By Roy and Jan Edwards (Photo credit: Bert Smith)
Those who live, work, play on or just love the San Bernard River got a Christmas present we have been waiting for in the form of a TCEQ (Texas Commission on Environmental Quality) press release dated December 19, 2017. TCEQ Commissioner Toby Baker announced the U.S. Treasury acceptance of Texas’s Multi-Year Implementation Plan (MIP) for R.E.S.T.O.R.E. (Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities, and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States) Act funding. This is the next step in getting the mouth of the San Bernard re-opened. It means the U.S. Treasury can now begin the process of funding the projects.
TCEQ Commissioner Toby Baker, Governor Abbott’s appointee to administer R.E.S.T.O.R.E. Act funds in Texas, said that now the process of submitting grant applications for the projects based on available funding can begin. Currently, the 26 projects listed in the MIP total $114.2 million dollars, but only approximately $85 million is available to Texas under the Bucket 1 program. Some of the 26 projects included in the MIP will not be funded now.
So now what? What must happen before the dredge can start opening the San Bernard River mouth? Per TCEQ on www.restorethetexascoast.org, the next step in the ongoing competitive process is to determine what projects will be applied for funding and ultimately which ones will receive funding through grant contracts with the TCEQ. Chris Sallese of Dannenbaum Engineering, who has been working with Brazoria County on their three R.E.S.T.O.R.E. projects, offered the following next steps expectation:
1. TCEQ is developing a grant application for submission by the project’s local sponsors. (For the San Bernard River mouth, local sponsors would be the Brazoria County Commissioner’s Court.) Applications are expected to be available to local sponsors in the February/March timeframe.
2. Local sponsors then complete and return grant applications to TCEQ. The date for this is yet to be determined.
3. Next, TCEQ reviews the applications.
4. TCEQ then awards the grant to the local sponsors, once the U.S. Treasury releases funding to the state.
5. Finally, the local sponsor can begin to develop their project. However, these steps are very fluid at this point and are subject to change based on any additional TCEQ and Federal rules.
The opening of the San Bernard River is a shovel-ready project, so the hope is it tops the list for funding. Hurricane Harvey flood waters partially opened the mouth of the river and the historic pass at Cedar Lakes further down the coast. The opening allowed flood waters, which had been accumulating and flooding residents along the San Bernard River for days, to drop five feet in 24 hours. Unfortunately, the partial opening is quickly silting shut again. Dredge work needs to begin sooner rather than later. But unless the process moves more quickly than expected, residents of the San Bernard will face another Hurricane season with a restricted river mouth.
For more information, visit www.sanbernardtx.com or www.restorethetexascoast.org.