The following editorial appeared on page 6 A of March 5, 2017 edition of The Facts. We thank them for their support.
OUR VIEWPOINT: Open the mouth of the San Bernard River
· DALE DIMITRI
· Area residents living in the vicinity of the San Bernard River face a seemingly never-ending challenge to open the mouth of the river, which over time closes up because of silting.
Keeping the water flowing and stopping stagnation from occurring in the waterway are vital quality-of-life issues for many families living along the San Bernard’s banks, many of whom are involved in the group, Friends of the River San Bernard.
The mouth of the river is closed now, and dredging it open again is an expensive undertaking with temporary results. The recent past illustrates this.
In 2009, the Friends of the River San Bernard’s lobbying efforts led to a $2.4 million U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project that dredged the San Bernard mouth open. However, the river’s mouth eventually closed again in December 2013 following years of drought.
Despite the expense, area river residents and San Bernard advocates are correct about the importance of opening the mouth back up so its waters can once again flow freely. River dwellers already are feeling the effects of the closed mouth. Mike Goodson, president of the Friends of the River San Bernard, called it devastating.
“The quality of the water has changed,” Goodson said. “The salinity level has dropped, and the bacteria level has increased.”
The poor water quality in certain areas has had a detrimental effect on wildlife. As Goodson pointed out, wildlife and fish also have decreased along the river that runs through the western part of the county. Aside from the water quality, there are safety issues to consider, too. With the mouth closed, the river mostly makes a left turn at the Intracoastal Waterway, sending the water into the Gulf through the west floodgate of the Brazos River. The flow pattern causes silting around that floodgate, which can mean a treacherous path for barges passing through the area.
Right now, leaders are considering a proposed $10.7 million project that will dredge further out than the 2009 effort. According to County Commissioner Dude Payne, once the big dredge is done, locally-funded periodic maintenance will then take place to try to keep the mouth open.
The area got some good news recently as the proposed project made a short list to receive federal funding under the Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunity and Revised Economies (Restore) Act. Restore Act grants are funded by fines assessed for environmental damage caused by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
The San Bernard proposal and two other local proposals — village of Surfside Groin and Quintana Beach Public Fishing Pier projects — made it though a competitive process that included 220 applications.
While making the “short list” bodes well for the much-needed mouth reopening and other local efforts, unfortunately nothing is set in stone yet. We are confident county leaders and river advocates will keep working hard to do all they can to secure the funding needed to make this important project happen.
Today’s editorial was written by Dale Dimitri, news editor for The Facts.
Federal government may give funds for San Bernard River project
2 other county efforts on short list for money
· By JESSICA KUHN firstname.lastname@example.org
· A project that would reopen the mouth of the San Bernard River is one of three in Brazoria County to make a short list to possibly receive federal funding.
The draft list of projects is developed to help determine recipients of grants through the Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunity and Revised Economies (Restore) Act, Precinct 1 Commissioner Dude Payne said.
Restore Act grants are being funded by fines assessed for environmental damage caused by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
The Lower San Bernard River Eco System, Village of Surfside Groin and Quintana Beach Public Fishing Pier project made it though the competitive process that included 220 applications, which requested a combined $1.1 billion in funding.
While the local projects completed a huge hurdle being on the draft list, it is not a done deal, both Payne and Precinct 4 Commissioner David Linder said.
“I think the news that we have got recently is very, very encouraging,” Linder said. “However, like I always say, don’t count your chickens until they’re hatched because still we have some work to do.”
Reopening the river’s mouth has been in the works for several years through combined efforts of local, county and state officials as well as the Friends of the San Bernard nonprofit, Linder said. The grassroots group formed with the mission of preserving the river and keeping its mouth open.
In 2009, the Friends of the River San Bernard’s lobbying efforts led to a $2.4 million U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project that dredged the San Bernard mother open. However, it eventually closed again in December 2013 following four years of extensive drought, Payne said.
Since then, the effects to the river and the surrounding area have been devastating, said Mike Goodson, president of the nonprofit.
“The quality of the water has changed,” he said. “The salinity level has dropped, and the bacteria level has increased.”
Wildlife and fish also have decreased along the river that runs through the western part of the county, Goodson said.
“When you take a natural body of water that is flowing and has water moving into the Gulf and close that off, eventually it can create a dead pool of water which can be detrimental to the wildlife and create all sorts of other issues,” he said. “It is pretty tragic.”
The proposed $10.7 million project will dredge further out than the 2009 effort, Payne said. Locally-funded periodic maintenance dredges — necessary to ensure the mouth remains open — will then take place, he said.
“It will cost us anywhere from $500,000 to $1 million every three to five years to dredge it,” Payne said. “We have talked to our industry partners who have said they are willing to come in and help.”
With the mouth of the river closed, the river mostly makes a left turn at the Intracoastal Waterway, exiting through the west floodgate of the Brazos River instead of following its natural path. The flow pattern causes silting around that floodgate, which can lead to problems for barge traffic passing through the area, Payne said.
The Village of Surfside Groin project, which would address erosion issues along Beach Drive, stands to possibly receive $6.2 million, Mayor Larry Davison said.
“We had been crossing our fingers and hoping for it because the funding is getting more and more difficulty with the legislature having tight budget restraints,” he said.
Lastly, the Quintana Beach Public Fishing Pier project is anticipated to get about $1.9 million in funding, Payne said.
The proposed project calls for extending the pier 200 feet in addition to adding a 150-foot T-shape on the end, he said.
“Right now, during a low tide, if you try to fish on our pier, you are going to be casting into the sand,” Payne said. “Our pier is used a lot and it is one of the few piers in Texas you can fish off.”
The project also would make the pier handicap accessible by adding ramps, Payn said.
Of course, none of the projects would have made the short list without the help of Rep. Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, Payne and Linder said.
“Actually, state Rep. Bonnen got over $27 million in his legislative area,” Payne said.
Besides the three in Brazoria County, Bonnen helped secure $8.25 million for a project in Matagorda County called Oyster Resource and Recovery.
“These projects are important not only to Matagorda and Brazoria County but our entire country,” Bonnen said. “After the devastating events of the Deepwater Horizon spill, the nation rallied behind the areas affected and sought to protect our environment and natural resources, while holding the parties involved with spill responsible. It is my hope these projects will strengthen our coast by rebuilding the environment affected, and promoting our fishing and tourism industry.”
Up next is the the development of the Texas Multi-Year Implementation Plan, which will include the draft project list, according to the RESTORE Act website.
A 45-day public comment period will then open in the Texas Register as well online at www.restoretrhetexascoast.org.
Bonnen said submitted comments will be taken into consideration in the development of the final Texas Multi-Year Implementation Plan, which will include a final project list.
The finalized plan then will be submitted to the U.S. Treasury for acceptance, he said.
Following the treasury’s acceptance of the state’s plan, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality commissioner, with the governor’s guidance, will determine which projects will move on to the federal grant application phase, Bonnen said.
“I applaud our county officials and active citizens connected to these vital projects,” he said. “They have been instrumental since day one in making sure deadlines were met and support was garnered to keep our applications at the top of the priority list. This is a great example of what we can accomplish when all levels of government collaborate in being a voice for our communities.”
Jessica Kuhn is the digital editor for The Facts and can be reached at 979-237-0152.
Muddy Brazos Adds to the San Bernard Sands
The following pictures are of the San Bernard and Brazos River mouths taken 2-1-25-17 by Bert Smith.
The picture of the San Bernard terminus (not really a mouth anymore) is looking west toward Sargent. Looks like it is making a slow march west since it cannot get out of its mouth.
The two pictures of the Brazos mouth (after the recent rains) show the Brazos is again sending large amounts of sand west - further occluding the mouth of the San Bernard.
2-17-2017 4:20 PM
San Bernard River Mouth project to reopen the mouth HAS BEEN APPROVED
for the first round of funding!!
Our project made the short list. There is still work to be done before we actually get it done. There will be a 45 day public comment period so keep looking at www.restorethetexascoast.org to know when to send in your comments. We still have work to do. Here's the information from www.restorethetexascoast.com UPDATE: BUCKET 1 DRAFT PROJECT LIST
[Current as of 2/17/2017]
In consultation with the Office of the Governor a draft list of projects has been developed for the next phase of the evaluation to determine RESTORE Bucket 1 grant program recipients.
Please click here to view the draft list, including general information on each project.
The draft list was developed through a competitive process that began with a Request for Grant Applications (RFGA). Over 200 project applications requesting a combined total of $1.1 billion were received and reviewed to develop the draft list.
The next phase of the evaluation process will involve developing the draft Texas Multi-Year Implementation Plan (MIP), which will include the draft project list, as required under the RESTORE Act. The MIP with the draft project list will be posted for public comment in the Texas Register, as well as on the web site, http://www.restorethetexascoast.org/. During the 45-day comment period the public will have an opportunity to provide input and comments on the draft MIP as well as the draft project list. Comments received will be taken into consideration in the development of the final Texas MIP, including a final project list. The final MIP will be submitted to the U.S. Treasury for acceptance.
PUBLIC COMMENTS ON THE DRAFT PROJECT LIST
ARE NOT BEING ACCEPTED AT THIS TIME
Approximately $66 million is currently available for Texas Bucket 1 RESTORE grants, which is a reimbursement program. A project’s inclusion on either the draft MIP or in the final MIP does not guarantee that it will receive a RESTORE Bucket 1 grant. Upon Treasury’s acceptance of the state’s MIP, including the project list, Commissioner Baker, in consultation with the Governor, will determine which projects will move forward to the federal grant application phase. Project funding becomes available only after the federal grant applications have been submitted and approved by Treasury. These applications cannot be submitted until after Treasury has accepted the state’s MIP.
Please see attached pictures of the Closed mouth of the San Bernard River, 2 pictures of the Brazos mouth forming a bar and sending even more sand toward the San Bernard (please note in picture 3 - the Brazos looking East – showing the sand build-up on the San Bernard side) and finally the picture of the closed Cedar Lake “Cut” taken by Bert Smith 2-12-17. That is significant because now, the waters coming down the San Bernard will again have to turn toward the Brazos floodgates to find the Gulf of Mexico. If past history is indicative of the present conditions, the currents at the west gate of the Brazos may soon cause major problems for the barge industry crossing the Brazos.
Here are four photos taken along the coast this past weekend. One is of the San Bernard Channel making its way west; one was taken directly over the Brazos mouth, the third is an east view looking towards Lost Lake and Redfish Cut towards the Brazos mouth; and the fourth is taken looking south at the Cedar Lakes cut... now closed up.