TRA, SJRA OK option agreement

Posted: Monday, April 29, 2013 10:48 pm

ARLINGTON – The Trinity River Authority board approved an option agreement with the San Jacinto River Authority Monday for the sale of up to 50,000 acre-fee per year of water from Lake Livingston.

The SJRA board previously approved the same agreement March 28.

The agreement represents a key step toward fully implementing the State Water Plan, establishing up to a 15-year option period for the two river authorities to complete all steps – including necessary approvals for an inter-basin transfer – that will move water from Lake Livingston to Lake Conroe.

“Conducting long-term water supply planning is a responsibility we take very seriously because we know it’s essential to our state’s success,” said TRA board President Harold Barnard. “We have to get water to the people who need it, and that simply can’t be done without strategic partnerships, especially between river basins. What we’ve been able to achieve through our partnership with SJRA is a great example of what Texas’ major water providers can do when they work together.”

The agreement requires the payment of an annual option fee equal to 5 percent of TRA’s approved raw water rate. For 50,000 acre-feet of water at TRA’s current rate, the option fee is approximately $238,000 per year.

At a future date, TRA and SJRA will determine appropriate timing for the delivery of water from Lake Livingston to Lake Conroe.

“This is just the first step in a long process, but it’s an important milestone for Montgomery County,” said SJRA board President Lloyd Tisdale. “Now we can look 50 to 100 years into the future and have confidence that our water supplies can keep up with the extraordinary economic and population growth that we’re experiencing.”

Created by the Texas Legislature in 1937, the San Jacinto River Authority is a government agency whose mission is to develop, conserve and protect the water resources of the San Jacinto River basin. Covering all or part of seven counties, the organization’s jurisdiction includes the entire San Jacinto River watershed, excluding Harris County.

SJRA is one of 10 major river authorities in Texas, and like other river authorities, its primary purpose is to implement long-term, regional projects related to water supply and wastewater treatment. For more information, visit www.sanjacintoriverauthority.com.

The Trinity River Authority of Texas is a conservation and reclamation district providing wastewater and water treatment, along with recreation and reservoir facilities, for municipalities within the nearly 18,000-square-mile Trinity River basin.

Each TRA operating project is an independent financial entity, and TRA receives no tax revenues or appropriations. For more information, visit www.trinityra.org.

TAG: LSGCD

SJRA taps into Trinity

Posted: Saturday, March 30, 2013 10:55 pm

With the approval of a 15-year option agreement, the San Jacinto River Authority has taken the first step to securing an alternate water source for Montgomery County.

The SJRA board voted Thursday to enter into a contract with the Trinity River Authority for the purchase of up to 50,000 acre-feet per year of water from Lake Livingston. The agreement gives the SJRA 15 years to finalize a water supply contract and complete other steps necessary to transfer water from Lake Livingston into Lake Conroe.

The 50,000 acre-feet is half of Lake Conroe’s annual yield of 100,000 acre-feet.

While a number of steps remain, SJRA board President Lloyd Tisdale calls the agreement an “important milestone” for the county.

“This agreement secures additional water for the future of Montgomery County and ensures that our water supplies can keep up with the extraordinary economic and population growth that we’re experiencing,” he stated.

The TRA board is expected to approve the proposed agreement April 24.

For years, local officials have examined various methods to increase Montgomery County’s surface water capacity. Suggestions have included creation of a second reservoir, but tapping into Trinity River Basin has long been an option.

The agreement gives SJRA the first right of refusal for the water, which requires an annual option fee equal to 5 percent of TRA’s approved raw water rate of $95 per acre-feet. That equates to $237,500 per year for the 50,000 acre-feet.

The annual option will be paid by the utilities participating in the SJRA’s Groundwater Reduction Plan (LSGCD).

“We need to understand that this is the first step of a long journey,” Conroe Mayor Webb Melder said.

When the SJRA decides to secure the water rights from TRA, the annual fee increases to approximately $1.5 million. The fee increases to $4.5 million a year once usage begins, SJRA General Manager Jace Houston said.

But that is well into the future.

“We’re staying well ahead of the curve, but we’ve got to be patient,” he said. “We don’t want to start such a project too soon. We’ll need to monitor the population growth over the next decade.”

The SJRA and the TRA will need to coordinate the arrival of Trinity River water into Montgomery County as the existing water rights in Lake Conroe won’t be utilized for several decades. As part of its GRP, the SJRA is constructing a surface water treatment plant on Lake Conroe and installing approximately 50 miles of pipeline to reduce the county’s dependence on groundwater starting Jan. 1, 2016.

A preliminary cost estimate of installing a pipeline that carries water the 30 miles between the two reservoirs is $300 million, Houston said.

Another major step facing the SJRA is obtaining the necessary approvals for an interbasin transfer of water from the Trinity River to Lake Conroe.

The permitting process could take five to 10 years and $500,000 in legal fees, Houston said.

“There are still a lot of decisions to be made,” he said. “But this enables us to look 50 to 100 years into the future and have confidence that we’re maximizing Montgomery County’s water supply options.”

Houston’s Luce Bayou project may save Lake Conroe water supply

Posted: Thursday, December 6, 2012 9:27 pm

A project that could ease the city of Houston’s future dependence on Lake Conroe surface water is facing at least one environmental challenge.

The Luce Bayou Interbasin Transfer is a $297 million project designed to convey water owned by Houston from the Trinity River basin to Lake Houston. Currently that water flows into Trinity Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Galveston has studied the Luce Bayou project for more than a decade. Supported by the city of Houston, the Region H Planning Group and other governmental entities, the Luce Bayou project will serve as Houston’s primary backup water supply.

It’s a role already required of Lake Conroe. Although the San Jacinto River Authority agreed to an 80-year contract with Houston in September 2009 for control over all the water in Lake Conroe, Houston retains access to the reservoir.

Each year prior to 2025, the city can request its annual share of surface water, as it did during the drought of 2011. After 2025, the SJRA gets first crack at Lake Conroe’s water, but the city of Houston still will have access to the remaining supply available for pumping, said Jace Houston, SJRA general manager.

“It (the Luce Bayou project) has been a key part of the city of Houston’s water plans for decades,” he said.

But that doesn’t mean everyone is satisfied with the project. The Corps and the Coastal Water Authority held a public hearing Nov. 28 in Dayton to collect comments. Sierra Club representatives attended the hearing and presented USACE engineers with a 90-page document objecting to the project, said Dan Davis, a member of the Lake Conroe Communities Network.

Davis is concerned Sierra Club’s opposition to the plan will pull the plug on the project.

“They (the Sierra Club) have a lot of allies,” he said.

Davis is urging Lake Conroe residents and businesses to email support for the project. December 10 is the deadline for USACE to receive comments.

“This may be the only opportunity for the people in Montgomery County to influence Lake Conroe water levels,” Davis said.

Comments can be emailed to Jayson.m.hudson@usace.army.mil.

“Numbers of letters count in this game,” Davis stated in an email.

TAG: LSGCD

Construction on GRP’s major projects started

Posted: Sunday, December 2, 2012 11:27 pm

LAKE CONROE – With its deadline a little more than three years away, major sections of the Groundwater Reduction Plan project have started.

Those projects include the raw water intake, the surface water treatment plant and two storage tanks, said Mark Smith, GRP administrator for the San Jacinto River Authority.

Meanwhile, the first contracts for installation of the project’s 50 miles of pipeline will be awarded in March, he said.

Construction of the raw water intake is the most noticeable of the work going on along the Lake Conroe dam. Rebar reinforced concrete is being poured some 300 feet out from the dam’s shore for piers designed to support the pump station.

Three pumps will be installed, but there will be room to grow,” Smith said.

The raw water will be pumped out of the dam and into the treatment plant.

“Most of the work there right now is simply site work,” he said.

Once the foundation is completed, work on the treatment plant will include “multiple steps,” such as the pre-treatment and filtration of the water.

Designed to meet a mandated 30 percent reduction in the use of groundwater by the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District (LSGCD), the GRP project has a completion date of Jan. 1, 2016.

LCCN study: County insulated from lake issues

Posted: Friday, August 10, 2012 11:17 pm

By Howard Roden, Conroe Courier

LAKE CONROE – Montgomery County’s healthy, broad and diversified economy is likely to absorb any impact associated with lake level conditions at Lake Conroe, according to a study conducted by Texas A&M University.

The independent study was commissioned in 2010 by the Lake Conroe Communities Network at a total cost of $142,000 to determine what impact – if any – use of the lake’s surface water will have on the surrounding economy.

Among conclusions in the 60-page study is that the “direct economic impact” of the lake is limited to the city of Montgomery and the retail trade sector around the lake.

A study of the sales tax revenue in that area determined quarterly retail trade revenues reported to the state Comptroller’s Office decline 11.5 percent (or $1.6 million per year) in the city of Montgomery per foot of water in the lake, whenever the lake level falls more than 2 feet below the full pool of 201 feet.

However, that impact around Lake Conroe is not as “detectable” in the larger, more diverse economies of Conroe or Montgomery County, or more isolated economies (the city of Willis), according to the study’s executive summary.

“The more the business relies on the lake traffic for business the greater risk from lake fluctuations that may occur in the future,” the study stated.

Although some of the study’s conclusions came as no surprise, LCCN Director Dan Davis said A&M compiled a “very credible” study.

“The study was consistent with what people told us; not only appropriate but defensible,” he said.

County Judge Alan B. Sadler, SJRA Deputy General Manager Jace Houston, Conroe Mayor Webb Melder and Lake Conroe Association member Mike Bleier were contacted about the study, but all said they had not gone over the study in enough detail to comment.

Among other conclusions in the study included:

Lake levels are expected to fall more than 4 feet below full pool 1.6 times more often in phase one of the San Jacinto River Authority’s Groundwater Reduction Plan than in prior periods, and increase to 8.5 times more often in phase four.

Residents in lakefront communities expected a 28 percent decline in residential property values, in which case losses in real estate values would amount to $1.1 billion in the area.

In the near term, immediate proactive conservation efforts should be encouraged.

Two areas of greatest concern expressed by residents and business owners involve the lack of operational control by the local city and county officials. This may mean finding mechanisms to exert their views into operational matters or negotiating an ownership in the lake, or working toward an identifiable role on the SJRA board.