This weekend, the Harris County Flood Control District wrapped up a pilot project to remove submerged vehicles from Harris County bayous. Removals at the selected sites began January 27, on Brays Bayou at Old Spanish Trail and Wayside Drive, and the pilot project proved successful as it concluded over the weekend on February 7.
In total, 20 vehicles were removed from Brays and Sims bayous as part of the Submerged Vehicle Removal Pilot Project, which was funded by Harris County Precinct 2 Commissioner Jack Morman and the City of Houston. The goal of the pilot project was to help refine the removal process and document the logistics involved, for consideration and potential use in any future removal efforts.
The Flood Control District entered into an interlocal agreement with the City of Houston on the $49,500 Submerged Vehicle Removal Pilot Project, in an attempt to remove what they suspected were between 100 and 200 submerged vehicles at the bottom of Harris County waterways, raising public concerns about criminal activity and environmental issues.
For approximately two weeks, marine services contractor Saltwater Salvage worked with subcontractor Apple Towing to conduct removals. They 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 bottom of Brays and Sims bayous, where they were hauled out for police inspection and transported to the appropriate police or storage facility.
Four removal sites were chosen for the pilot project, based on the number of possible vehicles, access availability and other logistical considerations. Not all of the vehicles at each site were removed during the pilot project. The contractor addressed the sites in order, and as available funding allowed. Sites included:
• Brays Bayou at Old Spanish Trail
• Brays Bayou at Lidstone Street
• Sims Bayou at Broadway Street
• Brays Bayou near Fonde Park
All vehicles were taken to the Houston Police Department impound lot.
In addition to the project, Buffalo Bayou Partnership (BBP) worked to clean up floatable trash captured by the booms that were strung across the bayou by the contractor. One type of boom absorbed any oily materials disturbed by the removal process, while the other captured floatable garbage coming downstream. BBP, which regularly cleans Buffalo and Brays bayous, used a boat and crew of 6 to collect the floatable trash, allowing organic debris to continue downstream.
The project was directed by an Executive Management Committee including representatives from Harris County Precinct 2, the City of Houston, the Houston Police Department and the Flood Control District. The Flood Control District acted as the project administrator.
In early December 2015, Flood Control District surveyors completed new underwater surveys of several locations along Brays and Sims bayous. The survey contractor used a magnetometer and side scan sonar to locate objects that appear to be vehicles. The new surveys also confirm that – despite several significant rain events – objects within the bayous have not noticeably shifted location since they were last mapped several years ago by the search and recovery organization Texas EquuSearch.
The Flood Control District treated each of the submerged vehicles as a potential crime scene and worked closely with law enforcement officials during the removal process, which also complied with applicable environmental permit requirements.
Investigators from the Houston Police Department Auto Theft Division were on hand at each site to check vehicle identification numbers of the removed vehicles, to see if they were connected with a stolen car or any other reported crime.
Please contact the Houston Police Department, 713-308-3280, for further information on these vehicles. To learn more about the Flood Control District, visit www.hcfcd.org.