About three weeks ago on February 20th the San Jacinto River Authority (SJRA) Board held their special meeting to review SJRA staff proposals on the Seasonal Lake Lowering Program (SLLP), hear public comment from around 100 of the 1300 meeting attendees, and make a recommendation to the City of Houston (CoH) as to the renewal of the SLLP. The City of Houston sent in a recommendation to the SJRA Board late in the evening of February 19th which was posted publicly. This letter was subsequently replaced (due to serious errors) but the second letter from the CoH was not made public resulting in significant confusion during the meeting as to the details of the revised CoH proposal.
The SJRA staff, using the results of studies of recent rainfall events, dredging that has been completed, and the storage capacity that both Lake Conroe and Lake Houston gain from seasonal lowering recommended to the SJRA Board that each lake be lowered 1’ from normal pool twice a year for two months each period (April & May and August & September). The result would have been that Lake Conroe would not be lowered intentionally below 200’ msl – compared to the current program of lowering to 199’ msl in the Fall. The lower water level of 199’ msl has led to significant problems for residents and lasted seven months vs two as the program intends due to low rainfall in Fall 2019 & 2020.
The subsequent SJRA Board discussion of both the CoH proposal and the SJRA Staff proposal was very confusing to many in the audience as multiple proposals and call for motions and votes were occurring simultaneously. The SJRA Board Chairman, Lloyd Tisdale, outlined a compromise proposal that was ultimately voted upon and passed by a vote of 5 to 1. The outline of the proposal is below and was published in the latest SJRA press release.
After approximately five hours of presentation, public comment, and board discussion, the SJRA Board of Directors approved the following recommendation to the COH regarding the operation of Lake Conroe:
There are some limited positives from the new proposal and one massive negative outcome for Lake Conroe residents. First the positives – without the significant grass roots efforts and local political support the existing program would have likely been renewed. These efforts and challenge to the technical basis for lowering resulted in a proposal by SJRA staff that was a compromise between normal pool levels and lowering by 2’ in the Fall. The SJRA Staff recommendation was not approved and instead the SJRA Board proposal does not seem to be based upon any science or technical review. Instead for the second time we are facing a lowering program that is a political compromise largely due to a last minute proposal (not made public) from the City of Houston. The massive negative of the new program is that the original lowering program that was clearly documented as a temporary measure in 2018 will now be in place from 2018 to the end of 2022 and not ended in 1-2 years as initially promised.
The LCA remains confident that there is no existing science or technical study or actual rain event that supports that the SLLP would be effective to reduce downstream flooding in a significant rain event. It is very disappointing that despite a second technical study funded by the LCA, and completed by Feb 14th, it was apparently not considered by the SJRA Board in their Feb 20th discussions. As we have yet to see the proposal that has been sent to the City of Houston the SJRA Board decision is not yet final.
Given the last minute request from the City of Houston which introduced the recommendation for pre-releases from Lake Conroe ahead of named storms and that this option had been consistently declared not viable by the SJRA Board and Management it would have been in the best interest of all parties to defer the vote given the new technical study and late CoH requests. A “midnight” request that overrides the SJRA professional staff recommendations and also introduces a significant new option without public knowledge or comment reinforces the reasons that local residents feel the SJRA Board decision process is flawed and not based upon sound technical criteria – solely political maneuvering.
We will continue to monitor the developments and you will find periodic updates on our new LCA website https://lcatx.com and our https://www.stopdraininglakeconroe.com partner website. We believe there is still a lot of misinformation about the benefits of lake lowering and a significant lack of documented information on damage from the SLLP program. We will continue to actively correct false information as well as push the appropriate regulatory agencies and state entities to properly asses the costs and negative impacts of an extended lowering program.
We do stand ready to cooperatively work to reduce flooding in any area and will support regional cooperation based upon proper technical studies and impact assessments.
Finally, you will note that this update is signed by a new Lake Conroe Association President. I have been selected by the LCA Board to replace Mike Bleier who served as LCA President for fifteen years. Mike’s contribution and dedication to serving the Lake Conroe residents is greatly appreciated and valued. We are pleased he will remain an active LCA Board member and also have more time with his family and at home. Mike is planning on writing a recap of the last fifteen years accomplishments that we will gladly publish in the next month.
I look forward to building new partnerships and contacts in my new role. My email is [email protected] and business phone number is 936-217-2340 if you wish to contact me.
President Lake Conroe Association