THE FACTS Newspaper Article 2Mar13
Posted on Mar 2nd, 2013
This article appeared in March 2, 2013 paper.
River mouth to stay closed for now
San Bernard-area residents want mouth reopened.
By ALAN NIESCHWIETZ
CHURCHILL — A packed house for the Friends of the San Bernard River’s annual State of the River meeting showed a lot of people want to know, what’s going to happen with the mouth of the river?
The short-term answer, unfortunately for them, seems to be nothing. Despite hearing that at Saturday’s meeting, the audience wasn’t disappointed, FOR member and past president Nancy Kanter said.
“That’s what they were expecting to hear,” she said.
After silting shut several years ago, the mouth was dredged open in 2009 in a $2.4 million U.S. Army Corps of Engineer project, but it closed again in December.
With the mouth of the river closed, the river mostly makes a left turn at the Intracoastal Waterway, exiting though the west floodgate of the Brazos River. That flow pattern causes silting around that floodgate, which can lead to problems for barge traffic passing through the area.
Officials with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers who attended the meeting explained that was their primary concern related to the San Bernard’s mouth, Kanter said. The priority of the project to reopen the mouth would then depend on how bad of a problem the silting at the floodgate is making it for barges to get through, she said.
“Even though they’re seeing a little of that, it’s not at the point it was in ‘08 and ‘09,” Kanter said.
That problem hasn’t presenting itself as it did, probably because there is less water flowing down the river, Pct. 1 Commissioner Donald “Dude” Payne said.
“One of the reasons they’re not seeing the problems they did before is because we haven’t had as much rain, so when that comes, it may show up again,” he said.
USACE Col. Christopher Sallese told Payne there is another issue that would cause a delay, Payne said.
“They’ve got to do an environmental impact study,” he said. “So even if they had the money, it would be 18 to 24 months before they could do anything.”
Payne and other elected officials are trying to push that process along, so that as funding becomes available, work could potentially begin, he said.
“The environmental impact study would be $100,000, but I know Congressman Weber’s office is working to get it appropriated,” Payne said.
Sandra Arnold, a spokeswoman for the corps’ Galveston district, said in an email the project is on their radar but basically there are more projects than there is funding for, so all potential projects have to be ranked.
“Before any plans can be made to address this issue, funding will need to be identified, and all operations and maintenance projects will be ranked according to critical and high-priority needs.”
Alan Nieschwietz covers West of the Brazos for The Facts. Contact him at 979-237-0151.