Still seeking logic in SJRA’s wasteful and arbitrary decisions.

The rise of the Lake Conroe water level above 200 feet msl in late March was a welcome and much overdue event. The lake had been below normal pool for over forty-six (46) weeks since mid-May 2019. We ultimately reached 200.77 feet msl – just below the normal pool level of 201 msl on Good Friday. However, that level lasted just six (6) weeks as the SJRA seasonal lake lowering resumed on April 13th.  Lake Conroe water released to the Gulf in the last two weeks of April exceeded 5 billion gallons!

With all the bad news and restrictions due to the pandemic, you may have forgotten that in late February the SJRA Board decided to continue the “temporary” lake lowering program. Largely ignoring the recommendation of their own Flood Management Division and instead taking most points from a last-minute proposal from the City of Houston, the SJRA Board extended the lowering program until the end of 2022.   

It was our hope that the SJRA Board would have considered the latest technical study (called the Bleyl report), that was delivered to the SJRA before their February vote. It was neither acknowledged nor mentioned in the Board discussions even though it provided updated and highly relevant conclusions that lowering Lake Conroe by 2 feet has no material impact in reducing the flood extent in the Lake Houston area due to severe storms. This is the second technical report, each from a different consulting firm, that concludes there is no real benefit from lake lowering in reducing flooding either near the dam or further downstream at Lake Houston. There is no science in lowering the lake – only politics.

We were initially told, along with many elected officials, the lowering program was temporary and tied to completing dredging on the West Fork. That dredging was completed in 2019 but now the “temporary” program has been converted to a duration of almost five years and tied to multiple, unclear flood mitigation milestones in the Lake Houston area.

Some have called the February SJRA Board decision a compromise. However, a program promised to be temporary and without a technical basis has been extended for three years – not ended as it should have been. That is not a compromise. The lowering program has arbitrarily dumped water- over 5 billion gallons in April with no expected flood risk.  It results in the likelihood of creating significantly lower lake levels for longer durations as happened in late 2019 and early 2020. SJRA must be the only Texas water agency that can waste water resources and then ask for increased water rates from its customers.

Water is a precious resource and cannot be legally wasted in violation of specific water rights.  Wasting water due to seasonal lowering has no benefit or logic and should be stopped. From the votes in 2018 and 2020 we know that we cannot rely on the majority of the SJRA Board to be independent of City of Houston politics nor rely on their own professionals or independent technical assessments.

Had the SJRA Board’s February decision resulted in an effective program to reduce flooding or been a true compromise, we would have been inclined to support the decision. However, it did not and for that reason the Lake Conroe Association Board has voted to continue our efforts to oppose the lake lowering program publicly and with our full resources. We will partner with all like-minded residents and Homeowner Associations. If we do not try again to eliminate this ineffective program water will be wasted needlessly for many more years.

Kevin Lacy – President Lake Conroe Association