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

LCA REQUEST FOR DOCUMENTATION FROM POA’S

LCA REQUEST FOR DOCUMENTATION FROM POA’S

Well, the San Jacinto River Authority (SJRA) has completed lowering Lake Conroe’s lake level to 199’ as part of its “seasonal adjustment” program for the period August 1 to September 30, 2018. As you are aware, SJRA’s rationale behind this program is to allow Lake Conroe to hold more water in a significant rain event (and not release that water downstream) while the West Fork of the San Jacinto River is being dredged. Two (2) dredges measuring 90 feet long by 25 feet wide were transported in, reassembled, and dredging commenced September 6, 2018. The dredging contract is scheduled to be completed May 3, 2019.

The Lake Conroe Association (LCA) desires to gather documentation on the actual consequences of lowering our lake level to 199’. As part of that effort, we are asking POA’s around Lake Conroe to document how lowering the lake level to 199’ affects lake access for residents in your community/sub-division. A best case scenario would be taking 3-5 pictures of locations in your sub-division having the most difficulty with lake access. If pictures aren’t your thing, a brief written description of any problems your sub-division is having would suffice. We’d ask that you forward the pictures and/or written description to me at parmgb@aol.com so that the LCA may collect as much data as possible.

Time is somewhat of the essence. SJRA will maintain our lake level at 199’ only until either 1) when we get a significant rain event which requires us to not release water downstream (and our lake level is allowed to rise for downstream flood control), or 2) September 30. After September 30, any rainfall will be captured until the lake level returns to an elevation of 201’. It being September 12 today, you have a very narrow window of opportunity to help the LCA by providing the documentation. Please take a moment NOW and shoot those pictures while we’re at the 199’ elevation. We all know that placing the task on “future to-do list” risks having your more significant priorities delay ever getting to this project….and WE REALLY NEED YOUR HELP!

The LCA is in communication with SJRA on lake level reductions. The LCA is in communication with the Corps of Engineers (contracting entity on the dredge project) on the dredging program and will be obtaining monthly updates on project status. The LCA is meeting with local businesses to inquire whether lake level reductions to 199’ are affecting their revenue and profitability. And the LCA is working with 55 POA’s on Lake Conroe to both obtain “lake level documentation” and provide ongoing communication on this issue.

Again, PLEASE HELP US HELP YOU! Thanks, in advance, for your time and cooperation.

Mike Bleier, President

Lake Conroe Association

parmgb@aol.com

(936) 449-6815

LCA PRESIDENT’S UPDATE as of July 30, 2018

LCA PRESIDENT’S UPDATE

as of July 30, 2018

The LCA has been informed that the reduction of lake levels on Lake Conroe will begin this coming week. While a final press release is currently being completed by The City of Houston and the San Jacinto River Authority (SJRA), we can report the following:

1.      The current lake level on Lake Conroe is 200.52.

2.      Water will begin to be slowly released starting August 1 or shortly thereafter.

3.      The release rate should approximate no more than 1 inch per day which has been determined to be a “safe” rate for those downstream.

4.      Between this “1 inch per day release” and daily evaporation this time of year, we would estimate that the lake will reach its intended “seasonally adjusted level” of 199’ by August 16 (this is the LCA’s estimate and not a projection provided by SJRA).

5.      The objective would be to maintain Lake Conroe’s lake level at or near 199’ through September 30, 2018. Rainfall (and associated runoff) will temporarily increase that level and evaporation may decrease that level.

6.      Effective October 1, 2018, water will once again be collected from rainfall (and not released) and the lake allowed to naturally return to its normal pool elevation of 201’ (assuming it rains).

The primary rationale adopted by The City of Houston and SJRA for this “seasonal adjustment” is a) allow Lake Conroe to hold and not release water during small rain events, b) to keep water from being released into the West Fork of the San Jacinto River, c) while dredging is being completed on the West Fork of the San Jacinto River. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) waived its enforcement of regulations on releasing water from Lake Conroe when the lake is at or below an elevation of 201’ SPECIFICALLY to support this “rationale”. Why is this fact important?

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is overseeing this $69.8 million project. Under the contract terms, the dredging company awarded the contract has 270 days to remove 1.8 million yards of sediment from a 2-mile stretch of the river above the Lake Houston dam. A contract timetable calls for “general debris removal and disposal” and “dredging” to commence on August 20 and September 1, respectively; and calls for “demobilize and cleanup” to be completed by May 3, 2019. Given these contract terms and the “rationale” adopted by TCEQ, water SHOULD NOT BE RELEASED from Lake Conroe after May 3, 2019 unless the lake level exceeds 201’. We could see an SJRA Board and City of Houston-approved reduction of 1’ to a “seasonally adjusted” level of 200’ between April 1 and May 3, 2019, but we should not see any lake level reductions (“seasonal adjustments”) past May 3 on Lake Conroe in 2019.

Of course, contracts get modified, excessive rains can slow contract completion, and TCEQ can modify its “rationale”. The LCA’s future focus will be an ongoing review of contract completion and trying to hold everyone to this May 3, 2019 completion date. Look for SJRA and City of Houston’s press release this week for more specifics. We’ll keep you posted.

Mike Bleier, President

Lake Conroe Association

LCA PRESIDENT’S UPDATE as of June 17, 2018

We just received letters from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), the Texas Department of Public Safety, and the Texas Division of Emergency Management. Copies of the letters will be posted to our LCA website. Key statements follow:

“As TCEQ understands, SJRA, in coordination with The City of Houston, have developed an emergency driven seasonal strategy for managing the water reservoirs during periods of heavy rainfall. TCEQ further understands that these measures would be utilized only on a temporary basis to mitigate flooding while dredging activities are completed. Those measures include releases under certain conditions from Lake Conroe or Lake Houston as determined necessary to mitigate impacts from future flood events. Additionally, according to SJRA, the lake lowering strategy would be reviewed and evaluated annually in February and must be agreed on by the SJRA Board and The City of Houston to continue.”

“As we move into the 2018 Hurricane Season, in which we have already seen one named storm, the Agency recognizes the need to protect public health and safety by addressing and mitigating potential flooding. Accordingly, if flood mitigation releases made under these conditions result in an exceedance of the annual permitted amounts authorized for diversion or release by SJRA or The City of Houston, the TCEQ Executive Director will exercise enforcement discretion with respect to such exceedance.”

In other words, SJRA WILL BE LOWERING LAKE LEVELS ON LAKE CONROE.

Further, WATER RELEASED FOR FLOOD CONTROL WILL NOT COUNT AGAINST THE APPROXIMATE 5’ OF WATER AUTHORIZED PER YEAR FOR WATER SALES AND/OR CONSUMPTION.

I release this information prior to newspaper publication or discussion amongst the LCA Board in an effort to get this information to you immediately. As the LCA Board has not yet discussed this new information, I have no report on any next action by the LCA.

For all of us on Lake Conroe, this is not good news. As written to me by State Representative Metcalf, “This is obviously not the news we were hoping to hear. Senator Nichols and I will continue to work with our colleagues and others in Austin and Montgomery County to ensure the most protection possible for Lake Conroe.”

From some of you, we expect to hear an outcry for litigation. I am not a lawyer, but I’m guessing it’s an uphill (and extremely expensive) battle to fight decisions made by TCEQ, the Texas Department of Public Safety, and the Texas Division of Emergency Management…..and endorsed by Governor Abbott. For the lawyers in and around Lake Conroe, I’m certainly open to your feedback. The LCA does have lawyers who have offered assistance in this matter, and we will contact them for feedback as well.

Mike Bleier, President

Lake Conroe Association

Lake Conroe Association President’s Update June 4, 2018

LCA PRESIDENT’S UPDATE

as of June 4, 2018

 

This Update provides information regarding SJRA-requested lake level reductions on Lake Conroe.

MAY 10, 2018 LCA SPECIAL MEETING:

The LCA hosted a Special Meeting of Lake Conroe POA’s (Property Owner Association) to gather opinions and information from stakeholders related to proposed lake level reductions. 30 POA’s representing 14,748 homes on Lake Conroe attended the meeting. Responses to a questionnaire provided at this meeting (and supplemented with 6 POA’s via phone) is summarized as follows:

·        Average water depth at bulkhead when lake is at 201’ elevation…….35” (Details were 3 less than 1’, 8 between 1-2 feet, 16 between 2-3 feet, 8 between 3-4 feet, 1 greater than 5 feet)

·        What lake level reductions would you accept between April 1 and May 31 for a period of not greater than 2 years?……18 said “None”, 13 said 6”, 5 said 12”, no one said greater than 12”

·        What lake level reductions would you accept between August 1 and September 30 for a period of not greater than 2 years?……15 said “None”, 12 said 6”, 8 said 12”, and 1 said 24”

·        Would you consider a “temporary” lake level reduction extending past 2 years?…..4 said “Yes”, 32 said “No”

·        Do you believe SJRA should fund its new Flood Management Division by increasing the rate it charges for raw water to its raw water customers?…..6 said “Yes”, 30 said “No”

In summary, all 36 POA’s in attendance (or by phone) did not support the SJRA Board vote to reduce lake levels on Lake Conroe by 12” between April 1 and May 31 and by 24” between August 1 and September 30.

 

MAY 24, 2018 SJRA BOARD MEETING:

The LCA presented at this meeting for 25 minutes and provided the SJRA Board and its officers a 42 page packet which outlined information obtained by the LCA and showed that the lake area public consensus did not support SJRA’s decision.  The SJRA Board was asked to reconsider its position and recast a vote on lake level reductions, but SJRA declined to modify its position or recast a vote.

The LCA also requested that SJRA better clarify its use of the term “temporary” as applied in its term “temporary seasonal lake level reductions” and define special circumstances that could lead to lake level reductions going beyond 2 years. No clear clarification was provided by SJRA.

SJRA emphasized that no decision on lake level reductions had been finalized since conclusions had not been received from The City of Houston or Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ).

 

LCA ACTIONS SINCE THE MAY 24, 2018 SJRA BOARD MEETING:

The LCA has:

·        Shared written communications and held numerous conversations with State Senator Robert Nichols, State Representative Will Metcalf, and State Senator Brandon Creighton (and their respective staffs). They have been in communication with SJRA, The City of Houston, and TCEQ, and have expressed opinions to SJRA’s proposed lake level reduction program. Further, they have asked their staff to remain in communication with TCEQ in the event SJRA or The City of Houston request a water yield permit modification from TCEQ; and have assured the LCA that we will be notified should such a permit modification be submitted to TCEQ.

·        Submitted the LCA 42-page packet of information (same as presented to SJRA and listed above) to The City of Houston Public Works Department Director, the TCEQ Deputy Director Office of Water, and the TCEQ Interim Executive Director. The packets were accompanied by a cover letter stating the LCA’s opposition to SJRA’s proposed lake level reductions on behalf of the Lake Conroe community.

LCA’s CLOSING COMMENTS:

It should be noted that SJRA did not release any water between April 1 and May 31, 2018 under its proposed lake level reduction program. Among the rationale provided, SJRA did not obtain permission to do so from its 2/3 partner (The City of Houston) nor has it been granted a water yield permit modification from TCEQ.

Based on information provided to us, TCEQ has not received a written request from either SJRA or The City of Houston for the modification of their water yield permit.

Some in our lake community believe litigation should be initiated against SJRA, The City of Houston, and/or TCEQ regarding this proposed lake level reduction. The LCA does not currently share this opinion based on: 1) no lake level reduction program has been approved by The City of Houston, 2) no application has been submitted to TCEQ to modify their water yield permit application, 3) no water has been released related to this program, 4) our local elected officials are working with us on this issue, and 5) initiating litigation immediately closes down communication between parties who may have attempted to clarify or modify the current proposal. Too many in today’s world throw around the words “litigation” and “class action lawsuit” as if it’s just the way the world works today. We concur that investigating our legal rights through an attorney is a prudent action, but we feel initiating litigation is premature at this time. We believe there remains much work to be done before resorting to litigation; but, in the event lake levels on Lake Conroe DO plan to be reduced by more than 12” after all reasonable efforts are exhausted, then litigation may become a course of action.

The LCA still believes that providing a “temporary” lake level reduction on Lake Conroe of not greater than 12” is a reasonable accommodation to our downstream neighbors. More than half of those attending our May 10 LCA Special Meeting agreed. We will keep you posted on any significant developments. Should you have questions or comments, please e-mail us at lca@lakeconroe.com.

 

Mike Bleier, President, Lake Conroe Association