(UPDATE: Three more vehicles were pulled from Brays Bayou on Tuesday, July 25, 2017. TOTAL since removals began June 14: 37 vehicles.)
Submerged Vehicle Removal Project
A salvage contractor for the Harris County Flood Control District has begun work on a project to remove submerged vehicles from Brays and Sims bayous. This is an expansion of a 2016 pilot project; project costs will be shared by Harris County Precinct 2 Commissioner Jack Morman and the City of Houston.
More than 100 submerged vehicles are suspected to be at the bottom of lower Sims and Brays bayous, raising public concerns about criminal activity and environmental issues. During the ten-day pilot project in early 2016, 20 cars and trucks were removed from four locations in Brays and Sims bayous. Most of the vehicles removed had been reported stolen but no other significant evidence of criminal activity was recovered.
On March 28, 2017, Harris County Commissioners Court awarded a $218,255 contract to Port Arthur-based commercial diving and marine construction company Huffman Contractors LLC for the expanded Submerged Vehicle Removal Project. The goal of the project, which is being managed by the Flood Control District in cooperation with the Houston Police Department, is to remove as many vehicles as possible for the contract amount from eight locations in Brays and Sims bayous. Work gets underway near Lidstone Street on Brays Bayou, a location believed to have a high number of submerged vehicles.
Huffman Contractors’ bid proposed removing at least 65 vehicles for the contract amount. However, factors such as over-sized vehicles or heavy sediment removal could impact the final tally. The contractor will use certified commercial divers and an excavator mounted on a series of floating barges to extract the submerged vehicles.
The vehicles were originally identified in 2012 surveys conducted by the search-and-recovery organization Texas Equusearch.
The Flood Control District will work in close cooperation with HPD throughout the removal process. An auto theft investigator will be on site for vehicle extractions. The investigator will call for additional crime scene expertise, if needed. Once removed, the vehicles will be transported for appropriate police processing, storage or disposal. Please contact the Houston Police Department, 713-308-3280, for further information on any of the vehicles.
The Flood Control District also will comply with applicable environmental permit requirements.
The project is expected to take about 60 days, weather permitting.
During a ten-day period in January and February 2016, the $49,500 pilot project administered by the Flood Control District focused on four locations where cars and trucks had been dumped in Brays and Sims bayous. The goal of the pilot project was to refine the removal process and document the logistics involved, for consideration and potential use in future removal efforts.
According to the Houston Police Department, most of the vehicles removed during the pilot project had been reported stolen, one during a 1999 aggravated robbery, and another during a 2000 home invasion/aggravated robbery. The oldest vehicle was a 1978 Datsun 280Z reported stolen in 1982. The newest vehicle was a 2002 Ford Ranger reported stolen in 2002. Six of the vehicles have since been claimed by insurance companies, while most were eventually cleared for disposal.
During the pilot project, the Flood Control District treated each of the submerged vehicles as a potential crime scene and worked closely with law enforcement officials. The Flood Control District also complied with applicable environmental permit requirements.
Marine services contractor Saltwater Salvage worked with subcontractor Apple Towing to conduct the pilot project removals. The companies utilized certified commercial divers, a floating barge, inflatable lift bags and a heavy-lift wrecker, along with other specialized equipment, to raise the vehicles from the bayou bottom and then haul them out for police inspection and transportation to the appropriate police or storage facility.