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
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mike Bleier, President, Lake Conroe Association