County seeking support to reopen river
Support from local entities is flowing in as Brazoria County officials push toward a permanent fix to keep the mouth of the
San Bernard River open.
Precinct 1 Commissioner Dude Payne said he has received letters of support from Dow Chemical Co., BASF Corp., all local chambers
of commerce, the town of Quintana and virtually every city in the Brazosport area. Each is on board with the county’s grant request
to fund the San Bernard River project and an unrelated endeavor to renovate and extend the Quintana pier.
Three of Brazoria County’s state legislators — Rep. Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton; Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Southside Place; and
Rep. Ed Thompson, R-Pearland — also have written letters expressing support, Payne said.
The county is seeking money for the projects through Restore Act grants, which are being funded by fines assessed for
environmental damage caused by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
“It’s definitely a priority,” Payne said.
Austin-based Grant Works Inc. has been hired by the county to write the grant applications, which are due April 15. The Restore
Act Council will announce the recipients by September or October, Payne said. If the county is awarded the grants, work on the
projects should kick off in the first quarter of next year.
“The pier may be a little quicker,” Payne said.
County officials are working with Dannebaum Engineering to reopen the river’s mouth. Christopher Sallese, former commanding
officer of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Galveston District who now represents Dannebaum, told commissioners last month
that redredging the mouth is the most viable option to keep the San Bernard River flowing directly into the Gulf.
A proposal to establish a jetty system would cost a minimum of $30 million. Dredging would cost about $10.3 million, although
Payne said the county could save $1 million if the Corps had a dredge in the area.
“We’ll have to mobilize if they don’t, and that will cost $1 million,” Payne said. “If they get a dredge in the vicinity within six months,
it would be smart for us to say, ‘We’ll just wait for them.’”
After silting closed the river mouth several years ago, lobbying by the Friends of the River San Bernard led to a $2.4 million U.S.
Army Corps of Engineers project that dredged the San Bernard open in 2009. It eventually closed again in December 2013 following
four years of extensive drought.
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.
“Most of us lived on the river when the mouth was open, and the water would exit to the Gulf,” said Linda Wright, a member of
the Friends of the River board of directors. “Fishing was better — the fishing industry was viable then.
“The water does still exit, but we feel very strongly that it would be much better from a natural standpoint if it opened up the way
it’s supposed to open up.”
Payne said if the mouth is re-opened, the project will dredge further out than the 2009 project. He said the county is seeking
partnerships with entities including 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,” 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.”
Like Payne, Wright said she and her fellow Friends of the River members are crossing their fingers.
“When it closed, we said, ‘We’re going to start all over again,’ and we’ve carried the torch ever since,” Wright said. “We are
absolutely thrilled with the commissioners’ decision to participate.”
Erinn Callahan is a reporter for The Facts. Contact her at 979-237-0150.
Progress on Possible RESTORE Act Funding for Brazoria County Projects
Chris Sallese of Dannenbaum Engineering conducted a workshop on the two projects in
Brazoria County making applications for RESTORE Act grant applications after Commissioner’s
Court on January 26, 2016. Among the projects is the dredging open of the mouth of the
San Bernard River. (See presentation.)
The application process administered in the state of Texas by TCEQ (Commissioner Toby Baker)
has begun and will last for 90 days ending April 30, 2016. Brazoria County has contracted
Dannenbaum Engineering to develop the grant applications for rebuilding the Quintana pier
and the re-opening of the mouth of the San Bernard. Reopening of the mouth of the San Bernard
River is being approached as an environmental restoration project which could qualify it in 2
separate “Pots” of RESTORE Act funds. One administered by the state and one administered by
Until now, there was not a whole lot agencies and individuals could do to help move the project
along. But NOW is the time to act if you want YOUR voice heard.
Below is a template you can use to write a letter of support for the San Bernard Project. You can
tweak it to fit your needs whether you are a company, an agency, a political entity or an induvial.
If you want to help, Please submit a letter of support. If you have letterhead, make sure it is on
letterhead – and get it to Brazoria County Commissioner Dude Payne before March 30, 2016.
Remember, the more letters of support the project gets, the better the chance of getting the
grant awarded to it. If you want to help – don’t wait until it’s too late to participate!
Support Letter: HERE
the aerial Bert Smith took 11-19-15.