The LCA TCEQ complaint was filed after lengthy research and discussions regarding the way the SLLP has been implemented and subsequently renewed contrary to all technical data and studies that conclude the SLLP is ineffective to mitigate downstream flooding. The extensive research into the TCEQ rules pointed out many violations and poor precedents. In short, the SLLP is illegal, ineffective, and wasteful.
As the TCEQ full complaint is lengthy we know many people will not read the entire document but still need to understand it so they can support the decision and also join others in discussing and writing in support of the complaint. We hope this summary is helpful to gain further support.
First and foremost, the LCA had hoped that the SJRA Board would have provided an adequate process to allow a deep review and deeper discussions of the two independent technical studies (Freese and Nichols study and Bleyl study) that conclude the SLLP is not effective in reducing the extent of downstream flooding due to major rain events. We also hoped that the facts provided by the SJRA’s own Flood Management Division that showed that for almost forty years the dam’s normal operation, without any lowering, was more than sufficient to prevent any downstream flooding. That alone should have been persuasive to the SJRA Board. These facts plus two independent studies are overwhelming proof the SLLP is ineffective and wasteful.
The normal operation of the dam and normal lake levels during major rainfall events has worked well except during Harvey and the Floods of 1992. And for those exceedingly rare and catastrophic types of storm the current lowering program would have not stopped flooding then or in the future. The majority of the SJRA Board ignored this conclusive data and relevant history and instead choose to renew the SLLP based upon no supporting technical evidence. This arbitrary and unaccountable decision by the SJRA Board results in a tremendous waste of water for three more years, and it cannot be left unchallenged.
The LCA’s opposition to the SLLP is also about the SJRA Board being transparent, truthful, and objective in their deliberations about the purpose and duration of the SLLP from the start. The decision to file the complaint with the TCEQ is intended to bring the wasteful and ineffective SLLP to the state governmental agency that regulates water rights in Texas. At the time in 2018, due to the perceived urgency and representations by the SJRA that the program was temporary, TCEQ agreed to overlook the water that would be wasted. Any different use or change in the beneficial use of the water would require an amendment to TCEQ permit.
The TCEQ has previously issued a water rights permit to the SJRA and City of Houston (CoH) allocating a total of 100,000 acre feet per year ( 32.6 billion gallons) of surface water from Lake Conroe (1/3 SJRA and 2/3 CoH) to be used for municipal, industrial, commercial and agricultural use – nothing else. In 2018 in response to the SJRA / CoH request for the SLLP the TCEQ issued a letter saying it would not fully enforce the quantity limits in the existing water permit for 2-3 years while the temporary dredging was underway on the West Fork. That dredging was completed in September of 2019 and the basis for the waiver has expired.
The City of Houston and the SJRA have been authorized by permit to beneficially use surface water form Lake Conroe for specifically identified uses. They cannot “do anything they want with it” as was stated by a CoH representative in the January SJRA Board SLLP Townhall meeting. All surface water in the state of Texas belongs to the state and the state has set up the TCEQ to issue water rights for beneficial use and conservation of the state-owned water. To see how wasteful the SLLP is note that in 2019 the water dumped to the Gulf of Mexico due to the SLLP equaled the full volume – 21.5 billion gallons – allocated to the CoH for all of 2019 for all purposes. The CoH choose to waste it all for no beneficial purpose and not once that year did the SLLP prevent a flooding event compared to operating the lake at normal levels.
The LCA has lodged a complaint with the TCEQ that has four primary and well-founded positions:
In the formal TCEQ complaint, (copy found on the LCA website), each of the above points is well supported with significant documentation should you want further detail about any one area.
State law and TCEQ’s rules establish significant penalty provisions for SJRA’s and Houston’s wasting of state water. The Texas Water Code provides for enforcement and penalties for violation of a water right: “No person may willfully take, divert, or appropriate any state water for any purpose without first complying with all applicable requirements of this chapter.” It also provides for civil penalties: “A person who willfully takes, diverts, or appropriates state water without complying with the applicable requirements of this chapter is also liable to a civil penalty of not more than $5,000 for each day he continues the taking, diversion, or appropriation.”
LCA is not seeking financial penalties by the TCEQ from the SJRA and City of Houston for renewing the arbitrary and wasteful SLLP as the penalty costs would only be transferred to customers or taxpayers. The LCA is only interested in the cessation of this illegal and harmful practice of wasting water.
Drafted by K. Lacy July 17, 2020