candidate for those funds. We need to make our elected representatives aware of the issue and a possible funding solution.

This FEMA Fact Sheet outlines eligibility for the funds.

Hurry. We only have 30 days from the disaster declaration.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 5/26/24

2462 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.

West and East Forks of San Jacinto Flooding Again

May 19, 2024 – For the second time this month, the West and East Forks of the San Jacinto River are flooding. The East Fork crested last night about 1.5 feet below the prediction. However, the West Fork is still rising at US59. Parts of River Grove Park and the turnaround under US59 are already flooded. And the National Weather Service predicts floodwaters will go even higher.

Meanwhile, the West Fork continues to run through an old Hallett sand pit that was sold in January.

Here’s what you can expect if you live near the rivers.

East Fork Crest Moving Toward Lake Houston

Low-lying areas along the East Fork began flooding yesterday at FM1485. Earlier, the East Fork flooded near Cleveland and Plum Grove. As the crest moves downriver, it is affecting communities differently. Exactly how depends on many factors, such as the conveyance of the river at different points, sediment accumulations, proximity of homes to the river and more.

Yesterday, water was coming across part of FM1485 where it crosses the East Fork and parallels SH99. Today, the entire east bound section of FM1485 was blocked by floodwaters.

East Fork San Jacinto at approximately 4:30 PM on 5.16.24
East Fork San Jacinto at approximately 4:30 PM on 5.16.24

As of 6 PM, May 19, floodwaters are declining in this reach of the river. The crest has moved downstream toward Lake Houston.

Harris County’s Flood Warning System shows the river crested last night but was still well above flood stage as of noon today.

Farther upstream, at FM2090, the river has already returned to its banks.

All this is the result of another 3-5″ of rain falling earlier in the week upstream in the watershed on grounds that were already saturated from torrential rains and flooding earlier this month.

NWS Issues Flood Warning for West Fork until Tuesday Morning

While the East Fork is falling at this hour, the West Fork is still rising. At 1:34 PM Sunday, the National Weather Service issued a flood warning for the West Fork near Humble affecting Harris and Montgomery Counties.

Communities affected include: Porter, Sendera Ranch Road, Conroe, Kingwood, Humble, Sheldon.

Only minor flooding is forecast.

National Weather Service Flood Warning

NWS will issue its next statement Monday morning at 7:45 AM CDT.

The FLOOD WARNING WILL REMAIN IN EFFECT UNTIL LATE TUESDAY MORNING.

IMPACTS: At 49.3 feet, minor lowland flooding begins in the vicinity of the gauge at US59. The north side turnaround at US 59 begins to flood. Low points in surrounding areas also begin to flood.

At 12:45 PM CDT Sunday, the river had risen to 49.2 feet.

 Bankfull stage is 45.3 feet.

The river will crest at 49.7 feet just after midnight tonight. It will then fall below flood stage late tomorrow evening.

Flood stage is 49.3 feet.

This afternoon, the turnaround under US59 was just beginning to flood. The parking lots and part of the roadway were already underwater.

Far side of sandbar in middle is normally the river bank.

At 5 PM, the soccer fields, picnic area and boat launch at River Grove Park were also partially underwater. And water was rising quickly.

Picnic area and boat docks at River Grove underwater and going deeper tonight.
Soccer fields, also at around 5PM
River still rising. Minor flooding expected through Tuesday.
Sand Mine Area Upstream

Farther upstream, the West Fork was still ripping a hole through an abandoned Hallett sand pit that the company sold to a real estate developer in January.

River is now flowing through the abandoned pit (right) instead of following the normal arc of the river (left) around the pit. Note trail of foam. It moved at around 5 mph.

This breach appears to have widened significantly in recent days. If it remains open and this pit becomes the new course of the river, it’s possible that the entire pit could become public property, just like the river is now.

On the other side of the river, Hallett filled in the trench that was releasing sludge from its settling pond last Friday afternoon.

Trench on perimeter of Hallett Mine that was releasing sludge into river on Friday afternoon has been filled in.

Lake Report

As of 7 PM, the SJRA is releasing 5,325 Cubic Feet per Second (CFS) from Lake Conroe. The lake is almost back to its normal level – within .67 feet of 201. And no rain is in sight. That’s good news. Releases should continue to go down.

Screen capture from SJRA website at 7:15PM.

Throughout this event, SJRA has balanced inflows and outflows to the degree that it can. The rate they show above is about half of what they released earlier in the weekend.

Lake Houston, however, is getting more, not less water. It is still about two feet above normal and discharging water via its gates and spillway. Total discharge is 34,015 CFS. Of that, the gates can release only 10,000 CFS. The other 24,000 CFS goes over the spillway.

Screen capture from Coastal Water Authority as of 7:15 PM.

Comparing the two numbers on the right, shows us that the flood risk is shifting to the Lake Houston Area now.

Of the 11 watersheds that send water into Lake Houston, SJRA controls only Lake Conroe. The East Fork has no flood control. But that’s a story for another time.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 5/19/24 at 8PM

2455 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.

West Fork Sand Mine Sending Sediment Downstream from Settling Pond

5/17/2024 – The Hallett sand mine on the San Jacinto West Fork appears to have dug a trench across the maintenance road of its settling pond to lower the pond’s level. Murky wastewater is draining into the West Fork while the SJRA is currently releasing 10,875 cubic feet per second (CFS) from Lake Conroe in the wake of yesterday’s heavy rains.

Sediment released from the mine is being picked up by the Lake Conroe water and carried downstream. Note below how sediment has discolored the West Fork.

Picture taken 5/17/24, at the confluence of the West Fork, Spring Creek and Cypress Creek. Cypress joins Spring slightly upstream on the left. The branch on the right is immediately downstream from 20 square miles of sand mines between US59 and I-45.

Where The Sludge is Coming From

In the last few weeks I’ve posted extensively about how the West Fork has breached the dikes of a pit formerly owned by Hallett. As of this afternoon, the river continues to run through that pit. No attempt has been made by the new owner to re-establish the dikes. And that certainly contributes to downstream sedimentation.

But this afternoon, I discovered an additional source of sedimentation thanks to a tip from a nearby fishermen who stumbled across a breach in Hallett’s settling pond. See video below.

Video supplied by fishermen.

It’s hard to get a sense of the location from the close up, so here’s the location of the breach in a satellite image from Google Earth.

General location of breach and path to river in red oval.

And here’s a more detailed look at the path the water took on its way to the river.

Looking N. Silty water leaves Hallett’s settling pond through a trench dug in the tree-line. From there it flows through an abandoned sand mine and then through another breach into the West Fork.
Reverse angle shows silty water flowing out of Hallett settling pond into abandoned neighboring mine.
Detail cropped from shot above shows how heavy equipment worked the area.
Looking S downstream. Abandoned mine on left, West Fork in middle and breach through another pit on right.

Timing of Release Should Raise Eyebrows

The timing of this release is suspect: Friday afternoon just before regulators headed home for the weekend.

I’ve documented a history of breaches from this pond dating back to 2019 and the fishermen say they’ve seen breaches before that.

Hallett flushed water from this and other ponds after the January floods in 2024 but via different routes.

Lest you think I’m picking on Hallett, it isn’t the only sand mine emptying its settling pond into the West Fork.

I also documented an instance when the West Fork ran white from a release at the LMI Moorhead Mine upstream from Hallett. TCEQ estimated they released 56 million gallons of sludge into the river. That pond dropped 3-4 feet according to the TCEQ.

Regular Occurrence

The montage below shows the confluence of the West Fork and Spring/Cypress Creeks from different angles on different days. In all cases, the polluted branch was the West Fork. I took these shots while photographing West Fork sand mines from a rented helicopter.

Confluence

A former West Fork mine operator and a former water quality manager for the City of Houston tell me that releasing sediment-laden water under the cover of floods is standard operating procedure for many mines on the West Fork.

Who Will Bear the Cost of Clean Up, Dredging?

Think this doesn’t affect you? It affects your water quality and the cost of cleaning it up. Lake Houston supplies drinking water for more than two million people.

And if you live between the mines and Lake Houston, it probably will affect you another way.

Most sediment moves during floods. During Harvey, the West Fork swept through 20 square miles of sand mines between I-45 and I-69. According to the Army Corps, deposited sediment blocked the West Fork by 90%. That reduced the conveyance of the river and caused water to rise into homes and businesses. Almost 20,000 flooded in the Humble/Kingwood area.

Since then, taxpayers have spent more than $200 million on dredging. And the City is getting ready to launch another $34 million dredging program.

However, that program won’t address the mouth of the Kingwood Diversion Ditch at the River Grove Park boat launch.

KSA has obtained bids north of $800,000 to dredge the blocked area. Spending that kind of money will be necessary to keep the KSA boat launch open. It has become badly blocked by sediment during two floods since the start of the year.

Kingwood Diversion Ditch at River Grove Blocked by sediment
Here’s what that area looked like yesterday afternoon when the SJRA release rate was closer to 1500 CFS. Water level in river was still up about a foot above normal.

Living with sediment is all part of life on the river. But dredging intervals at River Grove have gone from 8 years before Harvey to 4 to 2 years since Harvey.

If this continues, KSA may be forced debate whether it can afford to keep the boat docks open.

Harris County Precinct 3 Commissioner Tom Ramsey, PE is trying to work with upstream authorities to reduce sedimentation that can lead to flooding. But it’s an uphill slog. No pun intended.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 5/17/2024

2053 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.

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.

SJRA Reducing Lake Conroe Release Rate

May 3, 2024 – As of 10 PM last night, the level of Lake Conroe had declined slightly for several hours. That indicates inflows are now less than outflows. Accordingly, San Jacinto River Authority Board Member Mark Micheletti worked out an agreement with the SJRA General Manager to start reducing the lake’s release rate.

By midnight the release rate was down from 69,585 cubic feet per second (CFS) to 64,797. And the lake level was down from 205.13 to 204.79.

This post contains information about the new release strategy, updated river and weather forecasts, plus a list of stunning rainfall totals from yesterday.

New Lake Conroe Release Strategy

During Harvey, many downstream residents felt the SJRA released too much for too long to return the lake to normal as quickly as possible.

The new agreement reached late tonight will have dam operators lowering the release rate in 2500 CFS increments. They will then wait two hours to see if the water level is increasing or decreasing, and adjust the next increment accordingly.

This strategy lets them delay additional decreases if necessary. For instance, if new heavy rainfalls increase inflows.

Dam operators still have the flexibility to release more if necessary. But it avoids leaving the release rate too high for too long when unnecessary.

All things considered, this strategy should protect downstream residents as much as possible. It also gives Lake Conroe operators a safety margin.

No Significant Changes to Flood Forecasts Since This Afternoon

As of 9:31 PM, Harris County Meteorologist Jeff Lindner had no changes to ongoing river forecasts. He emphasized that significant flood waves will continue moving down the East and West Forks of the San Jacinto into the weekend.

New Weather Forecast Reduces Rainfall Risk

Compared to yesterday’s weather forecast, however, Lindner also revised the expected overnight rainfall downward.

“Expect a mostly calm night with a low-end chance of a few showers toward morning. With heating on Friday and the approach of another thunderstorm complex from North Texas, there will be an increasing chance of rainfall during the day,” he said. “At this time. this complex of storms looks fairly progressive during the afternoon hours, but there is some uncertainty on how the storms evolve and how fast they cross the area.”

He says that additional rainfall amounts of 1-2 inches with slightly higher isolated totals can be expected on Friday. This additional rainfall is included in the river forecast models and should not greatly alter the current river forecast.

See river forecast summaries below.

East Fork San Jacinto River at New Caney (FM 1485)

Mandatory evacuation is still in effect for the eastern side of the river from FM 1485 to Lake Houston.

“Forecasted water levels will rise 7 feet higher than earlier this week. Structures on the ground will be flooded to rooftops levels,” says Lindner. “Elevated structures will be flooded. For reference, the forecasted water level is 4 ft below Harvey.” Similar to earlier this week, the rapid rise of several feet is expected late Friday into Saturday.

Impacted subdivisions: 
  • Idle Wilde
  • Idle Glen
  • Cypress Point
  • River Terrace
  • Magnolia Point
  • Northwood Country Ests
  • Low-lying eastern portions of Kingwood, such as:
    • Riverchase
    • Woodstream
    • Woodspring Forest
As of Thursday at 9 PM

West Fork San Jacinto River at Humble (US 59)

The river will rapidly rise from upstream inflows. It will reach major flood levels and peak near 62 ft on Saturday. Widespread low-land flooding will occur. It will likely impact lower areas in West Fork subdivisions such as:

  • Belleau Woods
  • Rivercrest
  • Northshore
  • Forest Cove 
  • Kings River Estates
  • Atascocita Shores
  • Kings Point
  • Kings Harbor
  • Kings River
  • Kingwood Greens
  • Fosters Mill
  • Kingwood Lakes
  • Barrington
  • Trailwood
  • Deer Ridge Estates

Kingwood residents should expect flooding of streets and structures near the East Fork, West Fork, and their tributaries.

Harris County is revising a potential inundation map that circulated Thursday on Facebook. Lindner says to expect the type of flooding we saw during the Memorial Days storm in 2016.

The following areas will be completely flooded with several feet of water: Deerwood Country Club, Deer Ridge Park, River Grove Park, Kingwood Country Club.

Elevated residents near the river should be prepared to be cut-off through the weekend if they don’t evacuate.

As of Thursday at 9 PM

West Fork of the San Jacinto River at I-45 

Major flooding is imminent upstream and downstream of I-45 including large portions of River Plantation and portions of Woodloch downstream to SH 242 and SH 99. Flows may approach the I-45 bridge deck. The current forecast is about 1 ft below Harvey recorded levels.

As of Thursday at 9 PM

San Jacinto River Below Lake Houston 

Major flooding is expected at all locations along the lower portions of the river.

Rio Villa will be completely inundated and cut-off and well as low lying in the river bottom around Highlands and HWY 90.

High velocity flows may damage vessels and barges near I-10 and result in loss of mooring.  

Flow may approach the I-10 river bridge west of the river crossing. Additionally, high flows will result in the suspension of Ferry service.

As of Thursday at 9 PM

Spring Creek

According to Lindner, the creek is rising on the upper end due to flows from Waller and Montgomery Counties. Minor flooding is in progress along the upper portions of Spring Creek at Hegar Rd. Water levels along the creek are high, but any flooding is minor and to rural areas near the creek. 

Willow Creek 

Willow Creek has crested and is slowly falling.

Yesterday’s Storm: Gage Readings

The storm that swept through southern Montgomery and northern Harris Counties yesterday dropped impressive amounts of rainfall.

Harris County Flood Control District released the following totals at 7 PM Thursday.

  • 8.24 in. – 1050 Spring Creek @ I-45
  • 8.2 in. – 1320 Willow Creek @ Kuykendahl Road
  • 7.76 in. – 755 San Jacinto River @ Lake Houston Pkwy
  • 7.2 in. – 785 Peach Creek @ FM 2090
  • 7.12 in. – 790 East Fork San Jacinto @ FM 1485
  • 6.92 in. – 795 East Fork San Jacinto @ FM 2090
  • 6.8 in. – 765 San Jacinto River @ SH 99
  • 6.64 in. – 1745 Cedar Bayou @ FM 1960
  • 6.6 in. – 1960 Luce Bayou @ SH 321
  • 6.12 in. – 770 San Jacinto River @ SH 242
  • 5.88 in. – 780 Caney Creek @ FM 2090
  • 5.76 in. – 1040 Spring Creek @ FM 2978
  • 5.64 in. – 1940 Luce Bayou @ FM 2100
  • 5.48 in. – 1340 Willow Creek @ SH 249
  • 5.12 in. – 1056 Mill Creek @ FM 1774
  • 5.04 in. – 1950 Luce Bayou @ SH 99
  • 5.0 in. – 1080 Spring Creek @ Decker Prairie-Rosehill Road
  • 4.96 in. – 760 San Jacinto River @ US 59

Locations Out of Banks, Flooding Likely

    HCFCD also reported that the following streams/channels were out of their banks and flooding was likely.

    • 710    San Jacinto River @ Rio Villa
    • 720    San Jacinto River @ US 90
    • 740    Lake Houston @ FM 1960
    • 760    San Jacinto River @ US 59
    • 780    Caney Creek @ FM 2090
    • 785    Peach Creek @ FM 2090
    • 790    East Fork San Jacinto @ FM 1485
    • 795    East Fork San Jacinto @ FM 2090
    • 1054    Mill Creek @ FM 1486
    • 1074    Walnut Creek @ Joseph Road
    • 1084    Threemile Creek @ Joseph Road
    • 1090    Spring Creek @ Hegar Road
    • 1195    Mound Creek @ FM 362
    • 1950    Luce Bayou @ SH 99

    Flooding Possible

    The following streams were still in banks, but flooding was possible.

    • 755    San Jacinto River @ Lake Houston Pkwy
    • 765    San Jacinto River @ SH 99
    • 770    San Jacinto River @ SH 242
    • 796    East Fork San Jacinto @ SH 105
    • 1050    Spring Creek @ I-45
    • 1055    Bear Branch @ Kuykendahl
    • 1076    Birch Creek @ Riley Road
    • 1086    Threemile Creek @ FM 362
    • 1110    Cypress Creek @ Cypresswood Drive
    • 1186    Live Oak Creek @ Penick Road
    • 1190    Little Mound Creek @ Mathis Road
    • 1320    Willow Creek @ Kuykendahl Road
    • 1340    Willow Creek @ SH 249
    • 1740    Cedar Bayou @ US 90
    • 1745    Cedar Bayou @ FM 1960
    • 1960    Luce Bayou @ SH 321
    • 2200    Houston Ship Channel @ Juan Seguin Park

    Resources for More Information

    To see:

    If in doubt about whether you will flood, remember. Better safe than sorry. If you evacuate needlessly, the most you lose is a day or two. But if you don’t and you flood, you could lose everything.

    Posted by Bob Rehak on 5/3/24

    2439 Days since Hurricane Harvey

    Lake Conroe Increasing Release Rate After Torrential Rain

    5/2/24 Noon Update: Since publishing this, Lake Conroe has continued to rise and the SJRA has increased the release rate to 66,100 CFS. – Heavy storms dumped 10-12 inches of rain in isolated areas north of Lake Conroe last night. Most areas experienced 5-7 inches. As a result, Lake Conroe has increased its release rate to 60,455 cubic feet per second and it could go higher.

    The area north of Lake Conroe has received more than 17 inches in the last week.

    Engineers are currently modeling several different scenarios. The current inflow is more than two times greater than the outflow. The current release rate is already the second highest in the history of Lake Conroe.

    Source: SJRA as of 10:00 AM 5.2.24.

    Current Situation

    According to Jeff Lindner, Harris County meteorologist, significant flash flooding is ongoing from north of HWY 105 to southern Montgomery County and the northern portions of Harris County.

    At 8:27 am, radar showed the storm had moved into northern Harris, and northern Liberty Counties.

    RadarScope Pro Screen Capture at 8:23 AM, 5.2.24, Orange indicates 5″.

    It dumped 6 inches of rain in my gauge in two hours. And the total is still climbing.

    Such high hourly rainfall rates result in street flooding. Lindner warned people not to travel unless absolutely necessary.

    According to Lindner, “There may be a break in the activity in the afternoon hours before another complex of storms arrives overnight into Friday morning with additional heavy rainfall. But confidence in the forecast is not high.”

    Impact of Rains

    “Significant rainfall has also occurred over the headwaters of the East Fork of the San Jacinto River. New flood waves will certainly be generated on both the East and West Forks of the San Jacinto River,” Lindner added. The same holds true for Lake Livingston and the Trinity River.

    The heavy runoff over already saturated grounds will migrate downstream Friday into the weekend. 

    The SJRA does not have a dam on the East Fork and can’t control it. Dam releases on the West Fork do not impact the East Fork, but do impact Lake Houston.

    Lake Conroe Release Rate Increasing, Max Uncertain

    Lake Conroe virtually quadrupled its release rate from 17,000 cubic feet per second (CFS) at 7 AM to 60,455 CFS at 9:45 AM.

    The lake level at 10:48 AM had reached 204.4 – 3.4 feet above normal.

    Mark Micheletti, San Jacinto River Authority (SJRA) board member, said that SJRA engineers are modeling several release scenarios. So the ultimate release rate is uncertain as of this writing.

    The flowage easement at Lake Conroe is 207. That’s the elevation at which homes start to flood.

    Some people will criticize the SJRA for not releasing more water sooner. However, it was not an easy call.

    Lake Houston was already flooding from the East Fork. And a massive release coming down the West Fork could have flooded homes.

    Micheletti added, “Hydrographs are useless in a situation like this because you don’t yet know what the release will be,” he added.

    During Harvey, the SJRA released 79,000 CFS. So, they are already at 75 percent of the devastating Harvey release rate.

    But even with that, the current release rate is only about one third of the estimated water coming into the lake. “So that’s our challenge,” said Micheletti. The release rate will almost certainly go higher.”

    The Harris County Flood Warning system showed that the San Jacinto West Fork is still within banks, but that likely won’t last long.

    Before the heavy rains moved south this morning, river gages on the East and West Forks were dropping slowly as floodwaters receded from earlier in the week. But we’re about to experience a second wave there.

    If you’re in a place that has flooded before, the safest course of action is to start developing an action plan now.

    River Predictions

    At 10 AM, Lindner released new hydrographs for the West Fork, East Fork, and the area below Lake Houston.

    West Fork

    As of 10 AM, 5.2.24

    A rise to flood stage will occur today with a rise above major flood levels on Friday. Widespread low land flooding near the river is expected. The forecast may need to be increased more because of the uncertainty over Lake Conroe releases.

    While there will be widespread low land flooding, the lowest structures in Kingwood are not impacted until over 60-62ft. Expect this level of water in the river to create backwater in tributaries that could lead to additional flooding.

    A reader sent in this photo of the new Northpark South development between the West Fork and Sorters-McClellan Road.

    NorthPark South already underwater from rains. 5.2.24 at 11 AM. Photo by Jody Binnion.

    East Fork

    A significant rise on the East Fork is expected as the upstream flood wave moves downstream. Forecasted water levels will reach 6-8 ft higher than earlier this week. This expected flood level will be higher than TS Imelda and will be similar to October 1994. Even elevated structures may be flooded, according to Lindner.

    Below Lake Houston

    Other Flooding

    As I write this, I have received word that Taylor Gully is flooding and parts of nearby streets are closed.

    White Oak Creek is also flooding. Royal Pines, the new development on White Oak at the northern end of West Lake Houston Parkway, has also flooded neighbors’ yards and a garage.

    Flash flooding is ongoing along Willow and Spring Creeks, which are rising rapidly. Flooding along these creeks is becoming likely. Widespread street flooding and some structure flooding is possible.

    A training band of thunderstorms will produce another 2-4 inches of rainfall on top of the already 4-6 inches that has fallen in these watersheds.

    Pardon the pun, but the situation is very fluid. Sometimes new information comes in faster than I can update it.

    I will post updates including photos when the rain lets up.

    Posted by Bob Rehak at 10:00 AM on 5/2/24

    2438 Days since Hurricane Harvey

    Breach at Hallett Mine Expanding

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

    A breach at the giant Hallett Mine on the San Jacinto West Fork that began in late January or early February is still open and expanding.

    Two Pairs of Pictures, Two Weeks Apart

    I first reported the breach on April 10. Below are pictures taken then and today.

    Hallett Breach, April 10, 2024
    Hallett Breach, April 24, 2024

    In the pictures above, note the difference in the river bank on the left. It appears much more eroded. Also note the freestanding tree in the water on the right in the second photo that is not visible in the first.

    Comparison of these wider shots shows more differences.

    Hallett Breach, April 10, 2024
    Hallett Breach, 4/28/2024.

    The first shots in each pair were taken when the water was up due to heavy rains upstream. The second shots were taken when the river was at its normal level (57 feet at SH99 as opposed to 66 feet).

    In the shot immediately above, note the lack of vegetation on the sidewalls of the pond. That’s one indication that the height of water in this pond was much higher at one time.

    Google Earth Image

    This image from Google Earth shows water draining out of the pond on February 19.

    Hallett Breach
    Hallett Breach in satellite image from Google Earth taken on 2/19/2024 shows silty water pouring out of the mine.

    Impacts on River

    One boater I interviewed for this post last Wednesday when SJRA was releasing 530 cubic feet per second from Lake Conroe said he could normally get all the way to Conroe in his flat bottomed boat at that flow rate. But on that day, he was frequently hitting bottom.

    This is consistent with the experience of boaters launching farther downstream in River Grove Park. There, the river depth is now just 1-2 feet in places. And that’s after it was dredged just four years ago.

    The Kingwood Service Association is studying ways to keep its boat launch open. But the need for dredging is becoming more expensive and frequent.

    I should add in fairness that the river creates a fair amount of erosion on its own and that Hallett isn’t the only mine on the West Fork with breaches in its dikes.

    It is, however, the largest mine by far and has a history of dumping its waste into the West Fork. Searching on the keyword “Hallett” in this website reveals 30 posts that include references to the controversial mine.

    It has now been approximately three months since the breach.

    Posted by Bob Rehak on 4/28/2024

    2434 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.

    West Fork Sludge Fest

    The San Jacinto West Fork has turned into a sludge fest again. I took the picture below on 11/11/23. Not since the day that the West Fork turned white have I seen the contrast so dramatic at the confluence with Spring Creek.

    This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 20231111-DJI_0872-1024x682.jpg
    Looking NW from over US59 Bridge. Confluence of Spring Creek (left) and San Jacinto West Fork (right). Cypress Creek joins Spring Creek 2.7 miles west of this location.

    In that prior case, the cause was obvious. Two sand mines were discharging process wastewater into the West Fork. The TCEQ determined that one, the Liberty Materials mine, dumped 56 million gallons of white sludge into the river.

    This time, the cause is not so obvious. I can’t even be certain I determined the cause. After taking the photo above, I spent a whole day ruling out various possibilities while searching for others.

    Ruling Out Causes

    The dramatic difference was not caused by huge variation in rainfall totals across the region.

    Rainfall totals from Harris County flood warning system. All of the rain fell in the previous 2.5 days and was relatively spread out.

    The highest total on the West Fork was that 2.68 inches south of Conroe at SH242. Further investigation showed that 1 inch fell between 3 and 4PM on 11/09/23. That was the highest intensity at that gage in more than a month.

    Uneven soil saturation across the region would also not cause the zebra pattern in the river. The entire region is still rated either “abnormally dry” or in “moderate drought.”

    And Lake Conroe did not release any large volumes of water lately that would have scoured river banks. That eliminated another potential cause.

    Now here’s where it gets really baffling.

    SJRA Study Claims Most Sediment Comes from Spring/Cypress Creeks

    The San Jacinto River Basin Master Drainage Study by Freese & Nichols claims that more sediment comes down Spring and Cypress Creeks than the West Fork.

    In fact, they say, of all the sediment coming into Lake Houston, two thirds comes from Spring and Cypress Creeks while only 13% comes from the West Fork upstream of US59. So where is all the sludge coming from?

    In my opinion, it most likely came from new developments or sand mines that move large volumes of loose sediment.

    So the next day, I went out with my drone and found several possibilities.

    Possible Sources for Sediment Pollution

    Two sand mines had pits open to the river, but I did not see large volumes of sediment oozing out of them as I sometimes do.

    The most interesting possibility: new developments very near that gage on SH242 that read 2.68 inches.

    Two connected developments straddle FM1314 immediately north of SH242. Early plans called them both Mavera. But now, the one on the east has a sign that says Madera. The sign on the west section calls it Evergreen.

    Both are being built on top of wetlands in a 10-year flood zone. Together, they have roughly 1400 acres of exposed soil.

    Most of the development’s stormwater drains into Crystal Creek and then into the West Fork about a half mile downstream from where I took this photo.

    Sediment-laden stormwater burst through the wall of this detention basin.
    Enlarged detail from shot above shows water was strong enough to destroy the outfall pipe.

    Now let’s see what’s upstream from this breach.

    Evergreen drainage channel. Water flows toward camera and the breached detention basin.
    Even farther up the channel. Note all recently exposed sediment.

    The ditch above appears to be much wider than it was in January 2021, almost three years ago. Now, let’s jump back south to where this area drains into the West Fork.

    Crystal Creek (middle) empties into the West Fork (bottom left). Note how milky water from Crystal compares to the West Fork.

    Note that the picture above was taken two days after the heaviest recent rainfall, so the volume may not seem impressive.

    There likely were other areas along the West Fork that contributed to the sedimentation you saw in the first photo at the top of this post. But I was not in a helicopter and it’s virtually impossible to cover the entire river with a drone. So I can’t say for sure.

    How to Report Issues You May See

    This is not the first time I have documented excessive sediment coming off the West Fork.

    The zebra effect at the confluence is common.

    The angle of the shots above varies. But in each instance, the West Fork is the most polluted branch.

    Why is sediment so concerning? After all, it’s natural, right?

    Remember the mouth bar that virtually blocked off the West Fork after Harvey? Also the one on the East Fork?

    When sediment reduces the conveyance of rivers, they come out of their banks faster and higher on smaller rainfalls. The rivers flood more frequently and increase your flood risk.

    So, if you see unnatural situations in rivers or streams, make sure you report them to the TCEQ, which investigates such matters.

    Together, we may be able to improve our safety and water quality.

    Posted by Bob Rehak on 11/13/2023

    2267 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.

    Swollen San Jacinto East and West Forks Sweep Through Sand Mines

    As floodwaters worked their way down the East and West Forks of the San Jacinto from last week’s heavy rains, they invaded sand mines on both rivers on Easter Sunday, 2023.

    Up to 9 inches of rain fell in the headwaters of both rivers during 3 days from 4/5 to 4/7. Atlas-14 rainfall probability statistics indicate that equals a 5-year rain.

    The Lake Conroe Dam intercepted much of the West Fork rain and is now releasing it at about 6400 cubic feet per second. There are no dams on the East Fork and the flooding there appears much worse.

    West Fork Near Northpark South Development

    Near the Northpark South Development on Sorters Road, the West Fork snakes its way through four square miles of sand mines. In the image below, the Hallett Mine on the right seemed secure. But the abandoned sand mines on the left and top center both opened to the river.

    Photo taken 4/9/2023 two days after rain stopped.

    East Fork Near FM2090 on 4/9/2023

    Normally, the East Fork at 2090 is about 30-40 feet wide – the size of the opening in the woods circled in red below. But today, the river swelled to about 2000 feet wide.

    Looking south from over East Fork San Jacinto toward FM2090.
    Looking East along FM2090 across the East Fork.

    As the East Fork rose, it invaded the abandoned Texas Concrete Sand and Gravel Mine in Plum Grove.

    Abandoned Texas Concrete Sand and Gravel Plum Grove Mine north of FM2090 between East Fork and FM1010

    Water entered the northern end, swept through the mine, and punched through the dikes on the southern end, carrying silt and sand with it. See sequence of pictures below.

    Looking N toward northern end of mine. Water entered mine in upper left and cut off house.
    Water then swept under and around house moving south.
    Looking S. The water then exited back into the river through several breaches in dikes.
    Rushing water carrying silt and sand found two more breaches close to 2090. Left unchecked, the force of this water will eventually erode the banks of FM2090.
    Baptist Church Loop Road south of FM2090 was also underwater.

    Mine Fails to Meet Guidelines for Abandonment

    This mine does not meet TCEQ guidelines for abandonment. The miners left equipment, including a dredge. They also failed to grade stockpiles, remove buildings, and plant grass. Yet somehow, the TCEQ gave them a pass.

    This is the second time in less than two years that this mine has been inundated. The public will bear the cost of dredging all the sand carried downriver.

    Ironically, a bill introduced by State Rep. Charles Cunningham requiring financial surety for sand mine reclamation remains bottled up in the House Natural Resources Committee. See HB1093.

    I guess the miners need the money more than you do.

    Posted by Bob Rehak on 4/9/2023

    2049 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.

    The Hand of Sand Miners on the San Jacinto

    The hand of sand miners weighs heavily on the San Jacinto watershed. Not all miners. But many.

    While exploring the river basin by helicopter last week, the contrast between two scenes struck me: 1) The natural blanket of green in Lake Houston Wilderness Park. 2) Sand mines that lined the banks of the East and West Forks for miles.

    The trees and natural wetlands inhibit floods. They slow floodwaters down, hold them back during heavy rains, and reduce erosion. The sand mines do not. They may provide some floodwater detention, but the pits are often filled to the brim and their dikes often break.

    How you treat the land determines how it treats you. Especially during floods. This aerial photo essay shows how the San Jacinto River Basin used to look and how it looks today.

    Lake Houston Wilderness Park

    Peach and Caney Creeks border Lake Houston Wilderness Park on the west. The San Jacinto East Fork borders it on the east. The shot below represents the way the whole Lake Houston area used to be.

    Looking across the 5000 acres of Lake Houston Wilderness Park – the largest urban nature park in America.

    Compare That With These Shots

    This first provides a direct comparison.

    Sand mine on Caney Creek. Lake Houston Wilderness Park in upper right.

    Below, note the difference in water levels between the creek and mine. No doubt, you also noticed a difference in water color. That bright blue/green in the mine water likely comes from high chloride levels.

    Site of previous breach from mine into Caney Creek, the subject of a million-dollar lawsuit by the TCEQ and the Texas Attorney General.

    More Mine Photos from West Fork

    I’ll provide five more shots here, all from the West Fork San Jacinto. They represent more than 500 similar shots I took on 7/22/22.

    No Swimming

    When I see all this environmental degradation, my mind starts swimming – despite the scary water.

    • How much sediment gets swept downstream in floods?
    • Can this land ever return to productive use?
    • Do other cities allow mining in urban environments upstream from their water sources?
    • What effect does mining have on the water quality in Lake Houston?
    • What percentage of our water bills goes to cleaning up this water?
    • Why doesn’t Texas have performance bonds that ensure sand miners leave the land in habitable shape?

    The sand makes concrete. It supports growth. But is all growth good?

    • Is growth in one area at the expense of public safety in another worthwhile?
    • Should we limit the concentration of mines in an area?
    • Why do mines expect the public to pay their cleanup and reclamation costs?
    • Is it safe to build mines below a dam that releases enough water during floods to break the mines’ dikes?
    • Are there no alternatives?

    Cycle Continues

    New Segment H of the Grand Parkway cutting east through forests will attract more subdivisions that require more sand for more concrete.

    I encourage rebuttals from any mine owner who wishes to address these questions.

    Posted by Bob Rehak on July 27, 2022

    1793 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.