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Posts published in September 2014

San Jacinto River Authority — A Vital Utility

HIGHLANDS – The canals and reservoirs throughout East Harris County are a vital part of the industrial scene, serving the fresh water needs of refineries and industry in the Baytown area, according to the executive director of the San Jacinto River Authority, Jace Houston.

Mr. Houston was speaking to the Highlands Rotary club at their weekly luncheon on August 26. He said the Authority celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2012, having been formed in 1937.

Originally, the East Canal and the West Canal were built by the U. S. Government during World War II. The SJR Authority is a state agency, and all its water is owned by Texas and controlled by the state. There are 10 major water authorities in the state of Texas, and the original legislation to control water distribution dates back to 1918, Houston said.

There are 30 miles of open canal in the system, with gates, pumps, and siphons to help the distribution.

Highlands Reservoir is 5 to 10 feet deep in some areas, and at grade in others. Its size is about 1400 acres, northeast of Highlands. Water is furnished to customers such as ExxonMobil, ChevronPhillips, municipal utility districts such as Newport, and irrigation farms, such as turf farms.

The Authority employes 8 people in Higlands, and overall has 150 employees. They have offices in Highlands, Lake Conroe, the Woodlands, and an office known as GRP for ground water reduction plan, with the goal of providing more surface water and recycled water. Presently 140 utilities are working with the GRP.

The distribution system of canals uses what are known as siphons to allow the water to pass under existing roadways, rail lines, and other canals.

The San Jacinto River Authority is a government agency whose mission is to develop, conserve, and protect the water resources of the San Jacinto River basin. Their jurisdiction includes the entire San Jacinto River watershed, excluding Harris County, which is controlled by the City of Houston.

The Authority’s primary purpose is to implement long-term, regional projects related to water supply and wastewater treatment.

The Highlands division delivers raw water from Lake Houston and the Trinity River. It delivers more water each day than all of the other SRJA divisions combined.

Rotary Washer tournament successful, winners announced

HIGHLANDS – Bragging rights, and a chance to trounce an old opponent, were the major prizes in last Saturday’s Highlands Rotary Club’s 8th Annual Washer Tournament.

Nice weather encouraged a large crowd to turn out for the event, which was held at Charlie’s Ice House in Highlands.

Over 30 teams competed, many of them from surrounding communities and Rotary District 5890, as well as Highlands and Crosby. Last year’s winners were on hand to defend their titles if possible.

Rotary raises about $10,000 every year, which it sends to the national Rotary Foundation for projects worldwide, including Polio Plus eradication initiative. In an unusual arrangement, after 3 years the foundation returns half the money for local projects in District 5890 and Highlands.

Constable Jones to retire after this term

BAYTOWN – One has to remember when Ken Jones was the Captain of Precinct 3 under Constable James Douglas as this reporter does, a reporter would hear almost anything from anybody and then defer to Ken Jones to find out the unvarnished truth, the facts that had not gone through the spin cycle.

That then would be the status Ken Jones would earn, honor and honesty of words. In started February 1, 1982. I was running the patrol and office. Years later he had a heart attack and a stroke and he told me, ‘You need to run.’”

“I told him I did not know the first thing about running and he said, ‘You’ve been here long enough, you know the job. Just get out there and the people will do the rest.’ and that is what I did and I was elected in 1999. Since then I have had thirteen opponents. One election I got 90 percent of the vote but generally I got about 70%.”

In the last election he had 70%.

“When I ran for office the first time we had about 47 officers, right now we have 147. Hopefully we will pick up a couple more from contracts but right now 147. Our budget has gone from $4 Million to $12.6 Million. I am proud of my programs with the community, our senior citizens’ programs, our youth programs, the job the men and women do is just fabulous. One reason I hate to retire is the office is running so smooth and my health is so good. But my wife insists that at the end of this term is when to do it. We were married in 1966 when I was in the service. At that time I was in the Air Force for four years. I took a direct commission and went into the Army Reserves for five years. I came out and went right into law enforcement. My wife and I never had a break from the military or law enforcement. I have been an administrator all my career except for four years. After forty something years of doing law enforcement, I guess she deserves a break from it, I know I enjoyed it. There is not a day in law enforcement I didn’t enjoy. You can’t ask for better people than what we have in Precinct 3. I am hoping that my successor comes from my department to build on what I have established over the years.”

“Most of my captain staff have a working knowledge of operations, there will be a learning curve of the details of operations but it is so important that we keep the expertise gathered from experience in by the book law enforcement. Someone coming in from the outside it would take them five ten years to understand and get running a system. The days of the good ole’ boy are over now it takes administrator that knows the civil law and the legal law. That isn’t to mention what happens on patrol, your liability out there can only be countered by training. We exceed the state mandated training by 40 hours. But that still does not bar a mistake, so it is a constant vigil. I have been fortunate to have fine men and women work for me. We have not had one scandal since I have been Constable. It will be sixteen years in office. We are very rarely in the press for negative. What I am really proud of is that I have good honest people working for me. We have really enjoyed the support of the community, they have been there for us, helped us. We weathered some hard times the lay off we had in 2013. But, I have to say this, I have worked with the greatest bunch of commissioners, these men have helped me worked with us on problems and the budget office. It has been a team effort.”

“ We have the County Attorney to represent me if I mess up or if someone files a frivelous lawsuit. Thank the Lord, I have had only two suits in all these years and they were both personnel terminations but they were thrown out by the judge. We run it right by the book, and I am so proud that we have never cost the county money on mistakes. Not saying that tomorrow I won’t get one but I am very glad of that. Out of hundreds of thousands of civil papers we have not been sued, now we have had arguements with attorneys over process, of course, but no suit. That to me is an accomplishment.”

“The only thing I am going to enjoy about retirement for sure is I will not miss those calls at two or three o’clock in the morning and worrying about deputies out there in deadly situations. Every night I go to bed, I pray for their safety. We have lost two deputies to violence in the line of duty since I have been Constable, and the department has lost three but it is always a worry. That is the down side of the job.”

Go Texans Rodeo Cook-off 1st place winners

CROSBY – The Crosby Fairgrounds teamed with cooks and fans of cooking for the When Pigs Fly Cook-off last Friday and Saturday.

By Saturday everyone was fully excited about the event. Ceremonies were presided over by Miss Moo, herself last Saturday.

The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Metro-Go Texan Committee -Crosby collected $8,245 from the auction alone before the awards this year, plus $1,000 more contribution from Captain Jasen Rabalis.

There was also first place hospitality and first place margaritas this year.

Local folks cooked up a $10 fish fry dinner before events on Friday evening.

Nearly $36,000 in scholarships go between Crosby and Huffman each year. Contributions are still accepted at www.eventbrite.com.

Altercation results in stabbing, slurs

CROSBY – According to the Harris County Sheriff’s Office an investigation has begun of an apparent stabbing of a Dayton man at a local off-road facility on September 7 at about 1:00 a.m.

A man that was flown to Memorial Hermann Hospital from Texas Medical Center in Atascocita told sheriff’s deputies that during an altercation that included racial epithets by one attacker, he was beaten by several males and stabbed as he was on the ground. He was in critical condition during the flight. As of Tuesday, he was said to have a good prognosis for recovery.

He told deputies that while he was inside a truck, a man began to shout racial slurs and challenged him to get out of the truck. He did get out of the truck and described being punched and kicked originally by one tall white male with straight blond hair about the age of 34 to 38 years. Then he described several others getting involved in the punching and kicking until he balled up on the ground.

He indicated that friends help him get up and into a truck that drove him from 807 Beaumont Highway to Atascocita. He was driven apparently by friends to Texas Medical Center but a Lifeflight helicopter was soon called to take him to Memorial Hermann. He was described as being critical, having a bilateral abrasion above his left eye, had many bruises and an apparent stab wound.

Sources indicate the victim played football last year for the Dayton Broncos.

A potential witness indicated that the victim may have said something provocative to a female at the location but declined to get involved further.

Environmentalist Jackie Young at Rotary

HIGHLANDS – Jackie Young and her parents lived in Highlands for many years, from 2003 to 2011, until they determined that their health was at risk from toxins in their well water. Their house was previously owned by the Smitherman family, at the north end of Main Street.

As a result, Jackie is now working for TexansTogether, an activist group headquartered in Austin, dealing with public issues such as the environment, education, and voters’ rights.

Jackie told her story, and an update on activities around the Waste Pits in the San Jacinto River, to the Highlands Rotary Club at their luncheon on August 19th.

She told how her family, especially her father and herself, became sick with seizures and lesions. Even the pets were sick, she said. The family was forced to quit using well water, and import a fresh supply. When they did that, their health improved.

Her plight was recently told in a full page editorial cartoon by Houston Chronicle artist Nick Anderson, who has championed her story and cause.

Jackie went on to get an environmental geology degree from the University of Houston. Her focus since then has been on the toxic waste pits in the San Jacinto River, and their potential danger to the public’s health.

Although the waste pits may not have affected her well water (she says the source is “problematic”), she says the Highlands area has 4 Superfund sites nearby, and there is a high rate of illness in areas such as Highlands, Channelview, and Baytown.

It is known that the waste pits contain dioxin and furans, which can enter the body through breathing, absorption, and eating and drinking. The are known to cause various types of cancers and other diseases, she said.

Working with TexansTogether and the San Jacinto River Coalition, she wants to have the toxic wastes removed from the site permanently. She said this is one of six solutions now being studied by the federal EPA and the Corps of Engineers. A final decision is due in 2015.

Other actions EPA is considering:

1. No Action

2. Control & Monitoring

3. Cap with upgrade

4. Partial solidification in place.

5. Partial removal (25%)

6. Full removal. This would require 16 months, and cost $100 to $635 million to remove 208,000 cubic yards.