Buffalo Bayou Partnership and Port of Houston Launch New Trash Skimmer Vessel, “Mighty Tidy”

In June, 2003, the Buffalo Bayou Partnership, in conjunction with its partners the Port of Houston, Harris County, and the Harris County Flood Control District, commissioned a new trash skimmer vessel named the “Mighty Tidy”, specially designed to remove floating trash and debris from the Buffalo Bayou. The skimmer vessel, a TrashCat™ brand model from United Marine International, will clean a 16 mile stretch of this 65 mile historic waterway which connects downtown Houston with Galveston Bay and the Port of Houston.

The Buffalo Bayou Partnership and its partners were the impetus behind a $6.5 billion 20 year master plan to redevelop Houston’s historic waterway into a pedestrian-oriented waterfront district. Acquiring the trash skimmer was a major initial step in the implementation of this award-winning master plan.

“The launch of the TrashCat™ skimmer boat signifies a new beginning for Buffalo Bayou – one that will create a unified Buffalo Bayou District where nature becomes a part of the new urban vitality”, said Anne Olson, President of Buffalo Bayou Partnership. Added Jim Edwards, the Chairman of the Houston Port Authority, “The Port Authority is proud to deliver an innovative solution to the problem of visual pollution we have experienced along the Buffalo Bayou. The Bayou is a tremendous environmental resource that must be protected. The skimmer boat is a part of our continuing commitment to good environmental stewardship.”

Environmental Education Opportunity

The Buffalo Bayou Partnership demonstrated a keen awareness of the opportunity for promoting its master plan objectives in how it implemented the trash skimmer project. The Partnership sponsored a vessel naming contest amongst Houston area elementary school children, with “Mighty Tidy”, the winning entry, earning area 4th grader Haley Hendrix a $500 savings bond. “Mighty Tidy” beat out “Stinky Pinky” and “Captain Clean”, among others. According to Gretchen Ferguson, Director of Public Relations for the Partnership, “We are going to go into the schools to teach the students about the skimmer boat and what it can do, and teach them that if you litter in your front yard it can end up in Galveston Bay.” Further, the Partnership drew attention to the TrashCat™ and its clean-up mission by hiring the well-known and offbeat Houston art design firm, The Art Guys, who recommended painting the boat hot-pink and to paste cartoon-like eyes on the vessel’s bow “to give it personality.” Over 250 people attended the commissioning ceremony, and many thousands more will watch it perform its 5 day-a-week operations.

The TrashCat™ is a United Marine International Model #MS8-1500A, which has the capacity to pick up and store 1500 pounds (680 kg) of floating debris and off-load via its self-unloading conveyor to a shore-based Pier Conveyor and into dumpsters. It can handle items varying from the hated omni-present plastic bags. to Styrofoam cups. to telephone poles. Aaron Tuley, Director of Planning for the Buffalo Bayou Partnership, noted his satisfaction with the skimmer’s performance, stating “This vessel’s trash-collecting capability has far exceeded all of our working assumptions regarding the quantity of trash that can be collected in a given amount of time. The skimmer boat will definitely help accelerate the Master Plan’s overarching vision of restoring the bayou to an ecologically functioning system.”

TrashCat™ "Mighty Tidy" skimming the Houston Ship Channel

TrashCat™ “Mighty Tidy” skimming
the Houston Ship Channel
for floating trash and debris

TrashCat™ "Mighty Tidy"

TrashCat™ approaching the Pier Conveyor
with portable hydraulic Power Pack to discharge
and transfer debris into the dumpster

TrashCat™ "Mighty Tidy"

TrashCat™ “Mighty Tidy” removing floating trash
between seawall and a ship in Houston Ship Channel

Photos Courtesy Buffalo Bayou Partnership

Harbor Security Enhanced

Harris County Flood Control District Director Mike Talbot noted that the TrashCat™ will be used for more than just beautification. “Now we will have constant reconnaissance along the Bayou, and the TrashCat’s crew members will be telling us about what they see, and observing the bridges.” Further, debris removal will improve navigation and alleviate flood risks.

As Max Schuette, Chairman of the Buffalo Bayou Partnership, observed, “the clean-up operations of the TrashCat™ will take the Partnership closer to its dream of a Houston Ship Channel whose water quality can be, will be, and should be better than that of any other river in the United States today.”

To read more about Houston’s “Mighty Tidy” trash skimming project, go to the Buffalo Bayou Partnership web site at http://www.buffalobayou.org.