Submerged Vehicle Removal Project
On January 31, 2017, Harris County Commissioners Court authorized the Harris County Flood Control District to seek bids for a $220,000 project to remove submerged vehicles from Brays and Sims bayous. This is an expansion of the 2016 pilot project jointly funded by Harris County Precinct 2 Commissioner Jack Morman and the City of Houston.
Between 100 and 200 submerged vehicles are suspected to be at the bottom of Harris County's primary waterways, raising public concerns about criminal activity and environmental issues. During a ten-day pilot project in early 2016, 20 cars and trucks were removed from four locations in Brays and Sims bayous (more on the pilot project below).
The Flood Control District is managing the expanded project. The number of vehicles that will be removed will depend on the bids received from qualified salvage companies.
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.