ARE YOU TIRED OF LOW LAKE LEVELS ON LAKE CONROE YET? CHAPTER 1

October 1, 2019, marked the end of a second year of the San Jacinto River Authority’s (SJRA) Seasonal Lake Level Adjustment Program on Lake Conroe where the lake level is reduced by a minimum of two feet (2’) between August 1 and September 30.  Of course, what we’re seeing is not a lake level reduction for only 2 months.  Even with 5.2 inches of rain since October 1, we have now seen a Lake Conroe down 2 or more feet for over 4 months (with a lake level of 198.79 on December 2, 2020).  Were we in a drought, we may well be looking at lake levels down 3 to 4 feet.  SJRA’s Board will vote in February 2020 as to whether to extend, modify, or eliminate the program going forward.  If you are tired of artificially low lake levels, the Lake Conroe Association (LCA) is asking you to make your feelings heard.

The lake lowering program was implemented by SJRA following the significant flooding of communities located well downstream of Lake Conroe during Hurricane Harvey.  The emergency releases from Lake Conroe contributed a relatively small portion of the total water flow (estimated at not more than 15%) downstream and were necessary as the water level in Lake Conroe was threatening to exceed dam design levels and flooding many lake front properties as well. The lake level rose almost 5 1/2 feet before the releases and was over two times the largest ever historical storm effect.

Local businesses and residents that have ties to lake activities have been negatively impacted for two years by the decision to lower lake levels.  Many cannot launch their boat or fear damage navigating through lowered lake levels.  Boats have run aground on sand bars exposed by lowered lake levels that would normally have been safely submerged. The Southern Empress, a commercial paddleboat operating on Lake Conroe was stranded on a sand bar on September 7th with 83 people aboard. Those people had to be rescued and returned to shore in the dark by small boats called in to help.  Businesses relying on boat traffic such as lakeside restaurants experience a decrease in business as customers fear docking in shallow water and accessing high fixed dock decks from their boats. Stumps normally 3-5 feet underwater are now much closer to the surface and causing damage to boats and jet skis. These uncharted and unmarked hazards cause significant risk to the boating public especially those towing children or adults on tubes, on skis, or on wake boards.  Marinas are being forced to spend thousands of dollars to dredge adequate access to their facilities.  Potential lake front home buyers squirm when see sand bars and vegetation hindering lake access from their potential dream home.  Anglers fear damage to shallow native vegetation that supports the lake ecosystem and serves as a breeding ground for the next generation of fish.  Professional angling organizations hosting lucrative national competitions on Lake Conroe may choose to go elsewhere.  Many fear bulkhead damage due to the lack of hydrostatic pressure as lake levels are reduced.

SJRA’s Seasonal Lake Level Adjustment Program was designated as “temporary” by the SJRA Board when it voted to implement the program. “Temporary” was tied to completing dredging of the West Fork of the San Jacinto River.  The dredging is designed to improve the flow of water through the river and reduce flooding in Kingwood and surrounding areas.  Dredging is expected to be completed before the end of 2019. It is reasonable to expect that the seasonal “temporary” program should be over by then.

The LCA met with a SJRA Management Team on October 8 to discuss their Seasonal Lake Level Adjustment Program and how we ended up here.  While they could not speak for the SJRA Board’s individual votes to implement and continue this program, they stated that the Board was most likely influenced by the fact that Kingwood-area residents have written letters and attended SJRA Board Meetings demonstrating their desire for and support of SJRA reducing lake levels on Lake Conroe.  Conversely, they described Lake Conroe-area residents as apathetic and uninvolved noting that they do not write or attend.  We need to be seen and heard, and it starts with you.

The LCA invited 61 POA’s/HOA’s to a meeting on November 13 to discuss their concerns over lowered lake levels and what steps should be taken prior to the SJRA Board’s February 2020 vote.  Those in attendance agreed, without question, that our residents and businesses need to make their opinions heard by SJRA.  If you disagree with SJRA’s Seasonal Lake Level Adjustment Program and want to see it removed, let SJRA’s Management and Board know how you feel.  To write letters, SJRA’s mailing address is PO Box 329, Conroe, Texas  77305.  To send e-mails to Management, the General Manager’s e-mail address is jhouston@sjra.net.  To contact the SJRA Board, please visit www.sjra.net/about/board or e-mail floodmanagementdivision@sjra.net .  You can also express your feelings by attending a SJRA Board Meeting on December 12, January 23 or February 27 which start at 8AM and are held at SJRA’s Lake Conroe Campus at 1577 Dam Site Road in the 3rd Floor Conference Room.  If you don’t take the time to let SJRA’s Management and Board of Directors know how you feel, you should expect continued lower lake levels for years to come.

The LCA will be presenting to the SJRA Board in the January 2020 Board Meeting in advance of the February 2020 SJRA Board vote.  LCA’s goal is to ensure the SJRA Board holds a transparent, objective, and fact-based assessment of the lake lowering program. We believe the current program was enacted by the SJRA Board with minimal technical basis against the recommendations of the SJRA Management and without extensive notice or debate. Our intention is to represent what YOU WANT.  We will be preparing that presentation over the next couple months.

Don’t let another year of this program continue without making your opinions known.  Please let us help you and thanks for listening.

 

Mike Bleier, President, Lake Conroe Association

LOWERING THE LAKE LEVEL ON LAKE CONROE – CHAPTER 2

Kingwood was developed in a known flood plain and civil engineers failed in their responsibility to determine the best methods to minimize flooding.  Kingwood was subsequently annexed by The City of Houston out of sheer greed to expand its tax base.  The City of Houston cut costs by not adequately engineering Lake Houston for flood control they knew would be required.  The City of Houston cut costs by not maintaining Lake Houston and the West Fork of the San Jacinto River even as they saw sand, silt and debris rise annually that inhibited water flow and promoted flooding.  Developers and investors built Kingwood in a known flood plain out of sheer greed to put profits in their pockets.  Individuals purchased homes in a known flood plain to have access to beautiful Lake Houston, live in a highly forested area, have minimal commute times to Houston and enjoy so many favorable aspects of the Kingwood community.   And now, Lake Conroe is expected to see its lake level reduced to help solve the problems not created by Lake Conroe or the residents and businesses who have invested their life savings to call Lake Conroe home.

Since its inception in 1973, Lake Conroe has been deemed a “water supply reservoir” and not a “flood control reservoir”.  The San Jacinto River Authority has emphasized this point repeatedly as it has been attacked over the years by anyone experiencing flooding South of Lake Conroe (whether the water came from Lake Conroe or not).  Not until Hurricane Harvey and enormous pressure being applied to elected officials such as Governor Abbott and Houston Mayor Turner did the pressure get turned up on the San Jacinto River Authority to modify its position and state Lake Conroe was now a “flood control reservoir”.  Funny how that works in an election year where there are more votes in Houston and Kingwood than little Lake Conroe.  Funny how that works when Governor Abbott appoints the Board of SJRA and serves as the SJRA General Manager’s boss.  And while he was at it, Governor Abbott told SJRA they needed to create a new Flood Management Division – but didn’t provide any funding to do so.  Without funding, the Flood Management Division is supported by those purchasing raw or treated water from SJRA.

Funny how many “funny things” have occurred in the decision to lower Lake Conroe’s lake level.  The process of decision-making at SJRA initiates by SJRA’s Management evaluating the facts of a situation, presenting the suggested resolution to its Board, and the Board voting on it.  The staff and Management at SJRA do a wonderful job of evaluating  and providing best resolutions; and because of that, in my experience of over 15 years working with SJRA, the SJRA Board has NEVER overturned a proposal by SJRA Management.  NEVER!  So, when SJRA Management proposed a “Seasonal Lake Level Adjustment Plan” to its Board in February, 2018 that called for a 6” reduction in the Spring and a 12” reduction in the Fall, it struck me as odd that 1) the SJRA Board President took the floor and suggested a 12” reduction in the Spring and 24” reduction in the Fall, 2) the SJRA Board President immediately requested that a vote be taken on his lone wolf proposal, and 3) the SJRA Board voted unanimously in favor of the Board President’s proposal.  Did I say earlier that Governor Abbott appoints the SJRA Board?

SJRA is designed to provide and implement strategies for a water supply reservoir in the San Jacinto River Basin.  At best, Kingwood represents less than 0.5% of the San Jacinto River Basin’s total square miles.  Why then, after Hurricane Harvey, did Governor Abbott appoint not one but two individuals residing in Kingwood to the SJRA Board?  That’s two out of seven Board positions, or 29% of the Board.  Any question on how those Kingwood Board Members voted?

When a reservoir is impounded in Texas, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) determines a maximum “yield” for that reservoir – meaning  how much water can be safely removed in a given year without harming the reservoirs ability to provide water in a drought.  For Lake Conroe, that annual “yield” is 100,000 acre feet (or about 5 feet of water across the reservoir).  When SJRA’s Board voted to release water and reduce Lake Conroe’s lake level by 12” in Spring and 24” in Fall, that 3 feet of water (valued at over $10 Million at SJRA’s raw water rate) would count against the 5 feet allowed by TCEQ annually – leaving only 2 feet of water for water consumption and drought contingency.  Knowing 2 feet of water would be insufficient to cover consumption and drought contingency, TCEQ decided it would selectively choose to not enforce its own ruling and not count any water released for SJRA’s Seasonal Lake Lowering Program against the 100,000 acre feet maximum yield.   Any guess who appoints the Board of TCEQ?  If you guessed Governor Abbott, you’d be correct.

I recognize that many of these decisions were made with the best of intentions; namely, to avoid future flooding and assist those experiencing terrible flooding during Hurricane Harvey.  But why must residents and businesses of Lake Conroe suffer unnecessarily for the poor decisions of those outside the Lake Conroe area?

The SJRA Board will vote on February 27, 2020 as to continuing, modifying or eliminating its current Seasonal Lake Level Adjustment Program for the next year.  If you disagree with this Program and want to see it removed, let SJRA’s Management and Board know how you feel.  To write letters, SJRA’s mailing address is PO Box 329, Conroe, Texas  77305.  To send e-mails to Management, the General Manager’s e-mail address is jhouston@sjra.net.  To contact the SJRA Board, please visit www.sjra.net/about/board or e-mail floodmanagementdivision@sjra.net.  You can also express your feelings by attending a SJRA Board Meeting on December 12, January 23 or February 27 which start at 8AM and are held at SJRA’s Lake Conroe Campus at 1577 Dam Site Road in the 3rd Floor Conference Room.  If you don’t take the time to let SJRA’s Management and Board of Directors know how you feel, you should expect continued lower lake levels for years to come.  Please be heard.

Mike Bleier, President

Lake Conroe Association

FACTS DON’T SUPPORT SJRA LAKE LOWERING – CHAPTER 3

In defense of their votes to lower the lake level on Lake Conroe, the San Jacinto River Authority’s (SJRA) Board touts engineering reports that support its position.  And when SJRA Management issued a Press Release dated November 21, 2019, they frequently sited those engineering reports.  Maybe they didn’t read the same reports that I did as these “engineering reports” do not support SJRA’s Seasonal Lake Level Adjustment Program (the “Program”).  Please allow me to make a few observations.

Has there been any report produced by SJRA or its engineers that quantifies how flooding of the Kingwood area during Hurricane Harvey would have been reduced had Lake Conroe’s lake level been two feet lower (as it is today under SJRA’s Program)?  SJRA’s answer is “no”.

SJRA directs people to a report issued by Freece and Nichols (SJRA’s primary outside engineering firm) entitled “FNI Lake Conroe Dam Gate Operations Modification Analysis – 4/10/2018” which can be found on SJRA’s website at www.sjra.net/floodmanagement.  It attempts to quantify the “benefits” of starting with a lower lake level during a 100-year storm event (1% probability to occur in a given year) and a 500-year storm event (0.02% probability to occur in a given year and similar to a Hurricane Harvey-type event).  The report estimates the impact on several key parameters including the increase in the San Jacinto River’s level at the intersection of I-45 (it does NOT address water levels in Kingwood).  It concludes “The average change in downstream water surface elevation by decreasing Lake Conroe to a 199’ elevation (2 feet below normal pool) is a reduction of approximately 1.0 feet for both the 100-year and 500-year storm events.  These reductions are relative to flows that are on average 8 feet above the channel banks in the 100-year event, and more than 12 feet above the channel banks in the 500-year event.  The benefits to those downstream, though the water surfaces are reduced by a foot or more in places, are generally not enough to be considered wholesale improvements to the flood hazard and show minimal differences in spatial extent.”  In other words, an 8 foot flood at I-45 might be reduced to 7 feet, and a 12 foot flood (like Hurricane Harvey) at I45 might be reduced to 11 feet.  And as that water spreads out across the land past I-45, the flood benefit becomes even less than 1 foot.

Carrying this a step further, the report goes on to state that “For storm events larger than a 500-year event, it is anticipated that reducing Lake Conroe by 2 feet before a storm event could potentially increase the flood hazard downstream of the dam if the peak release is delayed such that it occurs at the same time as other tributaries to the West Fork of the San Jacinto River.”

A second Freece and Nichols report entitled “Proposed Lowering of Lake Conroe Conservation Pool: Potential Impacts on San Jacinto Basin Water Supplies” and listed on SJRA’s website is argued to be support for the Program.  This 31-page report does little to address Hurricane Harvey or flooding in the Kingwood area.   Stating the obvious, the report says if the lake level on Lake Conroe is reduced, there will be less water available to sell and less available for drought contingency.  It goes on to say “Reduction in pool elevation could result in larger and more prolonged reductions in storage during dry conditions…..and could potentially reduce recovery to the 201’ normal pool elevation”.  And finally, “Replacement of water diversion reducing pool elevation could require the development of major project infrastructure with associated costs”.

Summarized information from the two (2) Freece and Nichols reports described above was used to develop a response from SJRA to Lyle Larson, Chairman, House Committee on Natural Resources in a letter dated April 16, 2018.  You may review the redundant information on SJRA’s website as it is listed as further support used by the SJRA Board in making its decision to lower Lake Conroe’s lake level.

Lake Conroe was reduced by 1 foot under SJRA’s Program between March 1 and April 30, 2018, by 2 feet between August 1 and September 30, 2018, and by 2 feet between August 1 and September 30, 2019.  We had no storm events, and Kingwood experienced no benefit from SJRA’s Program.

Lake Conroe was reduced by 1 foot under SJRA’s Program between March 1 and April 30, 2019.  SJRA’s November 21, 2019 Press Release suggests their Program is a success because it rained in early May, 2019 and the Program “resulted in both lower peak Lake Conroe lake levels during the storm and lower release rates from the Lake Conroe dam”.  I won’t refute the words in between the “quotes”, but I certainly wouldn’t therefore deem the Program a success.  During this rain event, Lake Conroe rose by 2 feet.  Homes on Lake Conroe would not have flooded with the addition of 2 feet of water and water released from the dam could have been done so at a slow and consistent rate so as not to unnecessarily flood those downstream including Kingwood.

During September, 2019, Hurricane Imelda hit the Houston area and caused flooding in Kingwood again (with some Kingwood areas flooding worse than the floods caused by Hurricane Harvey).  The Conroe area saw minimal rainfall and had no necessity to release any water (with or without SJRA’s Program in place).  Kingwood floods – that’s all there is to it.  Since its creation in 1973, Lake Conroe and SJRA have been blamed for Kingwood flooding.  Even when SJRA doesn’t release water from its dam, it gets blamed for Kingwood flooding.  Due to its geographic location where many tributaries converge, poor civil engineering design and improper maintenance of Lake Houston and the West Fork of the San Jacinto River, Kingwood floods.   The SJRA Program will not change that.

And what of the “value” of the water released under SJRA’s Program?  Water is always touted as a valuable commodity not to be wasted.  SJRA has released 21.5 BILLION gallons of water in 2019 under its Program.  Applying SJRA’s raw water rate of $0.48 per 1,000 gallons or the City of Houston’s raw water rate of $0.7209 per 1,000 gallons, that comes to $10.3 MILLION or $15.4 MILLION, respectively.  Both argue that without a customer to buy the water, the water maintains no value and they are wasting nothing.  Yet both SJRA and the City of Houston are selling raw water to themselves daily, treating that water for purification, and selling the treated water to the public.  If the raw water has no value, maybe they should just charge customers a “processing  fee” for water purification and eliminate the charge for the raw water itself.

Let it not be forgotten that Lake Conroe’s lake level has been down greater than 2 feet for four consecutive months now – not just the two months of August and September, 2019.  Without any valid technical support upon which to base its decision, I do not agree with any vote by the SJRA Board in favor of continuing SJRA’s Program.  Nor do I see how the elected officials in support of SJRA’s Program can continue to sit in the background and do nothing to eliminate it.

The SJRA Board will vote on February 27, 2020 as to continuing, modifying or eliminating its current Seasonal Lake Level Adjustment Program for the next year.  If you disagree with this Program and want to see it removed, let SJRA’s Management and Board know how you feel.  To write letters, SJRA’s mailing address is PO Box 329, Conroe, Texas  77305.  To send e-mails to SJRA’s Management, the General Manager’s e-mail address is jhouston@sjra.net.  To contact the SJRA Board, please visit www.sjra.net/about/board or e-mail floodmanagementdivision@sjra.net.  You can also express your feelings by attending a SJRA Board Meeting on December 12, January 23 or February 27 which start at 8AM and are held at SJRA’s Lake Conroe Campus at 1577 Dam Site Road in the 3rd Floor Conference Room.  If you don’t take the time to let SJRA’s Management and Board of Directors know how you feel, you should expect to see continued lower lake levels for years to come.  Please be heard.

Mike Bleier, President

Lake Conroe Association

 

 

 

 

LCA PRESIDENT’S UPDATE as of August 25, 2019

LCA PRESIDENT’S UPDATE

as of August 25, 2019

Is it hot enough for you? July and August are always difficult months for us in Texas. We don’t want to work outside. Our lawns and gardens are suffering. Our water and AC bills are high. I try to remind myself it’s the price we pay for the “other wonderful 10 months” we so much get to enjoy living here. I’m leaving for Lake Tahoe next week to beat the heat. I miss 60 degree lows and 80 degree highs! Here’s what’s going on around Lake Conroe when we’re not complaining about the weather:

AQUATIC PLANT AND FISH UPDATE: A Stakeholder’s Meeting of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), the San Jacinto River Authority (SJRA), the Lake Conroe Association (LCA) and anglers was held on August 15. A survey of Lake Conroe’s plant and fish populations is currently being conducted by TPWD and should be completed for release by the end of September. Significant information from their 2018 survey showed Hydrilla only in TPWD “test cages” (0.003 acres), 3 acres of Water Hyacinth, 13 acres of Giant Salvinia, 28 acres of Alligator Weed, and only 135 acres of native plants (down from over 2,000 acres in 2006). The reduction of Hydrilla and native plants is directly attributable to the 2006-2008 White Amur Grass Carp releases (about 125,000 Grass Carp).

TPWD estimates that 1,605 Grass Carp remain in Lake Conroe at this time, and that they have kept both Hydrilla and native plants at low numbers. Further, they project a resurgence of both Hydrilla and native plants in the not-too-distant future as Grass Carp numbers decline and their appetite diminishes with age. A program similar to 2006-2008 (with 125,000 Grass Carp introduced) is not the plan going forward. While it all-but-eliminated Hydrilla, it badly decimated the important native plant population. Native plants are vital to a healthy Lake Conroe in terms of water quality, controlling soil erosion, and providing fish habitat.

TPWD laid out a preliminary plan to control future Hydrilla resurgence. It involves a minimal Grass Carp stocking (as few as 500 in a first stocking) as soon as Hydrilla appears coupled with an extensive herbicide campaign with a new product called ProcellaCOR. The benefits of ProcellaCOR are that it is proven to kill Hydrilla while providing only minimal damage to native plants. Unfortunately, it comes at an expensive price tag and will mostly likely require some cost-sharing between TPWD, SJRA and the LCA. The LCA is prepared to do its part. Until Hydrilla re-appears, let’s just enjoy our beautiful lake and know that a cooperative, effective plan will be developed between all the Stakeholders. Any new information will be shared with you upon receipt.

SJRA SEASONAL LAKE LEVEL ADJUSTMENT PROGRAM: As you are witnessing, the lake level of Lake Conroe is being intentionally lowered once again by SJRA under their Seasonal Lake Level Adjustment Program. Framed as assisting those downstream (i.e. Kingwood) with flood control during typically high rain months and to cooperate with a dredging program on the West Fork of the San Jacinto River, SJRA has lowered the lake to an elevation of 199.46’ MSL (mean sea level) as of today and will continue to lower the lake until it reaches an elevation 199’ MSL – or 2 feet below the standard pool elevation of 201’ MSL. SJRA will maintain that lake level of 199’ MSL through September 30, 2019, and then allow the lake to return to a level of 201’ MSL thereafter (assuming it rains). The LCA opposes this program and has voiced its displeasure at SJRA Board Meetings and to any elected official who will listen. Clearly, the Board of Directors of SJRA doesn’t care to listen as they have voted unanimously two (2) years in a row to lower our lake level. The SJRA vote to continue, modify or discontinue this program for 2020 will occur in February, 2020. The LCA is working to encourage a change to the current program. More to follow.

LCA MEMBERSHIP DRIVE: In May, 2019, the LCA notified its members that we needed to comply with regulations that apply to 501 (c) 3 Non-Profit Organizations by determining the true quantity of our membership. That “quantity” is required to determine a “quorum” for annual voting purposes. Since we had not requested donations since 2006 and so many people had moved (or changed contact information), we could not adequately quantify that membership number. We asked those desiring to continue as a LCA Member to make a donation of $10 or more. While we have 3,006 individuals/families/businesses in our database, those contributing $10 or more in this Membership Drive totaled 492. We are very appreciative of their donations. If you are in our database (3,006), you have received this LCA President’s Update and will continue to do so. But, only those 516 individuals/families/businesses making a donation will be provided a voting proxy at year end. Should you have not received our Membership Drive Request (or simply let it slip your mind) and desire to become a LCA Member, a donation of $10 or more can be mailed to Lake Conroe Association, PO Box 376, Willis Texas 77378. We are working to allow payment by credit card or electronic funds transfer in 2020 as this has been requested by our membership.

4 NEW INDIVIDUALS ELECTED TO LCA BOARD OF DIRECTORS: The LCA contacted 50 POA’s on Lake Conroe in May, 2019 to request volunteers to join the LCA Board of Directors. Over time, a Board ages; and new energy and ideas from incoming Board Members help to invigorate the organization. We interviewed 14 applicants for the positions. We are pleased to announce the following new LCA Board Members (and the sub-division in which they reside):
 Kevin Lacy, Seven Coves
 Paul Waits, Wildwood Shores
 Mike McDuffie, Bentwater and Carlton Woods
 Rob Hausler, Harbor Town
These volunteers join an existing LCA Board of Rich Cutler (Shelter Bay), Sue Wheatley (Del Lago Estates), Ben Richardson (Harbor Town and Palms Marina), Dawn Cleboski (Del Lago Sections 1 /2), Gene Barrington (Del Lago Section 3), and Mike Bleier (Bentwater). Should you have a future interest in joining the LCA Board, please contact me at parmgb@aol.com.

AQUIFER PUMPAGE DEBATE: Prior to 2016, 100% of Montgomery County’s water supply was pumped from the Jasper Aquifer. As the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District (LSGCD) was concerned about “over-pumping” the aquifer (and the lack of re-charge and fear of subsidence), its Board voted in 2009 to mandate a 30% reduction in the amount of water pumped from the Jasper Aquifer in Montgomery County by 2016. That 30% reduction was achieved by pumping from the Catahoula Aquifer as well as SJRA’s construction of its $500 million Water Treatment Facility (completed in 2015). Soon thereafter, certain entities criticized the LSGCD 30% reduction rule and the cost of buying water from SJRA. Those entities lobbied to change the LSGCD Board from a Governor-appointed Board to a publicly-elected Board; and, in 2017, The State of Texas approved the modification of LSGCD’s Board to publicly-elected. Much political hoopla followed, and a new LSGCD Board was elected by the public in 2018. That new Board made its immediate priority to eliminate the LSGCD 30% aquifer pumpage reduction regulation in a unanimous vote and submitted a revised plan to The State of Texas (with no limit as to how much water could be pumped from the aquifers). The State of Texas rejected LSGCD’s proposed Management Plan (unlimited pumpage from the aquifers) and instructed it to utilize management goals approved by groundwater districts in surrounding counties. Last month, a report released by Southern Methodist University (and funded by NASA and SMU) linked the over-pumping of water from aquifers to the movement of fault lines causing damage across Montgomery County. Who’s right? Will science or politics prevail? Does the cost of water trump environmental concerns? The debate goes on.

DREDGING CONTRACT EXTENDED ON WEST FORK OF SAN JACINTO RIVER: Subsequent to Hurricane Harvey and the devastation incurred in Kingwood and the surrounding area, a contract was executed with The City of Houston, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and The Corps of Engineers for the removal of sand and debris deposited during Hurricane Harvey in the West Fork of the San Jacinto River. That $69.8 Million contract allowed 270 days to remove 1.8 million cubic yards of sediment from a 2-mile stretch of the river above the Lake Houston dam by May 3, 2019.

The City of Houston has spent several months working with FEMA and The Corps of Engineers to determine how much additional material was deposited in the West Fork of the San Jacinto River near the entrance to Lake Houston. In early June, the Corps executed a modification to the West Fork San Jacinto River Emergency Debris Removal contract to dredge an additional 497,400 cubic yards of material that was deposited during Hurricane Harvey. Dredging is expected to be completed before the end of 2019 and the demobilization of equipment in early 2020. As best I can tell, the additional cost of this modification is in excess of $17 Million.

I update you on this project on the San Jacinto River since this contract was the primary reason the SJRA Board of Directors implemented their Seasonal Lake Level Adjustment Program. With this contract projected to be completed by early 2020, the LCA feels that the SJRA Board should eliminate or modify the Seasonal Lake Level Adjustment Program in its February, 2020 vote.

FEMA FLOOD CONTROL AWARD AND ADDITIONAL GATES TO BE ADDED TO LAKE HOUSTON DAM: FEMA has awarded Houston funds for the construction of 10 additional gates at the Lake Houston dam and detention basins in Inwood Forest. Per District E Councilman Dave Martin, the gates will “increase the flow out of Lake Houston significantly and won’t impact downstream residents”. U.S. Representative Dan Crenshaw said the gates would “dramatically improve the city’s ability to manage Lake Houston’s water and accommodate heavy rainfall”. The Inwood Forest project aims to build 12 detention basins on a defunct golf course in Northwest Houston and hold the equivalent of 592 Olympic-sized swimming pools. According to an article in the Houston Chronicle, the two projects include $5.4 Million for permitting/design and $86.8 Million to construct the dam gates and basins.

OIL & GAS DEVELOPMENT ON LAKE CONROE: The LCA, in cooperation with The Center For Biological Diversity, stopped the lease of lands by The Bureau of Land Management in the Sam Houston National Forest for Oil and Gas exploration in 2016. Arguments were made that drilling around and under a water supply reservoir like Lake Conroe were not in the public’s best interests. In 2019, an independent operator has been acquiring rights to private lands around Lake Conroe for the same purpose. Information available to the LCA has been forwarded to SJRA for their consideration.

These pages should be enough to exhaust you by now. Should you have any questions or comments, you may contact the LCA via our website www.lakeconroeassociation.com or contact me directly at parmgb@aol.com. Thanks for your interest in our lake community.

Mike Bleier, President

Lake Conroe Association

LCA President’s Update as of November 17, 2018

LCA President’s Update as of November 17, 2018

The lake goes down. The lake goes up. And so has been the story of Lake Conroe since our last LCA President’s Update dated July 29, 2018 when the lake level was 200.52 msl (mean sea level). The San Jacinto River Authority (SJRA) began releasing water from Lake Conroe as part of its “seasonal adjustment strategy” on August 1 when they reported a lake level of 200.61. By August 31, SJRA reported its “temporary flood mitigation goal” of 199.0 had been reached and releases from Lake Conroe were to end (subject to future rains). So, of course, it began to rain; so much so that over 11 inches of water were released between September 1 and 13 to again reduce the lake level to 199.0. Gradual rains initiated lake level increases in early October, and then we were inundated with a storm averaging 3.96 inches of rainfall across the watershed such that by October 17 Lake Conroe had risen 1.26 feet and exceeded the normal pool elevation of 201.0 once again. Considerable rain occurred in the northern portion of our watershed and SJRA reported they “wouldn’t be surprised to see runoff continue for a week or more” and “when the ground is fully saturated, we’ve seen 3 or 4 inches of rain result in 15 to 20 inches of lake level rise. It’s amazing how much difference soil saturation makes”. And so we have lived with seemingly endless days of rain throughout October and early November where Lake Conroe has exceeded 201.0 for 32 of the past 48 days. Today’s lake level is reported to be 201.07.

Many of our LCA Members have expressed their dissatisfaction with SJRA’s “seasonal adjustment program” and the lowering of Lake Conroe by 2 feet. In response, we communicated with 55 POA’s on Lake Conroe and numerous businesses to request documentation of difficulties experienced as a direct result of lowering the lake level to 199.0. Many thanks to those of you who submitted responses. We have built a file with the intention of presenting your concerns to the SJRA Board in January, 2019. We anticipate that the SJRA Board will vote in February, 2019 as to whether to continue their “seasonal adjustment program” in 2019 under similar parameters (1 foot reduction March 1 – April 30 and 2 foot reduction August 1 – September 30), modified parameters, or no reduction at all.

SJRA’s “seasonal adjustment program” was initiated in response to flooding in the Kingwood and surrounding areas during Hurricane Harvey and the subsequent Corps of Engineers dredging project of the West Fork of the San Jacinto River. That $69.8 million project funded with FEMA monies saw dredge staging begin July 19, 2018, general debris removal/disposal and dredging begin September 21, and demobilization and cleanup to be completed by May 14, 2019 (subject to allowable delays). The aim of this project is to remove 1.8 million yards of sediment deposited as a result of Hurricane Harvey. The LCA receives monthly project updates from the Corps Supervisor responsible for this project.

It should be noted that Harris County voters approved a $2.5 billion flood bond package in August, 2018. Within this bond package, approximately $50 million was been earmarked as “permissible for dredging of the West Fork of the San Jacinto River and Lake Houston to remove debris and sediment deposited before Hurricane Harvey”. We envision that supporters of these dredging projects will attempt to utilize these $50 million immediately upon the completion of the current Corps project so as to avoid the removal of dredge equipment from the site and incur the significant start-up costs associated with transporting/setting up out-of-state dredge equipment to the site for the possible 2019/2020 project.

The LCA toured the Kingwood area in May, 2018 to review residential/business devastation and significant sediment deposits (sand bars) resulting from Hurricane Harvey. We were escorted by a very knowledgeable, energized volunteer named Bob Rehak who has expended endless hours attempting to promote the restoration of the Kingwood area as well as programs to reduce flooding in the future. His website, reduceflooding.com, provides much background on the situation should you be interested.

NEW SJRA BOARD MEMBER: Governor Abbott’s Appointment Office has appointed Ms. Brenda Cooper to the SJRA Board. Brenda is a Walden resident and someone active in our community. The LCA welcomes her as an advocate of issues involving Lake Conroe, its residents and local businesses.

NEW AQUATIC INVASIVE SPECIES ON LAKE CONROE – CRESTED FLOATING HEART: SJRA and Texas Parks & Wildlife (TPWD) have identified an invasive species new to Lake Conroe named Crested Floating Heart. This invasive is a rooted, floating leaf plant with heart-shaped leaves and showy white flowers. It is deemed highly invasive due to its unique reproductive habits which include daughter plants that develop on the stem, eventually break free, and float away to become rooted in another location. Further, this plant can reproduce by fragmentation which can be particularly difficult to control since any kind of physical damage to the plants will accelerate their invasion. Fragmentation can occur naturally by insect grazing or storm events, but it is more commonly caused by humans in areas where there is a lot of recreational use and boat traffic (sound like Lake Conroe?). It has been primarily identified in the back of Little Lake Creek (the area northwest of the bridge going over Lake Conroe and towards the town of Montgomery on FM1097) although it has been also identified downstream of that bridge. Remediation has been initiated by SJRA and TPWD via a spray crew from TPWD Jasper applying a new herbicide called Procellacor. Approximately 14 acres were treated on Friday, November 2. Reports of this invasive elsewhere have noted expansion from 20 to 2,000 acres in a period of two years where the plant has gone untreated. A photo of this plant is shown at the bottom of this letter.

LCA ANNUAL MEETING: The Annual Meeting of the LCA will occur on Thursday, January 17, 2019 at 10AM at the SJRA dam site office (3rd floor conference room) off Hwy 105. LCA Members and the general public are welcome. An overview of past year will be briefly provided, questions from attendees will be answered, and ballots will be counted for the 2019 LCA Board of Directors. We will be conducting our Annual Election of the LCA Board of Directors electronically this year (via e-mail) so as to reach the maximum number of eligible voters and reduce the administrative cost of printing and mailing ballots and envelopes. If you are a LCA Member, you should receive your e-mail voting package by December 27, 2018. As always, anyone interested in joining the LCA Board should contact us and attend one of our LCA Board Meetings held a minimum of every three (3) months. We are always looking for new individuals to join the Board and represent your sub-division and community.

Thank you for your interest and time in reviewing this LCA President’s Update. For additional information regarding the LCA, to review previous LCA President’s Updates, or to review links to relevant web sites, please visit us at www.lakeconroeassociation.com. To make a donation to the LCA, contributions may be mailed to Lake Conroe Association, P.O. Box 376, Willis, Texas 77378. Should you have any questions, you may contact us via the LCA web site or e-mail me directly at parmgb@aol.com. Wishing you safety on the lake and a very happy holiday season.

Mike Bleier, President

Lake Conroe Association