Council Member Dave Martin would like to make District E residents aware the Federal Emergency Management Administration's (FEMA) mission assignment modification to address partial removal of the mouth-bar in the San Jacinto River has concluded.
The mission assignment modification provided the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) authorization, acting at the direction of FEMA, to remove an additional 497,400 cubic yards of debris from the confluence of the San Jacinto River and Lake Houston, known locally as the "mouth-bar". Council Member Martin has never accepted the amount of debris included in the mission modification and continues to fight that number today.
The modification to the USACE Emergency Debris Removal Contract was executed at the beginning of June 2019. FEMA instructed USACE to remove 497,400 cubic yards of material deposited in the mouth-bar from Hurricane Harvey. As of September 3, 2019, USACE removed 500,000 cubic yards of debris from the mouth-bar. Council Member Martin and the City of Houston, through Chief Recovery Officer Stephen Costello, have been very vocal in opposition to the amount of sediment to be removed from the mouth-bar since last year, believing that it was much too low.
FEMA cannot explain how the number of 497,400 cubic yards was calculated, even while the City of Houston has provided verifiable scientific data to show the amount needing to be removed from the mouth-bar is closer to 1.4 million cubic yards of sediment deposited by Hurricane Harvey. During a meeting held in June 2019 FEMA representatives verified the City's study and data collected was of sound scientific nature, which lead the Council Member to believe further modification to the extension was feasible. In August during a follow up meeting with FEMA representatives they again stated, "Your (City of Houston) data is not bad data", leaving Council Member Martin with lingering questions as to why no additional modification had been granted. The report that FEMA is using to justify their number (497,000 cubic yards) is a four-page table top study that does not begin to answer questions that were asked of the City of Houston by FEMA, which produced a 94-page comprehensive report.
Overall the dredging efforts in the San Jacinto River have removed roughly 2 million cubic yards of debris from the river alone, which has been tremendous to return the flow and depth in the river. The 500,000 cubic yards removed from the mouth-bar, while helpful, does not achieve the goal of Council Member Martin to further reduce the effects of potential future flooding while protecting lives and property of those living in Kingwood and the Lake Houston area.
As a result of the most recent meeting held in Austin, Texas, with representatives from FEMA, USACE, Texas Division of Emergency Management, City of Houston, and Governor Greg Abbott's office, Council Member Martin along with Mayor Sylvester Turner have sent a letter to our Federal Congressional Delegation requesting action be taken to address the remaining Hurricane Harvey debris remaining in the mouth-bar. This letter urges Senator John Cornyn, Senator Ted Cruz, Chairman Kevin Brady, and Congressman Dan Crenshaw to continue to support recovery of our area through requesting an additional mission modification from FEMA allowing for the final one million cubic yards of sediment related to Hurricane Harvey to be removed. Granting a second mission modification allows the use of existing pre-positioned resources as well as an estimated savings of nearly $20 million for mobilization.
In the hopes an additional mission modification is granted, the City of Houston has proactively secured a third disposal site that has already received USACE permits for sediment disposal. Residents wishing to participate in this request for additional support, please contact your federal representatives. Council Member Martin remains committed to removing additional sediment in the mouth-bar and will continue to fight for additional dredging of the mouth-bar.