LCA PRESIDENT’S UPDATE

We’re hoping our LCA Members are enjoying 2011 and dealing with the multitude of extreme weather conditions being thrown at us by Mother Nature.  We’ve seen repeated record temperatures throughout June and an extended drought that has browned our grasses, damaged our trees and dropped our lake level more than three (3) feet.  Would you like some good news from your friends at the Lake Conroe Association?

 First, invasive weeds such as Hydrilla, Giant Salvinia and Water Hyacinth are well under control on Lake Conroe.  The primary activity of the LCA since its inception in 1977 has been the review of invasive weeds on Lake Conroe and organizing funding raising activities to raise private money for the control of those invasive weeds.  Thanks to the generosity of our donors, monies contributed by the San Jacinto River Authority (SJRA), and time invested by a combination of the LCA, SJRA and the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, we find our reservoir to be virtually invasive weed-free at this time.  This certainly beats a 2008 which saw infestations of Hydrilla at 2,052 surface acres, Giant Salvinia of 628 surface acres and Water Hyacinth of 68 surface acres.  To fund this effective reduction of invasive weeds, our donors contributed in excess of $600,000 and SJRA “matched” this $600,000 in donations.  The primary use of these funds was the purchase of 123,765 White Amur Grass Carp to combat the explosive growth of Hydrilla.  It is estimated that 32,000 White Amur Grass Carp remain alive in Lake Conroe today.

Second, the study being conducted by Texas A&M University to review the economic and social impact of reducing lake levels on Lake Conroe is more than 50% complete at this time and should be completed by the end of 2011.  An important survey measuring Montgomery County resident opinions on reducing lake levels will be mailed out within the next month to 1 out of every 10 households within a 4 mile radius of Lake Conroe.  Should you receive this survey, please do your best to complete and return the survey on a timely basis as your opinion counts!  Our LCA donors contributed $66,000 towards the total study cost of $142,000.  The LCA believes the study will support our opinion that lowering lake levels (due to the ever-increasing water use in Montgomery County) will negatively affect our local economy and property values, and that alternative water sources for our County should be explored immediately.

Third, we’re NOT asking you for money this year!  We are all aware of how a slowing economy, budget shortfalls and increasing unemployment have hurt so many families and friends.  In light of how important a dollar is to everyone, the LCA Board of Directors has elected to pass on soliciting funds through our Annual LCA Membership Campaign and decided to extend 2011 LCA Membership to all 2010 donors.  We believe our current balance (checking account plus certificates of deposit) is sufficient to meet our financial needs for the upcoming year and see no need to request money from you at this time.   Of course, should an unforeseen emergency occur in 2011 in our community which falls under the objectives of the LCA, we would initiate a fund raiser specific to that cause.  We anticipate renewing our Annual LCA Membership Campaign again in 2012.   For any newcomers interested in joining the LCA or for current LCA Members preferring to make a tax-deductible donation in 2011, donations to our Section 501(c) (3) non-profit organization can be mailed to:  Lake Conroe Association, P.O. Box 376, Willis, Texas  77378.  By our mission statement, the LCA “acts as a civic organization for the purpose of over-seeing, directing, initiating and promulgating programs that directly affect the control, use, and enjoyment of Lake Conroe for the benefit of Montgomery County, Texas.”

With a current lake level of 197.71 feet (over 3 feet below average pool elevation 201.0) and 2011 rainfall totals of only 6 inches (compared to an average 24 inches of rain by this date), we all look forward to some extended rain showers to replenish our reservoir, feed our grasses, plants and trees, and drop our temperatures.  We can all hope, can’t we?  We wish you and your families an enjoyable and prosperous summer of 2011.

Mike Bleier, President

Lake Conroe Association

SJRA joins the hunt for brackish water

Posted: Friday, March 11, 2011 11:04 pm

By Howard Roden | 0 comments

The San Jacinto River Authority is joining other water systems around Lake Conroe in the hunt for brackish water.

Days after the municipal utility districts in April Sound and Bentwater received tentative approval for a permit to pump water from the Catahoula Formation, the SJRA announced Thursday it would consider ways to “effectively incorporate brackish groundwater” into its countywide water plan.

The Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District has a mandated 30 percent reduction in groundwater consumption by Jan. 1, 2016, for those water users who pump 10 million gallons or more annually.

If successful in the search for a sufficient supply of brackish water, the SJRA could save money for the participants of its Groundwater Reduction Plan and slow the draw of surface water from Lake Conroe, SJRA Deputy General Manager Jace Houston said.

The SJRA’s plan would make brackish groundwater part of a portfolio that could include implementation of wastewater reuse and water conservation, Houston stated in a release.

One advantage is a partnership between SJRA and some of its GRP participants to drill brackish wells. The city of Willis is exploring such an option.

“We’re looking long-term at running a surface water pipe to Willis,” Houston said. “If we can put a well up there instead of a pipe, we can avoid that cost.”

Ken Conatser, representing April Sound’s MUDs 3 and 4, went before LSGCD board members Tuesday seeking approval of a proposed operating permit for an alternative water well not to exceed 350 million gallons annually.

LSGCD engineer Mark Lowry recommended delaying a decision until the board’s April 12 meeting, providing more time to study the data from April Sound and Bentwater (MUD 18). Bentwater MUD officials had sought a brackish water permit not to exceed the 125 million gallons the final half of the year.

“We don’t know whether the amount of water (in the Catahoula) is sustainable. There may not be enough, but that is their problem,” Lowry said. “There is nothing I see that would prevent (LSGCD) from issuing a permit.”

Conatser is confident the Catahoula’s water production will have long-term sustainability for the GRP for April Sound and the city of Montgomery. A well drilled from 2,200 feet to 2,800 feet produced drinkable water at 2,500 gallons per minute.

Most of the wells drilled into the Catahoula south of Texas 105 at deeper depths brought forth hot, salty water, Houston said. Conatser said a test well drilled to 3,200 feet got similar results.

The SJRA plans to conduct its own long-term studies on the Catahoula’s viability.

“We still need a lot more information to determine if this is a viable, long-term supply,” stated Arthur Faiello, director of Public Works for the city of Willis. “Developing a well in partnership with everyone else in the SJRA GRP protects us all from the risks associated with testing this unproven supply.”

Interest grows in a brackish water source deep underground

Municipal utility districts and major water users in Montgomery County concerned about the need to find alternative sources of water are digging deep for a solution — and they think they have found it.

A trio of water suppliers approved by the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District are tapping into the Catahoula Formation aquifer as a new resource for providing water to their customers now and in the future. Officials expect that number to grow.

“A study has been commissioned to determine the long-term viability of the Catahoula aquifer,” said Kathy Turner Jones, general manager of the LSGCD. “We want to determine the quantity, quality and suitability of the aquifer as a water resource.”

Turner said wells have been approved for Municipal Utility District 18 in Bentwater and Stanley Lake MUD and UD 3 in April Sound. Panorama Village has been approved for a test well — and Turner said she has heard rumors of interest from other cities and organizations.

Interest in the Catahoula is especially keen because the LSGCD has, for now, determined that water coming out of it will be considered an alternate resource and exempted from a mandate to reduce groundwater usage by 30 percent by Jan. 1, 2016.

To accomplish such a reduction, 85 major water users representing 135 water systems in Montgomery County banded together under a program developed by the San Jacinto River Authority. Jace Houston, deputy general manager of administration for SJRA, said the plan covers 80 percent of the total amount of water used in the county.

Ken Conatser, general manager of UD 3, was critical of the SJRA plan — saying the plan, which requires a commitment through 2045, is outrageously expensive.

“Our projected cost is millions less than it would be if we joined the SJRA program,” he said. “The Catahoula is a cost-efficient alternative.”

Original test wells drilled to 3,200 feet produced poor quality water, but at 2,800 feet — below the Evangeline, Chicot and Jasper aquifers that provide freshwater for Montgomery County — was significantly better.

Conatser said the water is low on dissolved solids and warmer than expected — around 102 degrees — but is quite acceptable. Standard chlorine treatment water from the Catahoula is potable and a viable source for human consumption. And Conatser said water from the aquifer is abundant and plentiful.

Interest in the Catahoula has not gone unnoticed by other utility districts. The SJRA is interested in tapping into the aquifer as an alternative source that would lower its need to rely on surface water — reducing the amount of water it would have to pump out of Lake Conroe beginning in 2016.

Houston said the SJRA is working with the city of Willis on a possible program that would incorporate tapping into the Catahoula aquifer as an alternative resource.

Jones acknowledged LSGCD currently considers the Catahoula exempt from the 30 percent reduction in groundwater reduction required of major users by 2016 but said the agency still maintains supervisory control over the use of this or any water resource in the county.

“The study will go a long way to determining the future use of water from the Catahoula aquifer,” she said. “The district reserves the right to monitor or limit production in the future if it is in the best interest of the public.”

That’s worrisome for Conatser because the members of the LSGCD board are appointed rather than elected. He expressed concern that board members have no consequences for inappropriate actions. Still, he supports the concept of a local agency responsible for local water management.

“I’d rather fight the battles here in Montgomery County than in Austin,” Conatser said.

For more information about the LSGCD, visit www.lonestargcd.org.

Lake Conroe MUDs strike the mother lode on new water

By Howard Roden City editor

In the search for an alternative water supply, the residents of April Sound and Bentwater appear to have struck the mother lode.

Results from two test wells drilled by Municipal Utility Districts 3 and 4 in April Sound show the water found in the Catahoula Formation of the Gulf Coast Aquifer to be “very usable,” and that the quantity available is “far more than anyone expected,” said Ken Conatser, general manager of MUD 3.

Meanwhile, similar results were reported by officials with MUD 18 in Bentwater from its test well.

“We’ve got good quantity and quality,” board member Chris Uzelmeier said.

The Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District board voted Tuesday to allow the water systems to begin construction of their production wells but withheld approval to begin pumping until the LSGCD’s next meeting in March.

Conatser oversees the joint venture intended to provide MUDs 3 and 4 with a source of water other than the San Jacinto River Authority’s Groundwater Reduction Plan. While a majority of the large-volume water systems in Montgomery County have signed on with the river authority’s program, Bentwater and April Sound are among a few Lake Conroe communities looking for a more cost-effective method to achieve a 30-percent reduction in groundwater consumption by 2016.

MUDs 3 and 4 have pursued a search for so-called “brackish” water in the Catahoula, which is located below the three aquifers currently used for the county’s groundwater. But Conatser said tests show the quality of water in the Catahoula — measured by the amount of total dissolved solids — is well within acceptable limits.

“Plus, it’s a whole lot less expensive than what it would cost to join the SJRA plan,” he said.

Scott Weisinger, of Weisinger Water Well and a board member with the LSGCD, was hired by Conatser to drill the 6-inch-diameter test wells. They achieved a flow of 150 gallons per minute.

“It gave us an indication of a good supply,” Weisinger said.

A 20-inch diameter production well has been installed and will pump at speeds of 600 gallons per minute to 2,000 gpm.

The test wells also revealed that the static water level of the Catahoula is three to five times higher than that of the Jasper, Chico and Evangeline aquifers, the primary sources of water in Montgomery County, Weisinger said.

Static water level is the level of groundwater when a pump is not operating.

While the static level ranges from 300 to 500 feet below the ground in the traditional aquifers, Weisinger said water from the Catahoula test well was only 100 feet from the surface.

“It’s almost artesian,” he said.

MUDs 3 and 4 have an agreement with the city of Montgomery in which they will over-convert their water production so Montgomery can attain its 30 percent reduction.

Although MUD 18 was the first water system to drill for an alternative supply, it is not likely to begin pumping until this fall or later, Uzelmeier said.

“We still have to issue bonds to finance the project,” he said. “We took the risk and it paid off.”

Howard Roden can be reached at hroden@hcnonline.com

LCA PRESIDENT’S UPDATE

Wrapping up 2011, it’s been a year unlike any other in Lake Conroe’s 37-year history and record breaking for Montgomery County and most of the State of Texas.  We were parched by record temperatures for most of our Summer and Fall, and the state-wide drought created problems not seen since the 1950’s.  Our poor little Lake Conroe saw record low lake levels, and these low levels have frustrated boaters, fishermen, local businesses, our real estate community and elected officials of City, County and State government.  Cooler temperatures and recent rainfall have become reason for higher spirits, but our dying trees and lingering low lake levels remind us each day of a year most are pleased see come to an end.

Topics concerning Lake Conroe and the LCA follow:

1.      LCA ANNUAL MEETING: Our LCA Annual Meeting will be held on Friday, January 20, 2012 at the dam site offices off Highway 105 of the San Jacinto River Authority (SJRA) at 10AM in the Lake Conroe Conference Room.  In conjunction with this Annual Meeting, a Meeting Agenda and Voting Proxy will be mailed to our LCA Members next week.  The Voting Proxy allows Members to vote by mail on the election of 2012 LCA Directors and also recommends a change to our LCA Bylaws permitting voting by e-mail in 2013 (as a means to conserve funds currently spent on the cost of mailing envelopes, return envelopes and postage).  We are pleased that all nine (9) LCA 2011 Directors have offered to volunteer their time for 2012 in the same capacity, if re-elected by our Members.

  1. 2.      LAKE LEVEL DATA:  After the generous rainfall we experienced over the past two weeks, our landscape may be happier but our lake level remains at a dismal level of 192.79 as of today…..8 feet,3 inches below normal pool.  These lake levels reflect the lowest levels in the history of the Lake.   The City of Houston reduced its daily withdrawl rate from 165 MILLION GALLONS to 60 MILLION GALLONS as of November 28, 2011 and, on November 30, stopped withdrawing altogether.  The City of Houston has withdrawn an estimated 48,654 acre feet (or 15.8 BILLION GALLONS) between August 16, 2011 and today (approximately 2.6 feet of water over our lake’s surface).  The City of Houston can still withdraw an estimated 18,013 acre feet (or 5.9 BILLION GALLONS) before December 31, 2011 under its 2011 allotment provided under its contract with SJRA.
  2. 3.      CATAHOULA AQUIFER:  As you are most likely aware, SJRA will initiate its Groundwater Reduction Plan (“GRP”) in 2016 by removing approximately 1 foot of water per year from Lake Conroe to assist with meeting the ever-growing water demands of Montgomery County.  Some success has been achieved by identifying and testing water located in the Catahoula Aquifer below portions of Montgomery County.  Montgomery County has always pumped water from the Jasper Aquifer, and possible use of water from the Catahoula Aquifer (never utilized before) could supplement our water supply and possibly reduce the demand of water from Lake Conroe.  Currently, 3 wells have been drilled into the Catahoula Aquifer in Montgomery County (at Bentwater, April Sound and Panorama) and testing is underway to determine the feasibility of use of the Catahoula for our future.  For an extensive discussion of the Catahoula Aquifer, you can visit the Lake Conroe Community Network’s website at www.lakeconroecn.com or SJRA’s website at www.sjra.net.
  3. 4.      TEXAS A&M LAKE LEVEL STUDY:  The $152,000 study commissioned by Montgomery County (of which the LCA paid $69,000) and coordinated by Lake Conroe Community Network has had its completion date pushed back.  Texas A&M University was engaged to review the effects of removing water from Lake Conroe as part of SJRA’s GRP (referenced above).  Of particular concern are future lake levels, potentially reduced sales tax and property tax collections by Montgomery County, and effects on real estate values and local businesses.  A November 7, 2011 Public Meeting summarizing findings-to-date was postponed to give Texas A&M further time to gather complete information.  It is expected that the Public Meeting will be held sometime in March, 2012.
  4. 5.      LCA DUES FOR 2012:  As you may recall, the LCA waived its dues requirements for LCA Members for the year May, 2011 through April, 2012.  This decision was based on our overall suffering economy, the LCA’s current cash balance, and the LCA’s projected cash needs for that year.  Not envisioning large cash demands on the LCA in the coming year, the LCA Board currently plans to waive the collection of dues for the coming year May, 2012 through April, 2013.  We do this confident that, should a significant event occur in the next year needing extensive contributions from the LCA for the benefit of our lake community, our Members would respond positively to an emergency fund raising campaign to secure needed monies.  You would, right?
  5. 6.      DRIVING A VEHICLE IN THE DRY LAKE BED:  Lake Conroe has an imaginary line dividing the southern 2/3 of Lake Conroe (enforcement governed by SJRA) from the northern 1/3 of Lake Conroe (enforcement governed by the Texas Forest Service).  For those familiar with the northern portion of Lake Conroe, Scott’s Ridge Public Boat Launch and Campgrounds denotes the beginning of that portion of the lake under Texas Forest Service enforcement.  In the northern 1/3, vehicles are prohibited from operation in the dry lake bed.  In the southern 2/3, specific regulations have not been developed to preclude use of a vehicle in the dry lake bed.  Should SJRA encounter significant problems created by vehicle use, they reserve the right to modify this policy.  In general, the objective is to protect emerging grasses and the environmentally sensitive lake bed.  As an example, driving around in 4-wheeler doing “donuts” in front of someone’s property would not be viewed favorably nor environmentally conservative by SJRA.  I’d say the simple rule would be “Use some common sense.”
  6. 7.      “CLEANING” THE DRY LAKE BED:  Removing loose trash from the dry lake bed such as bottles, cans, life preservers, tires, and miscellaneous man-made stuff is acceptable to both SJRA and the Texas Forest Service.   SJRA has stated that cutting tall vegetation directly in front of your boat dock which would impede use of your boat (if we had water) is acceptable.  Without advance permission, the cutting of/removal of tree stumps or the removal of fishing “spider blocks” (concrete blocks with steel or aluminum pipes protruding from them as to resemble a brush pile or fallen tree) are not permitted.  If you find something you think may be a “spider block”, SJRA has offered to accumulate a list of locations where “spider blocks” are found and, subsequently, tow them into deeper water (at no cost to the homeowner) for use of fishermen in deeper waters where a boat prop or swimmer will not be harmed.  If in question about removing something, I’d contact SJRA at 936-588-1111 and ask for Bret Raley.
  7. 8.      PUBLIC BOAT LAUNCHES IN SERVICE:  Without having conducted a complete search of the entire lake, we can tell you that the following locations are reported to still have enough water to launch your boat.  The LCA has not visited these locations and cannot report specific water depths.  If interested, I’d place a phone call to the facility prior to towing your boat to any location…and make a safe decision on your own.  Those locations include Cagle Recreational Area, EZ Boat Storage, Lake View Marina, Palms Marina and Stow-Away Marina.  Updates on launch site openings and closures can be reviewed at SJRA’s website (www.sjra.net).
  8. 9.      REMOVAL OF DANGEROUS STUMPS IN THE MAIN BODY OF LAKE CONROE:  In the spirit of contributing towards an enjoyable and safe boating experience on Lake Conroe, the LCA is reviewing the cost of contracting a company for the removal of specific tree stumps in the main body of the Lake.  To be clear, this is in the main body of the lake.  This does not pertain to coves off the main body of the Lake nor to any stumps in the northern 1/3 of Lake Conroe.  We have identified approximately 250 stumps by jet ski for consideration.  The potential contractor has met with SJRA to agree upon rules to be applied, and both SJRA and the contractor will have agreed upon the specific stumps to be removed and the disposal, if any, of the tree trunk debris.  No agreed-upon price has been settled nor any contract signed.  Again, it is in the spirit of providing a safe boating experience for our community that we have considered this request from our Members, and the LCA feels this falls under our purpose of “overseeing, directing, initiating, and promulgating programs that directly affect the control, use, and enjoyment of Lake Conroe for the benefit of any private member or shareholder”.
  9. 10.  DON’T SINK IN LAKE BED MUD:  While the dry lake bed may appear to be safe for an afternoon stroll, please exercise caution when approaching “the mud”.  I experienced a young woman this Sunday taking her dog for a walk in the dry lake bed when her journey took a foreseeable bad turn.  As she decided to venture off “the sand” and into “the mud”, she quickly began to sink…..first boots high, then knee high, then waist high, and finally chest high.  While our football-watching party of 40 or so found some level of entertainment in her poor choice, her predicament caused enough concern for us to call “911” for help.  Ultimately, she somehow pulled herself out of the muck before “911” emergency personnel arrived; but her clothes (and her pride) will never be the same again.  Please be careful out there. 

Thank you for sharing your time in reading this LCA President’s Update.  We hope you find the information helpful and informative.  Should you desire to learn more about the LCA, review previous correspondence with our Members, or provide feedback on this edition of LCA President’s Update, you can utilize our website at www.lakeconroeassociation.com.  Have a happy and safe Holiday Season, and we look forward to a wonderful 2012 !!

Mike Bleier, President

Lake Conroe Association