The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) approved a $30 million grant to Harris County for the use of a dredging program in Lake Houston and the San Jacinto River at their monthly meeting in January.

“By approving this amount, the legislature as a whole made a clear and concise statement that Lake Houston and the San Jacinto River are vital resources for the entire region and must be maintained and I thank my fellow members for supporting this important mission,” said State Rep. Dan Huberty.

The posted meeting agenda included a resolution to “Consider authorizing the executive administrator to execute a contract with Harris County for $30,000,000 to remove accumulated siltation and sediment deposits located at the confluence of the San Jacinto River and Lake Houston pursuant to Senate Bill 500, 86th Legislature.” The resolution set forth by TWDB staff to the board states that upon approval, “A commitment is made by the TWDB to Harris County for financial assistance in the amount of $30,000,000 in grant funds from the Texas Infrastructure Resiliency Fund. This commitment will expire Aug. 31, 2021.”

Harris County Engineer John Blount submitted the grant application to TWDB in late December after receiving approval from County Commissioner’s Court. According to the submittal, the project will be completed in “two distinct phases: (1) removing accumulated materials near or at the “mouth bar” and (2) removing accumulated materials in the East Fork of the San Jacinto River and other locations in Lake Houston. This phased approach will obligate the full $30M of grant funding before the 87th legislative session in 2021.”

The application includes an outline of the phased activities, stating that phase one will be started immediately with the use of additional dollars from the City of Houston’s remaining Harvey Disaster funds provided by Gov. Greg Abbott and funding from the Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) Bond Program.

“Due to the urgency of this issue, these entities worked together to craft a plan that could be executed immediately, allowing the first phase to begin as soon as possible, “ said Huberty.

Houston Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin announced that the city “has issued a Notice To Proceed (NTP) for debris removal services, specifically large silt deposits at the confluence of the West Fork of the San Jacinto River and Lake Houston, commonly referred to as the “mouth bar.” The City of Houston, through its contractor DRC Emergency Services, LLC (DRC), will begin mechanical dredging of the mouth bar this week.”

The activities in this first  phase should allow for the removal of 400,000 cubic yards (CY) of material in eight to 12 months.

“This project would not be possible without the hard work and dedication of Dave Martin. He has been the driving force behind the collaboration between these local entities, constantly working to get phase one started as quickly as possible,” Huberty stated. “Dave is a true champion for this community. He is committed to the full recovery of the Lake Houston area and to preventing future flooding.”

Phase One will also “allow Harris County to work with the City of Houston, HDFCD, the San Jacinto River Authority (SJRA) and Coastal Water Authority (CWA) to develop a request for qualifications (RFQ) for professional services to evaluate, recommend and permit additional dredge disposal sites along the West Fork of the San Jacinto River, the East Fork of the San Jacinto River, and Lake Houston. The same RFQ will also include work items to develop plans, specifications and estimates for dredging operations, and to develop a long-term dredging operational plan for the Lake Houston area.” The long-term dredging operations will be assumed by either the City of Houston or CWA upon completion of this project.

“I would like to thank everyone who has worked to create the final grant program under the supplemental funds we received from the legislature. It would have not been possible without Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Speaker Dennis Bonnen, former Appropriations Chairman John Zerwas, Senate Finance Chairwoman Jane Nelson, State Sen. Brandon Creighton, Chief Nim Kidd, Mayor Sylvester Turner, Chief Recovery Officer Stephen Costello, Harris County Commissioner’s Court, Harris County Engineer John Blount, Harris County Flood Control District Executive Director Russell Poppe, Harris County Flood Control District Deputy Director Matt Zeve, and many more,” said Martin.

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