Local officials and state and federal agencies continue to push forward efforts to dredge the West Fork of the San Jacinto River to increase capacity in the Lake Houston watershed and reduce flooding.

The Army Corps of Engineers Galveston District was recently directed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to extend its current dredging project into the mouth bar—the confluence of the West Fork of the San Jacinto River and Lake Houston.

Alicia Rea, the chief of the emergency management branch for the Corps, said the Corps was directed in April by FEMA to restore the flow of the river back to pre-Hurricane Harvey conditions by extending the project farther east into the mouth bar.

The project’s contractor has been working since September on a $70 million project to dredge roughly 1.7 million cubic yards of material from the West Fork of the San Jacinto River. Rea said the initial project scope—between River Grove Park and West Lake Houston Parkway in Kingwood—was expected to be completed by the end of June.

Once the scope is completed and the project’s contract is modified, dredges will move to the new section, Rea said. Sediment transport studies showed 500,000 cubic yards of material, or sand, was deposited at or near the mouth bar during Harvey.

It is the intent to have the material completely dredged by the end of November, Rea said. However, she said the FEMA directive only allows the Corps to dredge 500,000 cubic yards around the mouth bar.

“We’re not going to remove the actual mouth bar; we’re removing material around that island,” Rea said. “Hopefully that will increase water capacity in the channel, but it’s not going to allow the flow of the river to be unimpeded.”

Janet Botello, the chief of the evaluation branch in the Corps’ regulatory division, said via email the current project does not tackle the city of Houston’s permit application to dredge all of the mouth bar. The city of Houston resubmitted a permit application April 1 to the Corps proposing 1.4 million cubic yards be dredged from the mouth bar.

As of press time, the Corps’ regulatory division was still reviewing the city of Houston’s permit application.