CHANNELVIEW – Residents of this community along River Road have been fighting a barge storage company, for over a year to keep the San Jacinto River from filling up with more barges that obstruct water flow, recreational boat traffic, and are an eyesore.
They are also a hazard if they break loose in a flood. They were surprised and angry to see last week that the company had started work on piles in an area where they want to store more barges.
Residents have questioned whether they have the authority and permits to use this part of the river. Residents of San Jacinto River Estates have been monitoring the new barge parking lot. At first they thought it was being created by TimTom since it is very near the area that TimTom/Holtmar/Buffalo (all the same people) Letters of Permission are for, and we had heard that if they could not get the Letters of Permission approved to place the barges along the banks they would create a mooring area out in the river. The markings on the tugs and barges are from a company Chem Carriers LLC out of Sunshine, LA. Chem Carriers LLC, while authorized to operate in the inland waters of the Gulf Coast, do not appear to have any office in Texas.
They started creating the mooring area or barge parking lot and as a unregulated floating chemical storage facility (FCSF), on Fri. April 28th. First they brought in a crane barge to help install two spud barges to moor barges to in the sandbar area in the middle of the SJR in between the Riverside Grill and Marina and the UP railroad trestle. After they installed the spud barges, they removed the crane barge and used three tugs, two of which are the Frank Banta, Jr. and Ben Hayes. They then moored two barges CCL 5f and CCL 31. All vessels tie back to Chem Carriers. Since then it appears they have been using the tugs to “dredge” the sandbar with their prop washes to deepen the area for additional barges.
According to residents the sandbar is a shrimp and flounder estuary. The mooring area activities have already disturbed the marine life on the sandbar, and if it remains, it will do further harm. The chosen area is in a FEMA Special Hazard Floodway, which is the pathway the San Jacinto river takes across I-10 when we have a flooding event. It is in very close proximity to the UP RR trestle. We are all very aware of what happens during a flood event in this area. We now not only have to worry about barges, but also about railroad trestle strikes, damage to Meadowbrook Park, the San Jacinto River Estates area, and the possibility of barges being moved by flood waters onto I-10 itself. Also to be considered is a repeat of a loose barge striking one of the pipelines which run through the San Jacinto River, such as the incident in 1994, which set the river on fire.
An example of the frustration and anger at the abuse of the river is voiced in a statement to this newspaper by nearby resident Greg Moss:
“The barges are coming in the river being moored close to Riverside Marina. We knew it was coming and tried to stop it. These barge companies privatized a public water way for their profit. How can anyone in the government allow this? These barge companies charge a mooring fee. This is a public waterway. I’d like to know how I get my percentage of the fee since it is just as much my river as it is Buffalo Marine’s.”