Houston Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin is pleased to share an update on completed, ongoing and future dredging projects along the West Fork of the San Jacinto River and Lake Houston.
Over the last few years, Martin has been working diligently to accomplish several projects over many different levels of government. The accomplishments that, albeit slowly but consistently, have occurred over the last several years are largely due to his purposeful collaboration with Congressman Dan Crenshaw, State Rep. Dan Huberty, State Sen. Brandon Creighton, Texas Division Emergency Management Chief Nim Kidd, Mayor Sylvester Turner, and Chief Recovery Officer Stephen Costello.
In April 2019, the city submitted a 94-page technical report to FEMA identifying approximately 1,012,000 cubic yards of sand/sediment deposited immediately south and downstream of the mouth bar at Lake Houston and the West Fork San Jacinto. Based upon the technical analysis, the city concluded the material was deposited because of the Hurricane Harvey extreme storm event and requested federal assistance in the cost of removal.
In response to the city's 94-page study, the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) offered a four-page narrative disputing the city's claim for additional dredging of Hurricane Harvey-related material, which ended the city's hydraulic dredging project in the San Jacinto River and Lake Houston.
Now, 16 months later, thanks to the persistence of Martin, FEMA, through their technical consultant at the USACE, has concurred with the city's findings. This has been a long battle fought hard by Martin as he never wavered in his knowledge that dredging should continue in the mouth bar. He strongly disagreed with the USACE's four-page desktop study and continued to appeal and push forward to get the project he knew the Lake Houston Area deserved, which is why he is elated with the FEMA's latest determination July 9 to continue and remove debris up to an additional 1,012,000 cubic yards.
Removal of this debris is pending project identification in the federal/state grant portal, preparation of construction documents, identification of disposal site(s), selection of the method of dredging, cost estimates and construction bidding. The timeline for this project is pending and will be finalized once formal submission documents are developed for upload into the grant portal. The District E office will continue to provide updates on this project as new information is available.
Martin has played a crucial role in completion of several projects to date, including projects that have been completed utilizing FEMA Category A Debris Removal funds, include a mission assignment to the USACE for emergency dredging of the west fork of the San Jacinto River following Hurricane Harvey.
The initial contract resulted in the removal of 1,849,000 cubic yards of sand/sediment from upstream and downstream of the West Lake Houston Parkway bridge crossing of the river. The period of construction for this dredging activity started in September 2018 and was completed in December 2019. FEMA subsequently issued a mission assignment extension for the removal of an additional 500,000 cubic yards from south of the area commonly referred to as the "mouth bar." The period of construction for the subsequent mission assignment was between December 2019-January 2020. The total material dredged and removed from the river was 2,349,000 cubic yards.
Following the completion of the mission assignment, Martin, working closing with Creighton and Huberty, was successful in gaining the support of Gov. Greg Abbott to provide a $50 million grant to the City of Houston which was utilized for Hurricane Harvey insurance deductible expenses and debris removal. Approximately $7 million was available for dredging the mouth bar land mass, not addressed in the FEMA mission assignment projects described above. Utilizing a pre-positioned disaster contract, the city contracted for mechanical dredging of the mouth bar. Approximately 238,700 cubic yards were removed during the period of construction between January-May 2020.
The ongoing activities within the San Jacinto River and Lake Houston came about during the 86th session of the Texas Legislature, where Senate Bill (SB) 500 was passed. It included a provision setting aside $30 million for Harris County earmarked for the dredging at the confluence of the San Jacinto River and Lake Houston. Subsequent discussions with the leadership of Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) established the southern boundary of the area to be marked by the FM 1960 crossing of Lake Houston.
The city is currently a sub-recipient of approximately $10 million of the total grant funds. These funds are to be utilized to supplement the Office of the Gov. Grant, described above, to continue dredging activities at the mouth bar. Construction began in June 2020 and the city anticipates removal of approximately 242,400 cubic yards when the funds are exhausted.
Thanks to Martin and Huberty's diligence, future projects in the pipeline are the Roger's Gully Debris Removal Project which has been in the works since August 2018 after residents of Harris County passed a $2.5 billion bond program to fund over 240 flood damage reduction projects. Project G103-Dredge is listed as a partnership project with the city and/or Coastal Water Authority (CWA) for ongoing dredging activity of the east fork San Jacinto River, the west fork San Jacinto River and Lake Houston.
Approximately $10 million of local funds are earmarked for the dredging activity. These funds may be utilized to supplement the remaining funds from the TWDB grant, specifically within the Lake Houston area south of the FM 1960 crossing to the Lake Houston dam structure. One potential location is at the confluence of Roger's Gully and Lake Houston. Sand and sediment have accumulated, which have resulted in the formation of a significant mouth bar, obstructed localized drainage during extreme rainfall events, and increased the potential for structural flooding. The amount of material deposited is estimated to be approximately 200,000 cubic yards.
The city plans to coordinate with Harris County Flood Control District to utilize a portion of the $10 million to remove the mouth bar obstruction at Roger's Gully. Based on the current adopted bond prioritization approved by Harris County Commissioners Court in May 2020, the county funds are projected to be available between July 2021-March 2022. Once funds become available, the city would be able to start dredging activity within 30-45 days.
Martin has been consistent in his fight to get more for Lake Houston residents in the post-Harvey world and will continue to push forward for meaningful projects that will reduce the risk of future flooding to the area. Martin looks forward to the completion of future projects and continued collaboration with local representatives.