Lake Houston, San Jacinto River silting problem studied
EAST HARRIS COUNTY – Texas Governor Greg Abbott looked over areas flooded by Hurricane Harvey and pledged millions of dollars to northeast Harris County following Harris County Commissioner’s Court determining a need for flood mitigation was necessary the week before within the San Jacinto Watershed, the watershed areas containing Lake Houston and the San Jacinto River.
Gov. Abbott flew around the San Jacinto Watershed in a helicopter to view the flooding problems. He noted the silt, sandbars, a stunning number of sand mining operations “all up and down the river, and were able to understand more comprehensively the way in which these sand mining operations contribute sand and silt into the river.”
Hazard Mitigation Funds for about $3 Million from the Texas Dept. of Emergency Management is now authorized to start up engineering and permitting to find out where dredging should begin on the San Jacinto River and Lake Houston.
The same source will provided $2 Million to study the region and discover how to prevent flooding in the San Jacinto watershed.
Gov. Abbott is instructing the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to investigate and take action against sand mining operations violating regulations within the San Jacinto watershed.
The Governor’s office is directing the San Jacinto River Authority (SJRA) to immediately identify what can be done to prevent flood events along the West Fork of the river.
In the six months since the deluge of Hurricane Harvey it has been discovered that areas around Lake Houston were hardest hit and struggling to recover. Earlier this month, City of Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner hosted State Representative Dan Huberty, Senator Brandon Creighton to follow up on the needs of Lake Houston.
The list they discussed included dredging of the San Jacinto River and Lake Houston, construction of additional gates at the Lake Houston Spillway Dam, and creation of a pre-release protocol during rain events for both Lake Houston and Lake Conroe.
Lake Houston residents find it no surprise that silt sand bars and silt build ups have formed throughout the watershed even as silt bars washed away from the west bank of Lake Houston following Hurricane Harvey. The potential for flooding becomes worse with these erratically compounded deposits build from currents.
The question remains however as to who will be making the determination of where and when needed dredging of the San Jacinto River and Lake Houston will be performed.
Mayor Turner has asked that a bathymetric and topographic study be done of the San Jacinto Watershed and Harris County Authorities have called for one of the Cedar Bayou Watershed. This in hope that the studies will clue authorities as to where a siltation removal plan will be most effective at reducing flooding. Then a call for funding can be submitted to the Texas Water Development Board.
Texas Water Development Board is being asked to add eight to ten new gates to the existing spillway at Lake Houston to potentially allow bigger discharge in hopes that this will reduce the impact of large rain events. The new gates are estimated to cost about $47 Million.
Tropical Storm Allison, the Tax Day and Memorial Day floods and Hurricane Harvey indicate that “500 year floods” are happening a lot quicker than every 500 years.
Harris County Commissioner’s Court has moved to obtain funding for, and complete, the regional flood infrastructure projects so studies are underway then they will need to secure the funds. Estimates at the cost of completion for such projects are in the $100s of Millions.