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Star-Courier News

$5 billion more for flood work

Funding will Complete Every Federally Authorized Flood Control Project in Houston and Harris County

HOUSTON, TX – Congressman John Culberson (TX-07) and Harris County Judge Ed Emmett last week announced the influx of more than $4.5 billion in federal aid headed to Texas for flood prevention and mitigation efforts.

“This funding was secured as part of the hurricane relief bills I helped shepherd through Congress and, as promised, allows the Harris County Flood Control District to finish every federally authorized flood control project,” Congressman Culberson said. “We know this money is vitally important, but it is only part of the solution. I will continue to fight for legislation that will help protect families, homes and businesses in the future.”

Judge Emmett joined Congressman Culberson at the Jewish Community Center, which is located close to Brays Bayou. It suffered extensive damage because of flooding during Harvey. The current project underway by the Harris County Flood Control District is purposed to reduce flooding along the Brays Bayou and will receive $75 million. The other projects receiving money are:

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Cleaning the Lake

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, District E Councilman Dave Martin and Rep. Dan Huberty, along with others, met at B.J.’s Marina, in Huffman to observe the removal of debris from Lake Houston.

LAKE HOUSTON – Awareness is growing that this waterway is vital to the over 300,000 people that live near this lake and the metropolitan city it supplies with water.

Last Friday, local leaders including the mayor, State Representatives Dan Huberty, John Culbertson and others witnessed the cleaning up of the Lake from Hurricane Harvey, of debris that washed into the lake when it was hit by 51 inches of rain.

“Lake capacity was reduced by 30%. If we don’t do this it will get worse. Things will wash into the area, and you are going to see the risk of losing capacity. If there was any need for a reminder, we got one on July 4. So, that’s the reason we have to move, and we have to move very, very quickly.” said Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner.

The City of Houston’s Solid Waste Management Department contracted with DRC Emergency Services, LLC, to have several barges freight off over 50,000 cubic yards of debris.

Dan Huberty, R, 127th Texas House District, and before redistricting representative for Crosby and Highlands, backed a program called “Plea for Three” months ago that among other things called for Remediation: Full funding to dredge both Lake Houston and the San Jacinto River in order to remove the sand, siltation and debris deposits and stricter enforcement of TCEQ regulations on legal and illegal sand mining operations. And act on conditions resultant from the three major flooding incidents since 2015.

This clean-up project started in mid-May and since then, crews have removed 1,000 to 2,000 cubic yards of debris each day.

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Waste Pits need additional repairs

San Jacinto Riverbed scouring image post Hurricane Harvey. Gridded areas of riverbed labeled A, B, C, D will be repaired, as well as exposed toxin area in Northwest corner (dark blue).

Toxic material exposed, cap membrane missing

EPA Directs Additional Repairs for San Jacinto River Waste Pits Superfund Site

DALLAS – June 29, 2018 — The EPA is directing the potentially responsible parties of the San Jacinto River Waste Pits Superfund site in Texas to take immediate action to address damage to the protective cap. Initial repairs will begin shortly at the damaged areas where the protective rock was missing. Upon completion, EPA will inspect the final repair.

EPA received preliminary data from sediment samples collected by EPA’s dive team from twenty-two small areas measuring up to 50 square feet at the San Jacinto River Waste Pits Superfund site. Samples from twenty-two of the areas confirmed the protective cap is absent and the underlying waste material was exposed. The preliminary sample showed dioxins up to 60,500 ng/kg. EPA recommended clean up level for the site is 30 ng/kg.

EPA has directed both International Paper and Industrial Maintenance Corporation, the potentially responsible parties (PRPs) for the San Jacinto Waste Pits Superfund site in Harris County, to take steps to ensure that the exposed waste material is isolated and securely covered. The dioxin in the waste material does not dissolve easily in water, but it can migrate further out into the surrounding sediments.

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EPA CHIEF PRUITT RESIGNS

The beleaguered head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, resigned his position last week, on July 5th, only one day after attending a 4th of July event at the White House. President Trump accepted his resignation, and said that his assistant, Andrew Wheeler, would take over EPA as Acting Administrator.

Pruitt had befriended local Houston environmentalists such as Jackie Young of the SJRC, and Scott Jones of the GBF. It remains to be seen whether the new administrator will be as open and helpful on their local issues.

Pruitt had become well-known in Houston environmental circles, having visited the San Jacinto River Waste Pits in person, and placed their disposal on his “Top Ten” list of projects to receive his attention.

Pruitt’s tenure at the EPA was controversial from the beginning, and as he made a number of questionable choices in his style of administration, he became a constant source of embarrassment to the President and his administration.

He had been questioned by Congressmen and the media about high travel spending, security team costs, dealings with lobbyists who he would have to rule on later, and misuse of government resources.

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Mystery shots ring in Barrett

On June 28 at about 6:00 a.m. near FM 2100 at FM 1942, shots rang out from a man that walked up and began firing into a vehicle occupied by a man and a woman. The suspect fled the scene. The man was flown by LifeFlight Helicopter to Memorial Hermann Hospital and the woman was taken by ambulance to a local hospital. No arrests have been made in the incident.

GUARDS BLOCK ACCESS TO IMMIGRANT KIDS FACILITY

Armed guard, Chief G. Fuentes blocks State Senator Sylvia Garcia (left) and State Representative Ana Hernandez from entering the children’s detention facility in their district. (Photo by Allan Jamail)

State Officials Sylvia Garcia and Ana Hernandez turned away

By Allan Jamail
Edited by NCS staff

CHANNELVIEW, TX. – North Channel – Friday, June 29, 2018 — State Senator Sylvia Garcia and State Representative Ana Hernandez went to Casa Montezuma, a child detention facility in their district, to check on migrant children being housed there. The children have either been separated from their parents who immigrated to the United States seeking political asylum from violence and persecution, or else they arrived without parents.

Armed officers in uniforms bearing the name Fort Bend County Patrol swarmed Garcia and Hernandez, stopping them and telling them they could not enter to see the children even though they both proved they were elected state officials.

Allan Jamail, a photojournalist for the North Channel Star, accompanying the state officials, had his camera grabbed by an officer whose uniform identified him as Chief G. Fuentes. Fuentes told the visiting group that the area is private property and off-limits to visitors and photo-taking.

Fuentes said, “Visitors must first make an appointment by phone to visit the facility,” but when Garcia and Hernandez told Fuentes they’ve called for days but no one will answer the phone, Fuente then said, “I know because they don’t want any visitors, so they’re not going to answer the phone.”

Not easily persuaded to leave without first checking on the welfare of the kids, for almost an hour a standoff with security in over 100 degree scorching heat, finally Fuentes agreed to allow Garcia and Hernandez to go to the front door to make an appointment for a visit on another day.

The door was locked and no one inside would come to the door or answer the intercom system, so after numerous attempts Chief Fuentes said, “You need to leave because no one is going to come talk to you or allow you inside. They don’t want visitors.”

Fuentes said he was only doing his job, but Garcia and Hernandez responded and told him he was preventing them from doing their jobs to check on the welfare of children in their District.

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Morman backs bond

Precinct 2 Commissioner Jack Morman talks with Crosby flood victims Viola Stubbs and Mildred Bebee concerning options for their property on the Cedar Bayou Watershed. The Commissioner expressed many plans based on the recently completed study of the waterway and indicated that another meeting may be planned for the Cedar Bayou Watershed.

CROSBY – Monday, at the Crosby Community Center Harris County Flood Control District and varied parts of Harris County Commissioner’s Court Precinct 2 came together with interested local residents to hear about the proposed bond to deal with flooding issues.

A $2.5 billion dollar bond is proposed by the Commissioner’s Court and this meeting was to help convince locals that their is a need in the Jackson Bayou vicinity, that is to get some flood control measures and addressed the down stream of the San Jacinto River Watershed.

The bond election is to be held August 25 – the one year anniversary of Hurricane Harvey’s landfall. Early voting is to begin August 8th. It is to address Harris County’s most prevalent natural disaster. The total need in the county for flood risk reduction is about $25 billion, the bond is to enable the H.C. Flood Control District to leverage the federal Harvey-related disaster funding that is on its way to Harris County. The cost to taxpayers would be spread over 10 to 15 years for an estimated 2-3 cents per $100 valuation. An over-65 or disabled exemption and a home worth $200,000 or less would not pay any additional taxes.

“In addition to the watershed that we are meeting on today, the Jackson Bayou Watershed, this is an interconnective system. The water flow upstream will impact in a positive way those folks that flood downstream. This is the most important election in my lifetime, it will be the most we can do to combat flooding for generations to come.” said Precinct 2 Commissioner Morman.

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Klobassa Fest success

Eddie Foster checks registration on the record fifty six of classic dream vehicles at the Knights of Columbus’ Klobassa Festival last Sunday. The elegant car show was only part of the attraction as the Live Auction also hit a high water mark. Traditional Czech food was served at its most delicious manifestation for donation. A gun raffle featured some highly desired weapons. Intermittently the Knights of Columbus hall was packed and bids were high for kolaches, bicycles and Catholic Education during the Live Auction. Trophies were awarded to the winners of multiple categories for the car show. Most loud were the drawings for the firearms that went on raffle.

Immigrant kids already housed in County

This building at 15101 I-10 East Frontage Road, now houses about 200 immigrant children most of whom crossed into the U.S. without their parents. The building was formerly the Kindred Hospital, and before that the East Department of the East Houston Hospital. It has been run by Southwest Key Programs as a shelter for undocumented children for several years.

Southwest Key plans to add 5th site

By Gilbert Hoffman

As debate rages endlessly in the nation about the federal government policy of separating children from their parents who entered the county illegally, the debate has now moved to the Houston political stage because the state’s largest provider of these services has requested a permit to use a building at 419 Emancipation Avenue on Houston’s east side. Southwest Key Programs is the largest provider in Texas, now housing 2,725 unaccompanied children in 16 locations.

This includes 4 facilities in the greater Houston area that are virtually unknown and unnoticed, including one that dates back to 1991. Two of these are in the North Channel/Northeast circulation area. Casa Montezuma is on the I-10 Feeder road in the Channelview area. Neighbors had suspected that the facility was a federal children’s shelter, but weren’t sure, they told this newspaper. Records from the Texas Health and Human Services show that the facility is currently housing 191 children, and recently had its license increased to 210, an increase of 11% similar to figures statewide. This shelter is licensed to provide child care services only, since May 2017. Children housed are from 10 to 17 years of age.

The other facility in our area is at 7900 Mesa Drive, in Northeast Houston. It houses 54 children, ages 10 to 17, and is licensed for multiple services, including Emotional Disorders. It has had a license from the state since 1991. Most of the Texas shelters are run by two nonprofits: Southwest Key Programs and BCFS Health and Human Services. The latter is a church sponsored group, based in Dallas.

Southwest Key is a private company based in Austin, founded in 1987 by Juan Sanchez and his wife Jennifer. Southwest Key receives most of its funding in grants and contract revenues. It’s income has increased substantially, from $193 million in 2015, to $310 million in 2018 in the “unaccompanied alien children” program. Its projected income next year is $458 million. It currently houses about 5,100 immigrant children, and operates 26 immigrant youth facilities in Texas, Arizona, and California.

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