LCA President’s Update
June 25, 2015
The only thing predictable is that the weather is not! In reviewing a past December 1, 2011 LCA President’s Update, I write “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.” Here, in 2015, we have recorded rainfall totals of 30 inches year-to-date (compared to an annual average of 48 inches) and water releases from the dam year-to-date totaling 290,661 acre feet, or 14 feet across Lake Conroe’s 21,000 surface acres (compared to an annual average of 7 feet). The water released year-to-date equates to 69% of Lake Conroe’s total volume. May, 2015 was the wettest May in Texas history, and April/May, 2015 was the wettest April/May in Texas history.
LEWIS CREEK RESERVOIR:
As you probably saw through the media, Lewis Creek Reservoir (private reservoir for Entergy just North of FM1097 and East of Lake Conroe) experienced some slope failures at several locations along the backside of their dam during our Memorial Day weekend rain event. Evacuations were ordered to protect those in the area. Entergy and local elected officials have reported that all failures have been corrected and danger no longer currently exists for local residents and businesses.
FACTOID: As hard as it rained during our Memorial Day weekend rain event, it did not rival a rain event in 1994 where we received 5 times as much rain (24 inches in 24 hours).
DISASTER DECLARATION FOR MONTGOMERY COUNTY:
Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal issued a disaster declaration on June 15, 2015 due to severe weather storm damages that have occurred in Montgomery County since May 4th of this year. A request for assistance has been sent to Governor Greg Abbott requesting state and federal aid for additional funding to make needed repairs and to provide the citizens of Montgomery County with effective relief. Montgomery County has been added to the Small Business Administration (SBA) declaration due to being a contiguous county with Harris County. Information concerning the application process for the SBA assistance can be found on the Montgomery County OEM website at www.mctxoem.org. This information is provided in cooperation with the Office of Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal.
REDUCED WATER USE:
With our multitude of rain events in 2015, water use has dropped dramatically. It has been reported that between 65% to 80% of water use in Summer is for irrigation (with an estimated 50% of that related to over-watering or runoff waste). Annually, over 30% of domestic water use in Montgomery County relates to irrigation of lawns and landscape…..and Mother Nature is providing all the water our yards have needed. The San Jacinto River Authority (SJRA) has reported that for the months of April and May, 2015, The Woodlands has purchased its least amount of water since 2001.
INVASIVE AQUATIC VEGETATION:
Rain is good. Too much rain can be bad – especially if you’re floating, invasive aquatic vegetation. Both Giant Salvinia and Water Hyacinth float on the lake’s surface (as compared to Hydrilla which roots itself into the floor of the lake). Often, Giant Salvinia and Water Hyacinth flourish in the shallow creeks and coves on the northern portion of Lake Conroe; making treatment of these invasives difficult because you cannot reach them by boat. With our heavy rains recently, Giant Salvinia and Water Hyacinth have been “flushed out” of their shallow waters and into the main body of Lake Conroe. SJRA and its spray contractors have been taking advantage of this rare opportunity and aggressively treating all invasive vegetation with approved aquatic herbicides.
As it stands today, Texas Parks & Wildlife and SJRA report less than 0.2 acres of Hydrilla in Lake Conroe. You may recall that we experienced an approximate total of 2,033 acres of Hydrilla infestation in February, 2008.
SJRA SURFACE WATER TREATMENT PLANT AND PIPELINES:
As of April 30, 2015, SJRA’s Surface Water Treatment Plant is estimated to be 93.5% complete and its related Pipeline System 93.0% complete. On June 1, 2015, SJRA started capturing water from Lake Conroe, processing that water through its Surface Water Treatment Plant, and delivering that water through its Pipeline System. At this time, the water is not reaching the public for consumption; but, rather, is being utilized to test the treatment processes and pipeline delivery system. Typically, Municipal Utility Districts (MUD’s) accepting water from SJRA’s Surface Water Treatment Plant will “blend” that water with aquifer ground water before delivering a final water product to the consumer. As the testing of the “blending” process is completed, the “blended water” is utilized to “flush” the Pipeline System and ready that Pipeline System for active consumer use. The estimated date for full implementation and use of SJRA’s Surface Water Treatment Plant and Pipeline System (and water delivery to the public) is September 1, 2015. The annual amount of water to be removed from Lake Conroe by SJRA over the next ten (10) years is estimated to be 25,000 acre feet, or about 1.2 feet of water across the surface of Lake Conroe per year. Key variables in this calculation of “25,000 acre feet over the next 10 years” include population growth and average water use per household.
LAKE CONROE RESERVOIR RULES & REGULATIONS:
SJRA has released its updated Lake Conroe Reservoir Rules & Regulations effective June 1, 2015. The last amendment to these regulations was effective August 28, 2003. I’d say the primary purpose of these amendments includes clarification for the public and enhanced enforcement by the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department of those Rules. A brief summary of revisions to these Rules follows:
1. Boating: The amendments clarify local rules related to the operation of boats and vessels on Lake Conroe. Notably, amplified music and other noise that unreasonably disturbs the public is prohibited between the hours of 10PM and 6AM. Amplified music containing explicit lyrics is prohibited at any time if audible to the general public.
2. Picnicking and Camping: The amendments allow for picnicking and camping on SJRA land in designated areas. The amendments prohibit extended camping stays, littering, and burning refuse on SJRA land, and prohibits unreasonable noise between the hours of 10PM and 6AM. Glass containers are now prohibited on Ayers Island and Lake Conroe Park. Camp fires are permitted on Ayers Island so long as SJRA property is not damaged. Individuals may not enter SJRA land intoxicated nor become intoxicated on SJRA land.
3. Other significant sections of these amended Rules include Definitions, Public Access and Use, Fishing and Hunting, Firearms, Feral Animals, Encroachment, Sanitary Conditions, Abandonment of Personal Property, Commercial Operations, Raw Water Use, and Penalties & Enforcement.
This brief summary is my interpretation of significant topics and amendments for the everyday lake user. For a complete copy of SJRA’s Lake Conroe Reservoir Rules & Regulations, visit SJRA’s website at www.sjra.net.
LAKE CONROE WATERSHED PROTECTION PLAN:
SJRA has recently implemented its Lake Conroe Watershed Protection Plan. Simply put, the Plan outlines steps necessary to maintain and improve our high water quality on Lake Conroe. In addition to SJRA staff, a diverse group of stakeholders were assembled to facilitate the Plan development effort. The Lake Conroe Association was among the list of over 26 stakeholders to participate in this Plan.
Among topics included in the Plan, you will find extensive summaries and graphics of Lake Conroe regarding the physical watershed location, soil types and land cover; and locations of marinas, storm drains, petroleum storage tanks, on-site septic facilities, wastewater treatment plants, wastewater outfall locations, boat ramps, boat dock locations, and water quality sampling sites. For the technically-inclined, specific water chemical data is outlined and compares current versus desired conditions. Finally, a variety of Plans have been developed and listed regarding solid waste management, on-site septic systems, urban run-off, municipal storm sewer system discharges, centralized wastewater collection and treatment plants, construction sites, and public education and outreach.
For homeowners operating residential septic systems (aerobic treatment units, or ATU), particular attention should be given to Section 4.3.1 (Regulatory Changes for the OSSF Program). Upon installation of an ATU, homeowners have a two-year maintenance program mandated by TCEQ. Under new proposed regulations for the Lake Conroe Watershed, all ATU systems must be maintained beyond that initial two-year period by a licensed maintenance provider or by a residential homeowner that has been certified and licensed by the TCEQ. SJRA currently has approximately 2,000 ATU’s in its jurisdiction.
For a complete copy of SJRA’s Lake Conroe Watershed Protection Plan, visit SJRA’s website at www.sjra.net.
BOATING AND ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION:
I believe that most operators of watercraft are unclear on alcohol consumption regulations. We all know that operating any vehicle under the influence is a poor choice, and the Lake Conroe Association does not endorse boating and drinking. Having said that, this section is provided to clarify the law as it currently exists. SJRA has confirmed with the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department that “the driver of a boat can have an open container, but they cannot be intoxicated”. Be smart and safe out there on the lake; and if in doubt, do not drink and operate watercraft.
SJRA’S FLUSH CAMPAIGN:
SJRA has developed a “Flush Campaign” to promote education about what should and should not be flushed through the sanitary collection system. Washing fats, oil and grease has developed into a recurring issue causing clogs of sewage pipes. This informative campaign educates people on what is safe to flush down the toilet and what’s better suited to be thrown in the trash. Some paper products, wipes and other products may be marked as flushable but could result in costly home repairs and cleanup of wastewater treatment plants. For more information, you may visit SJRA’s website at www.sjra.net. To coordinate a presentation for your subdivision or organization, please contact SJRA’s Public Relations Manager Ronda Trow or SJRA’s Public Relations Specialist Michelle Guidry at 936-588-3111.
LAKE CONROE ASSOCIATION IN MAY, 2015:
To update those in the area regarding the $500 million SJRA Surface Water Treatment Plant and Pipeline System, the Lake Conroe Association and SJRA hosted a tour of those facilities at the SJRA dam site on May 12 before a Lake Conroe Association Board of Directors Meeting. Representatives from Bentwater, Walden, April Sound, Point Aquarius, Grand Harbor, Shelter Bay, and Rancho Escondido were in attendance, as well as individuals from a Utility District, MUD Board, realty company and consultants. The tour was followed by a presentation from Jace Houston, General Manager of SJRA, regarding SJRA’s treatment facility and the topic of available water in our aquifers for public consumption.
Thank you for your time in reviewing this edition of our LCA President’s Update. For more information regarding the Lake Conroe Association or for prior editions of our LCA President’s Updates, please visit us at www.lcatx.com. We wish you and yours a safe and happy Summer season on and around beautiful Lake Conroe.
Mike Bleier, President
Lake Conroe Association