Press Room

February 08, 2016

Harris County Flood Control District Wraps Pilot Project; Removes 20 Submerged Vehicles from Brays and Sims Bayous

This weekend, the Harris County Flood Control District wrapped up a pilot project to remove submerged vehicles from Harris County bayous. In total, 20 vehicles were removed from Brays and Sims bayous. 

The final two vehicles were removed Friday, February 5, from Sims Bayou at Broadway Street. These included a 1980s Buick LeSabre and a 1998 Cadillac Coupe Deville. After the vehicles were lifted out of the bayou by crane and towed from the staging area, the site was cleared and the operational portion of the Submerged Vehicle Removal Pilot Project was completed. Please contact the Houston Police Department, 713-308-3280, for further information on any of the vehicles.

The pilot project launched January 27. 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. 

The project is being 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 is acting as the project administrator.  

About the Pilot Project

The Flood Control District and City of Houston operated under an interlocal agreement to conduct the $49,500 Submerged Vehicle Removal Pilot Project, which was funded by Harris County Precinct 2 Commissioner Jack Morman and the City.

Between 100 and 200 submerged vehicles are suspected to be at the bottom of Brays, Buffalo and Sims bayous – three of Harris County's primary waterways - raising public concerns about criminal activity and environmental issues. The goal of the pilot project is to help refine the removal process and document the logistics involved, for consideration and potential use in any future removal efforts. During the removal process, the Flood Control District treated each of the submerged vehicles as a potential crime scene and worked closely with law enforcement officials. The District also complied with applicable environmental permit requirements. 

In early December 2015, Flood Control District surveyors completed 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 surveys confirmed 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. 

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, due to funding limitations. The sites included:

  • Brays Bayou at Old Spanish Trail
  • Brays Bayou at Lidstone Street
  • Brays Bayou near Fonde Park
  • Sims Bayou at Broadway Street

Next Steps

The Flood Control District is acting as the project administrator.  Next steps in the pilot program include a debriefing with Saltwater Salvage and Apple Towing; and a meeting of the Executive Management Committee to discuss lessons learned and next steps in the program. The Committee will make recommendations regarding the logistics and protocols should the program continue on a larger scale.

ABOUT THE HARRIS COUNTY FLOOD CONTROL DISTRICT

The Harris County Flood Control District provides flood damage reduction projects that work, with appropriate regard for community and natural values. With more than 1,500 bayous and creeks totaling approximately 2,500 miles in length, the Flood Control District accomplishes its mission by devising flood damage reduction plans, implementing the plans and maintaining the infrastructure.