Submerged Vehicle Removal Project
In August 2017, the Harris County Flood Control District completed a project, jointly funded by Harris County Precinct 2 Commissioner Jack Morman and the City of Houston, which removed a total of 70 submerged vehicles from multiple sites on Brays and Sims bayous.
An initial 2016 pilot phase of the Submerged Vehicle Removal Project removed 20 vehicles from Brays and Sims bayous for a project cost of $49,500. It was followed in mid-2017 with an expanded $218,255 project that was able to remove an additional 50 vehicles, all from Brays Bayou. Both projects were managed by the Flood Control District in close cooperation with the Houston Police Department (HPD).
Before the project began, more than 100 submerged vehicles were suspected to be at the bottom of lower Sims and Brays bayous, raising public concerns about criminal activity and environmental issues. Most of the vehicles removed during the expanded project had been reported stolen, with the newest being a 2012 Chevrolet Camaro reported stolen in 2014. The oldest vehicles included a 1981 Oldsmobile Cutlass and a 1982 Cadillac Fleetwood, reported stolen in 1995. A total of 17 vehicles were so deteriorated they could not be identified.
The contractor for the expanded project, Port Arthur-based commercial diving and marine construction company Huffman Contractors LLC, was able to remove a total of 50 vehicles before reaching the budgeted limit. Several vehicles were filled with sediment, which required extensive underwater jetting, and multiple vehicles broke apart during removal, which required longer dive times and multiple tows, resulting in overall higher removal costs.
The most recent removals, which began in mid-June 2017, came from several locations on Brays Bayou between Lidstone and Lawndale streets. The contractor used certified commercial divers, an excavator mounted on the bayou banks and a series of floating barges to extract the submerged vehicles, along with other techniques.
Once hauled from the bayou, the vehicles were transported for appropriate police processing, storage or disposal. No other significant criminal evidence was recovered, according to HPD.
The submerged vehicles were originally identified in 2012 surveys conducted by the search-and-recovery organization Texas Equusearch.
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.
Marine services contractor Saltwater Salvage worked with subcontractor Apple Towing to conduct the pilot project removals. The companies utilized 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.