Conroe, Texas—Today the Lake Conroe Association (LCA) filed a complaint with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), requesting that it stop the seasonal lowering of Lake Conroe. In February 2020, based upon recommendations from the City of Houston, the San Jacinto River Authority (SJRA) Board of Directors voted to continue the seasonal lowering of Lake Conroe (SLL) until at least 2022 and possibly longer. The SLL was originally proposed to TCEQ as a temporary program intended to minimize water releases during the dredging of the West Fork of the San Jacinto River after Hurricane Harvey. The dredging is complete, and the original waiver regarding water use is no longer valid. If continued, the SLL violates the existing water use permit issued to SJRA and Houston by TCEQ, wastes water, and will not materially accomplish its claimed purpose of reducing downstream flooding.
LCA is a non-profit organization made up of area residents and businesses that are concerned with issues affecting the use and development of Lake Conroe, a water supply reservoir located on the West Fork of the San Jacinto River. Originally formed in 1977 to control and eliminate a Hydrilla infestation in Lake Conroe, LCA’s goals are safe water levels, water conservation, resolving invasive species problems, and opposing any activity that threatens the lake’s primary purpose.
Proponents of the SLL have often cited a belief that a “surprise” opening of the gates on the Lake Conroe dam caused much of the downstream flooding. Instead, SJRA’s dam release records show that all five gates of the dam were open throughout the time that Hurricane Harvey dropped its torrential rains over the Houston area. The reality is that water was flowing through the dam throughout all five days of the hurricane to keep the dam safe from failure. In fact, Lake Conroe dam held back a significant amount of water, estimated to be 50,000 cubic feet per second, from flowing downstream during Hurricane Harvey and therefore reduced, not increased, downstream flooding.
LCA understands and is sensitive to the losses of those living in the Lake Houston area, but two separate technical studies and many years of history show that the SLL is not required and it will not materially reduce widespread downstream flooding in the case of a major storm event. The amount of water from Hurricane Harvey that flowed through the dam was significant, yet by its own calculations, SJRA says that the lake releases contributed only 15% to 18% of the total flows that caused flooding in the Lake Houston area during Harvey.
By contrast, lowering Lake Conroe threatens one of the primary water sources of Montgomery County, threatens the backup water supply for Houston, and violates the TCEQ permit, state law, and water conservation efforts. Further, the potential adverse impacts of lowering the lake have not been evaluated, e.g., the environmental impacts on egrets, heron, eagles, fish species, and the habitat of other birds and wildlife that depend on Lake Conroe.
LCA has therefore filed its complaint requesting TCEQ to enforce the permit and state law. A copy of the complaint may be viewed on LCA’s website at lcatx.com. Questions may be submitted via email to: [email protected].