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THE FACTS Viewpoint Article
Posted on Feb 11th, 2016
It is fair to question when a new proposal to dredge open the mouth of the San Bernard River for the second time in a decade is nothing more than an expensive invitation for history to repeat itself. To automatically conclude that is the case, however, isn’t fair to those who have spent the past few years putting together a plan they believe will provide a longer-term solution than the previous effort.
Brazoria County commissioners are leading this charge to seek money from the RESTORE Act — funded by fines paid by British Petroleum for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill — to pay for the project to clear the sediment that closed the river mouth. That is just one of the differences.
The proposed dredging this time will be done much further out than the initial project done in 2009. That should help prevent the silt that moves from the Brazos River from accumulating as quickly as last time.
Another major factor in the quick failure of the last dredging also shouldn’t repeat itself, namely the historic drought that dropped water levels and reduced river flows, making it more difficult for sediment to be pushed naturally into the Gulf of Mexico.
More agencies also are expected to sign on to the work, with the county reaching out to the Texas General Land Office, Texas Parks and Wildlife and the Texas Department of Transportation’s marine division to help with maintenance dredging.
“The county can’t do it on their own,” Commissioner Dude Payne said. “Last time we knew it would close off; we just hoped it would stay open eight to 10 years. We have our fingers crossed that we won’t have the worst drought we’ve ever had.”
Because of the natural forces at work, it’s impossible to say the mouth of the San Bernard never will close again. Most likely, it will at some point, and even the experts cannot say when that might be.
What we can say is the project is important enough that it should be done. With the money readily available, it would be foolish to wait on the work knowing there might not be such a thing as a permanent solution.
We don’t reject highway projects because in 10 years traffic will dictate the road be widened and it will cost us millions of dollars more down the line. Likewise, we should not reject a viable solution to reopening a valuable avenue of recreation, fishing and commerce because we might have to do it again in the future.