AP NEWS

Houston submits application to dredge Kingwood mouth bar for federal approval

April 5, 2019

City of Houston officials took a step forward in seeking federal approval for the $40 million dredging of a large deposit of sand and sediment that could increase flooding in Kingwood.

Chief Resilience Officer Steve Costello re-submitted the city’s permit application to dredge the notorious mouth bar located on the San Jacinto River in Kingwood to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on March 25.

He is also expecting the results from the river’s core study today, which will determine how much of the buildup was caused by Hurricane Harvey.

Costello, along with Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and City Councilman Dave Martin informed residents that the results of the study were important to securing federal funds for the dredging project at a community meeting in March in Kingwood.

Under FEMA’s Stafford Act, they are only authorized to fund the removal of sand and sediment that came from a natural disaster, such as Harvey.

When the City of Houston originally submitted their permit application in they were denied by the corps, which wanted more specific data.

“The problem was the data I was using as base data was not immediately before Harvey,” Costello said. “It was historical-based data. So FEMA said in a meeting back in December, two months later, that we really can’t verify that, first of all, this data is accurate... We needed to do a little more of a detailed, technical effort to identify what was Harvey-related material.”

The city then initiated a Stockton Survey to get more recent data.

“It’s something that was actually approved by FEMA for Hurricane Sandy recovery in New Jersey,” Costello said. “So we just simply followed that procedure.”

Costello said the city notified the corps that they are expecting approximately 1.4 million cubic yards of debris was caused by Harvey.

Costello said the permit application process could take from four months to a year and a half.

“We’re hoping we’ll be on a much quicker timeline, and, in fact, we would much rather have it quicker than four months,” Costello said. “We’ll see how the process goes. Right now we made sure we submitted a complete application and since (the corps) just got it on (March 25) we’ll have to wait and see.”

During the last community meeting in Kingwood, Turner announced that Governor Greg Abbott allocated $50 million to the City of Houston for flood restoration.

Turner said he has specifically designated $20 million to Kingwood. Costello said those funds will be allocated to dredging projects in the river.

“So what we have right now is FEMA advanced the city a little over $100 million post Harvey for debris removal. We (spent) $75 million of that advance. So we want to use the extra money from FEMA,” Costello said. “Then the governor hasgiven us $50 million for debris removal. We have spent all but $18 million out of it, and we want to use both the FEMA leftover money as well as the governor’s leftover money for the dredging operation.”

The city estimated the removal of the mouth bar would cost $40 million. However, the price could rise.

“To move anything north of 1.4 million yards is going to cost a lot more than ($40 million),” Costello said. “That’s one of the issues about the report. FEMA has to review it see if they agree with the amount of material we need to move and then decide how much they’re willing to fund.”

kaila.contreras@chron.com