The Lake Conroe Association provides this letter to inform the City of Houston City Council members on matters that are critical to your future water supplies and to the CoH water customers.
The City of Houston City Council has begun its review of water rates for its water service customers. As water rates continue to rise to fund the growing costs of providing service, the Lake Conroe Association brings the urgent matter of the Lake Conroe seasonal lake lowering program (“SLLP”) to your attention. Notwithstanding the recent rains received in the area, you are no doubt aware of the possible drought conditions forecasted for 2021, which impacts the regional issues of providing adequate surface water supplies.
For the years 2018, 2019, and 2020 the great majority of the annual CoH water rights from Lake Conroe – approximately 37 billion gallons – has been wasted and discharged to the Gulf of Mexico. That water flowed from Lake Conroe, as requested by the CoH, and arrived at Lake Houston, but it was neither needed nor used. These water releases were authorized under the temporary SSLP that was supposed to end in Fall 2019. Instead, it was renewed for reasons outside the original intents and as proposed by CoH Councilman Dave Martin in a letter signed by Mayor Turner Feb 19, 2020.
The Lake Conroe Association in existence for over 40 years is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization staffed by volunteers and funded entirely by membership fees and donations. Its mission is to inform and represent residents and businesses on issues affecting the use and enjoyment of Lake Conroe. It should not be lost that many of the people that use Lake Conroe for personal or family recreation are from the City of Houston and nearby areas as Lake Conroe is the closest and largest multipurpose lake. The LCA has filed a complaint regarding the SLLP with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) on December 28, 2020, and which LCA is still pursuing. Recently to stop this waste and harm to the lake resident’s property from extension of the SLLP the LCA has filed suit in Montgomery County Court against both the CoH and the San Jacinto River Authority (SJRA).
These 37 billion gallons released from Lake Conroe as requested by the CoH Public Works Division has not been for municipal use and has not benefited the CoH residents as has been reported to the TCEQ. This water has been allowed to flow across the Lake Houston Dam concurrently with 2-12 times that volume from other water sources when Lake Houston is below full pool and could retain water. This shows the Lake Conroe water was not needed nor used as reported and has been wasted instead. The data proving that conclusion comes from the CoH’s own water use reports and the Coastal Water Authority water release reports. The LCA conclusions about this waste have not been disputed.
Our request of the CoH City Council – before you increase water rates – is to determine the SLLP’s cost and risks to the water supply of the residents and businesses of CoH. Based on documents obtained through Public Information Act requests, it does not appear that the CoH’s Public Works Department, which is responsible for maintaining water supply at a reasonable rate, has been supportive of the SSLP, and has not provided an analysis of this program on water supply in the event of a drought.
It is also of great concern that the impact of the SLLP on Lake Conroe has not been evaluated at all. In particular, the environmental impacts have not been studied, and two significant environmental impacts are of particular concern. A bird sanctuary island in the lake known as Bird Island is being destroyed by erosion. This natural habitat is used by many local and migratory bird species. Although the erosion has been of concern and studied for several years, it is apparent that the raising and lowering of the lake, coupled with destructive wave shoaling when the lake is artificially lowered, is aggressively destroying the small island. In addition, fire departments serving the Wildwood Shores neighborhood, located at the far northern end of the lake in the Sam Houston National Forest, use lake water for firefighting. However, when the lake is lowered even by a foot there is insufficient water for hoses to be dropped into the lake and fire departments must find other water sources, causing delays endangering residents and the National Forest. Further, there are effects from the persistently low lake levels on fish species, other waterfowl, and affects the habitat of other wildlife that directly and indirectly depend on the lake.
The LCA is committed to stop all the harms caused by the SLLP, and requests CoH attention to this matter. The CoH is totally responsible for the renewal of the SLLP and can immediately cease the program, and LCA formally requests that it do so. All available documentation shows the program is ineffective and wasteful. LCA requests the opportunity to address the City Council so that it can provide additional information on this issue and to explain why this program is detrimental to CoH, its residents, and everyone and the wildlife that make use of Lake Conroe.
President Lake Conroe Association
On Behalf of the LCA members and all Lake Conroe area residents and businesses which have been negatively impacted by the City of Houston Seasonal Lake Lowering program.