Q: What is U.S. Army Corps of Engineers role with regards to the West Fork of the San Jacinto?
A. In April 2018 the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Galveston District was mission assigned by FEMA to conduct dredging operations that will remove sand and other debris in the West Fork of the San Jacinto River between the Interstate 69 Bridge and Lake Houston that can be attributed to Hurricane Harvey. Under the Stafford Act, FEMA can assign emergency response work to designated agencies. Under the National Response Framework, the Corps responds to FEMA requests as part of the Emergency Support Function #3. This enables FEMA to accomplish disaster response requirements quickly.
Q: How did the Corps become involved?
A. Hurricane Harvey made landfall on the Texas coast in August 2017, causing significant flood-related impacts throughout the Houston area. Among these impacts was the accumulation of additional sedimentation in the San Jacinto River, lowering its capacity for water flows. A heavy rainfall event in February 2018 caused the San Jacinto to flow outside its banks. The Texas Division of Emergency Management contacted FEMA for Federal Assistance. After initial consultation and discussions ahead of spring flooding, the State sent a formal request to FEMA on April 2, 2018, resulting in the current mission assignment to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Galveston District.
Q: What is the current status of the ongoing dredging?
A. As of August 12, 2019, USACE Galveston District’s contracted dredges have removed approximately 1.8 million cubic yards of material in the San Jacinto River. The original work in the contract was completed in August 2019. After additional coordination with FEMA and the Texas Division of Emergency Management, the current contract was modified to include additional dredging in San Jacinto River in April 2019. Completion of the dredging in the modification is likely to complete in September 2019. For the latest update, the weekly storyboard (placemat) is available for download above.
Q: What permitting action is USACE Galveston District taking with regards to the San Jacinto Dredging?
A. USACE Galveston District is ensuring its contracted dredges comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The City of Houston’s Permit Application for placement of future material is currently being reviewed by the State Historic Preservation Office.
Q: What is the Corps doing with the sand and other sediment it dredges up?
A. USACE Galveston District coordinated the placement of the material into two upland confined properties. One property is located west of Interstate 69 and the other property is located east of Interstate 69. These placement areas were chosen to ensure no material impacted waters of the United States including wetlands and would not impact critical habitat for endangered species.
Q: What precautions are taken to ensure that dredging is done with minimal impact on the environment?
A. USACE Galveston District keeps environmental considerations at the forefront when it undertakes the design, construction and execution of projects that are crucial to keeping the nation’s waterways safe for navigation. Maintaining a balance between development and minimizing the impact on our environment is in keeping with our commitment to remain good stewards of our environment. The ongoing work was coordinated with all local, state and federal agencies to ensure compliance with laws and regulations.
Q: What is USACE Galveston District’s plan for the rest of the mouth bar?
A. There is no additional work planned for the mouth bar. The current plan for the modification addressing material near the mouth bar can be found on the placemat. USACE Galveston District has no authority to conduct any additional work in the West Fork of the San Jacinto River or Lake Houston. The San Jacinto River is not an authorized federal waterway, the Corps of Engineers dredging operations are currently limited to dredging Harvey-related material. The ongoing work under the contract modification will remove the remainder of material attributable directly to Hurricane Harvey. The sedimentation from recurring annual flows are not within USACE Galveston District’s mission assignment from FEMA. Water flows on the West Fork of San Jacinto River were restored to pre-Harvey levels in December 2018.
Q: Will the Corps be dredging more of the San Jacinto River?
A. Not with its current authorities. The San Jacinto River is not a federal navigable waterway. The Corps of Engineers dredging operations are currently limited to dredging Harvey-related material. The sedimentation from recurring annual flows are not within the USACE Galveston District’s FEMA Mission Assignment.
Q: Who can the public contact for additional concerns with the maintenance of the San Jacinto River?
A. For concerns with the maintenance of the San Jacinto River, please contact Harris County Flood Control District, the San Jacinto River Authority and the City of Houston.