The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), Environmental Protection Agency, and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) each enforce various components of the Clean Water Act that was created to protect the nation’s aquatic resources and environment. The Harris County Flood Control District must comply with these regulations just like any other public or private entity by obtaining necessary permits and implementing best management practices to protect water quality and habitat. The following is a summary of environmental regulations and due diligence that the Flood Control District follows during the planning and implementation of maintenance projects and channel repairs, including those in the Kingwood area.
SEDIMENT DISPOSAL TESTING
Excess sediment and silt removed from flood control channels is often disposed of in permitted municipal landfills. However, before the sediment is removed and disposed of in a landfill, the Flood Control District performs testing on the sediment and silt to confirm that no hazardous substances are present. Sediment samples are collected and analyzed at an accredited laboratory.
CLEAN WATER ACT PERMITTING
Maintenance projects to remove sediment and repair channel erosion can impact regulated wetlands and waters protected by the Clean Water Act. The Flood Control District evaluates each project to determine if the proposed maintenance activity will impact these regulated waters through the placement of fill (rip-rap rock, concrete or soil). Both natural channels and man-made channels may contain jurisdictional wetlands and waters, and many of the channels in the Kingwood area are regulated waters. Based on any proposed impacts, the Flood Control District determines what permits are required and coordinates with the Corps for authorization, if necessary. The Flood Control District is also required to implement best management practices during maintenance and construction activities to minimize stormwater (sediment) pollution until a project site is stabilized. Larger maintenance projects (>5 acres of disturbed soil) may also be required to develop a detailed stormwater pollution prevention plan to obtain permit coverage from TCEQ.
SURVEYS FOR NESTING BIRDS
The Migratory Bird Treaty Act protects native migratory birds and their nests. During the nesting season for our area (March 1 – September 15), the Flood Control District conducts surveys for active bird nests prior to any tree or brush clearing to ensure that there are no active bird nests. If active nests are found, the Flood Control District works with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to establish a protective buffer around the nest until the birds have fledged and left the nest.