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Posts published in November 2016

FM2100 widening tied to Grand Parkway

TxDOT Hearing set for Huffman Dec. 13

CROSBY – Road construction was the topic for Pct. 2 Commissioner Jack Morman, and infrastructure director Jeremy Phillips at last week’s Chamber luncheon.

FM 2100 is being finalized for construction from FM 1960 to South Diamondhead Blvd. into a four lane divided highway with scheduled contracts to begin in the Fall of 2018, according to the Texas Dept. of Transportation (TXDoT) website.

The proposed widening of the existing two lanes undivided to four lanes divided by a raised median with five foot sidewalks on both sides and retention ponds met with nagative reaction from local residents. They said to not include the divided raised median section. TXDoT engineers however argued safety problems. Almost all of the public speaking at a May TxDOT hearing argued that not only would it be less safe but it would be detrimental to local businesses.

Since that time inquiries discovered that the project is as yet unfunded. It is listed as a Tier 2 Project and seems to coincide with development of Highway 99, the Grand Parkway. The Grand Parkway is currently being planned although the website does not yet show an exact route for the roadway as it runs from its current construction through Montgomery County.

The widening of FM 2100 from FM 1960 north through Huffman however is listed as under development but has not had a Public Hearing from local citizens. On Dec. 13 the first hearing is to be held at Hargrave High School from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m, see the ad. on page 6.

At the Crosby-Huffman Chamber of Commerce Luncheon last Thursday Precinct 2 Commissioner Jack Morman and Jeremy Phillips informed listeners that the project will begin the letting process in 2018. Phillips added that the county’s efforts since that time have urged the state engineers to include as many turns in the raised median as possible to lessen the negative impact on local businesses within that area. Likewise the Precinct has asked if there is a way to reduce the amount of width of the project overall to reduce the impact on the residents on the east side of the roadway.

Morman said “The big issue with the current design that our office and Jeremy Phillips has heard about is the raised median; businesses and residents don’t like it. Statements like, ‘It is a terrible idea, it is going to hurt the small businesses and reduce access.’ and we agreed. Of course TXDoT came back and said, ‘Okay, Morman and community, but, it is a safety issue, the raised median will make traffic much more safe and make counterflow much better.’

We have urged TsDOT if you are going to do the median do it with as many turn lanes as possible and make sure that all of our small businesses along FM 2100 don’t suffer needlessly.” recounts Commissioner Morman to the local audience, “So, we are going to push for that and do everything we can to make sure that the State recognizes the needs of the residents.”

According to Jeremy Phillips, the TXDoT plans to bid all of FM 2100 from South Diamondhead to FM 1960 in a single phase, but it will depend on the letting phase as to how negotiations go with local landowners. Scheduled for September 2018 the letting process could last into 2019 or even beyond.

“When the Grand Parkway moved back in planning, then widening FM 2100 moved back as well.” answered Phillips on when the project lost time.

TXDoT has already been in touch with landowners concerning some acquistions and moving fences in the Crosby sections.

EPA EXTENDS COMMENT DEADLINE

EAST HARRIS COUNTY – The federal Environmental Protection Agency announced last Wednesday that they were extending the comment period for the public to express their opinions on whether the toxic waste pits should be removed, or a cap built over them and let them stay in place.

EPA granted a 45 day extension, with final comments due by January 12, 2017.

The EPA had announced on September 28 that the Proposed Plan they preferred called for removal of most of the toxic wastes, in the North and South impound areas. They would, however, allow some material to remain if its toxicity was below acceptable standards.

Although this extension came as a surprise to the parties who have been involved in the long Superfund process, nevertheless it is within the guidelines of these types of federal procedures. Any party can request a hearing, or an extension, and the EPA determines whether it is a reasonable request.

In this case, authorities indicated that several parties had made requests for an extension. All of them are proponents for leaving the waste pits in place, it was learned.

Jackie Young, the leading advocate for completely removing the waste pits, expressed a concern that the extension allows more time for the opponents to organize or solicit comments in favor of their position, to leave the wastes in the river.

Authorities said that the requests came from the following companies or organizations:

Keepitcapped, asked for an extension of up to 120 days, on October 4th;

Thomas Kinkerbocker, attorney, asked for an extension of 60 days on Oct. 13;

The Texas Association of Business asked for a 60 day extension on October 17th;

The Winstead Law firm, representing the Potential Responsible Party McGinnis Disposal, asked for an extension of 90 days on October 28th.

Comments may be sent to the Dallas office of the EPA, by the following methods:

Online: www.epa.gov/tx/forms/sjrwp-comments;

Email: R6_San_Jacinto_Waste_Pits_ Comments@epa.gov:

Postal mail: written comments may also be postmarked by the January 12, 2017 date and addressed to:

Remedial Project Manager, U.S. EPA Region 6, 1445 Ross Avenue (6SF-RA), Dallas, Texas 75202.

Jackie Young indicated that she would call a news conference on this subject, on Friday of this week, and release a statement to the media.

At a public meeting on October 20, Gary Miller of EPA reviewed the history of the Waste Pits site, since its start in the 1960s, and its rediscovery forty years later. He detailed how the proposed plan called for a 19 month removal of 152,000 cubic yards of material on the north impoundment, and the backfill with 2 feet of clean soil. On the south impoundment, 50,000 cubic yards will be removed, and a building removed and replaced.

Regarding the 6 plans outlined in the Corps of Engineers study, he said “None of them are reliable for All Storm Events” except the final 6A which EPA adopted. He detailed the problems that have continually plagued the current cap, and the needed constant repairs and monitoring.

Miller revealed that even this month, a new “scour” or erosion 8 feet deep had been discovered in the river bed along the East side of the cap.

He said that the proposed solution will be safe, with sheet piling retaining the wastes, monitoring during the work, and contingency plans in case of storms or floods.

He also revealed a disappointing schedule for the balance of the work. A Record of Decision (final) will be made early in 2017, then 1 year of negotiation with the PRPs, 2 years of design and engineering, and finally the removal work would commence in 2020 and continue for 19 months.

Preparedness called for in Harris County

HIGHLANDS – Earl Smith of the Harris County Citizen Corps of the Homeland Security & Emergency Management gave a presentation at the Highlands Community Center for the Highlands-Lynchburg Chamber of Commerce on Nov. 10 concerning preparedness for emergencies.

The topic was disaster preparedness: get a kit, make a plan, stay informed and be involved. “Your ability to survive a disaster depends on you doing your part to prepare for the unexpected.”

Making a kit involves having at least seven days supply of water one gallon per person per day. The home will need at least seven days of food supply of nonperishable canned food for everyone in the household. A first aid kit is recommended. The kit will need a flashlight with extra batteries, a battery powered radio, all the medications and special items needed for regular subsistence, tools, toilet paper, personal hygiene items, changes of clothes and bedding, cash and important family documents, copies of your critical information and provisions for pets.

Then there is a need for updating and refreshing these items.

The first disaster tackled by the Mr. Smith with assistance from Julie Oates of County Judge Ed Emmett’s office was hurricanes and floods.

“What is the greatest danger from hurricanes?” The tidal surge answered the listeners. Floods are Harris County’s most common natural hazard.

Listeners were advised to keep up with news reports, fill bathtubs with and all available containers with water, turn off utilities if requested, remain indoors away from windows, and cover family members with a blanket or furniture to protect from flying objects.

If ordered to evacuate, know the local hurricane evacuation route(s) to take and have a plan for where you can stay.

If you are not in an area that is advised to evacuate and you decide to stay in your home, plan for adequate supplies in case you lose power and water for several days and you are not able to leave due to flooding or blocked roads. Make a family emergency communication plan. Many communities have text or email alerting systems for emergency notifications.

Hurricane winds can cause trees and branches to fall, so before hurricane season trim or remove damaged trees and limbs to keep you and your property safe.

Secure loose rain gutters and downspouts and clear any clogged areas or debris to prevent water damage to your property.

Reduce property damage by retrofitting to secure and reinforce the roof, windows and doors, including the garage doors.

Remember to keep generators and other alternate power/heat sources outside, at least 20 feet away from windows and doors and protected from moisture; and NEVER try to power the house wiring by plugging a generator into a wall outlet.

Consider building a FEMA safe room or ICC 500 storm shelter designed for protection from high-winds and in locations above flooding levels.

Harris County residents are also subject to hazardous material incidents. During such an incident local officials may ask residents to “shelter in place” instead of evacuating. When called for staying indoor until the emergency is over is advised rather than going outside and exposing ones self to exposure. Residents are then advised to turn off air condition and prevent chemical vapors from entering. Choose a room to stay in with few openings like windows or doors.

Finally, the get involved aspect is to join the Harris County Citizens Corps Harris. A new website was launched in September for County Citizen Corps website: www.harriscounty citizencorps.com. It provides emergency preparedness resources and the latest news and information.

“The website was revamped to make it more useful and easier to see on mobile devices,” said Harris County Judge Ed Emmett. “It also gives us the opportunity to promote our mission to make our communities safer, stronger and better prepared.”

Since its inception in August of 2002, Citizen Corps has been coordinating the training and education of thousands of volunteers in an effort to build a strong partnership between residents, local leaders and emergency responders.

Harris County Citizen Corps membership includes 28,864 trained volunteers involved in 254 Community Emergency Response Teams; 21,892 volunteers from 24 Volunteers in Police Service agencies; 4,165 volunteers from the Medical Reserve Corps; 6,137 volunteers from the 351 neighborhoods participating in the USA on Watch program; and 24 Fire Corps programs.

Election upsets in nation, county

Harris County–Election results for this county are a stunning reminder of the power of the public and that the will of the people is beyond the predictability of pollsters.

Locally, the largest percentage lead of all went to Republican Brian Babin in the U.S. House of Representatives District 36 for 87% over H.J. Ridley Jr. 10%.

Hillary Clinton took 54.01% of Harris County votes over Donald Trump 41.97%. Libertarian Gary Johnson had 3.01% and Jill Stein with assistance of Ajamu Baraka in the Green Party mustered 0.89%. But national returns are another matter. Hillary Clinton conceded with seven states too close to call and Donald Trump modestly accepted.

U.S. Rep. District 29 Julio Garza took 24.05% of the vote while incumbent Democrat Gene Green had 72.43%.

In District 2 that was stripped from local voters, Rep. Ted Poe won 60.85% against Pat Bryan 35.83%. Also ran were Libertarian Ruben Perez with 2.43% and Green Party James Partsch-Galvan with 1.09%

Rep. Devon Anderson District Attorney for Harris County has lost to Democrat Kim Ogg 45.9% to 54.1%.

The long fought battle for Precinct 3 Constable was won by Crosby native, Sherman Eagleton 59,456 votes 61.78% over Republican Dan Webb with 38.82% and 37,732 votes.

Democrat Joe Stephens won Precinct 3 Position I Justice of the Peace with 59.69% of the vote over Rep. Tom Zakes 40.31%.

Republican Sheriff Ron Hickman lost his post to Democrat Ed Gonzales, 47.31% to 52.69%. That is 595,820 to 663,590 votes.

Rep. Tax-Assessor-Collector Mike Sullivan lost to Dem. Ann Harris-Bennett 49.81 to 50.19%.

Huffman ISD Position 1 was won by Robin Colbert with 2,537 votes over Vernon Reed 1,803.

MUD 50 Position2 was won by Alice Faye Dangerfield with 448 votes over Jalissa Johnson with 250 votes.

In state representatives races it was all Republican. Again a redistricted away Dan Huberty in District 127 had 49,252 votes to Libertarian Scott Ford 7,275 and Joseph McEllipott of the Green Party had 3,381. Locally, in District 128, trial lawyer, Briscoe Cain who unseated Republican Committee Chairman Wayne Smith had 41,610 over Libertarian Ken Lowder 6,492 votes.

County Attorney was no surprise, Democrat Vince Ryan had 53.59% of the vote and Republican Jim Leitner took 46.41%.

Cedar Bayou floods studied

CROSBY – Residents living along Cedar Bayou on the easternmost side of Harris County were flooded repetedly over the last 18 months.

Recently, Harris County Flood Control District launched the Cedar Bayou Flood Risk Reduction Study to analyze flooding and drainage issues in the Cedar Bayou watershed.

Ultimately, the purpose is to develop shot and long term solutions to reduce flooding risks.

Over the last 18 months, rainfall totals have set records. Recounting those floods include: MidMay 2015, the Memorial Day Flood in which 6,333 Harris County Homes were flooded,the October 24 through 25 flood, the Halloween flood, then this year; the April 17 though 18 floods caused at least seven fatalities. Locally, the Cedar Bayou watershed near FM 1942 has been among the hardest hit.

A homeowner near Holy Road said, “The problem is there are tree stumps and who knows what all kinda trash there before you get to F.M. 1942 and it is backing up until it floods our house and our neighbors.”

“We’ve had some bad floods within the last year and a half, especially in the Crosby and Huffman area. These residents want to see more flood reduction projects in east Harris County,” said Precinct 2 Commissioner Morman. “With the continued growth, it’s imperative we get a handle on this before it gets any worse.”

The County states, “The study will focus on the portion of the watershed that is in unincorporated Harris County, so the Flood Control District and Precinct 2 will coordinate meetings with residents and business owners who live and work in this area and who have firsthand knowledge of flooding issues. Because the watershed lies in the boundaries of several jurisdictions, the study team will also coordinate with Liberty and Chambers counties, the cities of Baytown and Mont Belvieu, and various community groups with interest in the Cedar Bayou watershed. ”

Funding for the study is made possible by a $250,000 flood protection planning grant awarded to the Flood Control District by the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB), which recently authorized $3.5 million in grants from the Disaster Contingency Fund for 17 projects around the state. The Flood Control District has already committed an additional $400,000 towards the work effort.

As part of the Cedar Bayou Flood Risk Reduction Study, the Flood Control District will investigate Cedar Bayou and its tributaries in order to determine areas that frequently flood and the causes of those flooding issues. The team will:

• Identify flood risks and estimate potential damages due to flooding.

• Identify and evaluate potential flood risk reduction projects, such as channel improvements and regional stormwater detention basins.

• Estimate the costs and benefits of the proposed projects.

• Develop an implementation plan that prioritizes the recommended solutions.

Cedar Bayou Flood Risk Reduction Study information and updates will be posted at www.hcfcd.org/projects-studies/projects-and-studies/cedar-bayou/cedar-bayou-flood-risk-reduction-study/

To ask questions about the study, or to sign up for email updates, contact the Harris County Flood Control District’s Project and Study Information Line at 713-684-4040.

Body of man found in Highlands Canal

HIGHLANDS – Authorities were called to the fresh water canal at S. Main Street, near 4 Corners, on Friday morning about 9:45 a.m. after a report of a body floating in the canal.

With the help of a dive team, and the Highlands EMS, a body was recovered that had washed up against the grating that keeps objects from going further down into the canal system.

The recovery team was not able to immediately identify the body as a woman or man, due to the fact that it appeared to have been in the water for some time, and had decomposed. The EMS team estimated that it might have been there for 4 to seven days. The body was transported to the Medical Examiners office in Houston for an autopsy.

As of Tuesday, the body had been identified, but the family had not been notified. This information will be released later, the ME said.

Deputy Thomas Gilliland of the Harris County Sheriff’s office said this is an active investigation, and urged anyone with information to get in touch with the Homicide division, 713-274-9100.