Efforts have started already to lobby against the seasonal lowering of Lake Conroe again next year. They seem to be organized and inspired by the Lake Conroe Association again. I understand that the lowering inconveniences some Lake Conroe residents, especially boaters who live in areas like Grand Harbor where the water depth is shallow to start with. However, the inconvenience pales in comparison to the damages suffered in the Lake Houston Area. The lowering helps provide a buffer against downstream flooding during the wettest months of the year. The SJRA will vote on whether to extend the lowering policy at its February board meeting.
A Campaign of Misinformation
The Lake Conroe Association and its proxies are deliberately spreading falsehoods to rile up people against the lowering. The same misinformation contained in the Lake Conroe Association presentation on their news page, is repeated in the website Stop Draining Lake Conroe (https://www.stopdraininglakeconroe.com) and the Grand Harbor YouTube video below.
For the Record…
StopDrainingLakeConroe.com states that:
Lake Houston dredging is complete and completely out of funding. Four fifths of the mouth bar on the West Fork remains in place. Harris County Flood Control has allocated $10 million to help dredge it. See item CI-61. The State of Texas allocated $30 million in SB500. Plans for that project should be announced next week according to State Representative Dan Huberty. The City of Houston has also filed for another FEMA Grant for additional dredging.
Lake Conroe homes are being damaged by the lake lowering. Really? How does that work? Is it the same as 250,000 CFS coming through your living room? That’s what happened to 81 townhomes in Forest Cove. See below.
Lake lowering is damaging bulk-heading around Lake Conroe. How does that work? Does evaporation destroy the bulk-heading? See the bulk-heading along the West Fork above.
Downstream residents are trying to turn this into a permanent plan. Please tell me who. I’m not aware of any organized effort. The plan has always been to reconsider the lowering every year until flood mitigation measures such as dredging were complete.
SJRA is throwing away $5.33 million of water revenue. It would only be throwing away the revenue if it could sell the water. But there’s no unfilled demand due to water shortages in the lake. And the water replenishes itself as rain falls from the sky.
Water level of Lake Conroe is at 198. That’s an exaggeration to rile up the people in Grand Harbor, who normally only have four feet of water. The lake level is normally at 201′ and currently at 198.82′. That’s 198 and ten inches. So those Grand Harbor people have half their normal water, not one quarter. Current release rate is 0.
Lake Conroe only provided 15% of the water that flooded Kingwood. Lake Conroe only affects the West Fork, but the statistic includes the East Fork. During Harvey, West Fork flooding caused the vast majority of the damage. The Lake Conroe release comprised ONE-THIRD of the water coming down the West Fork through the highly populated Humble/Kingwood corridor where virtually 100% of the businesses are located. Lake Conroe released 80,000 CFS of the 240,00 CFS coming down the West Fork. So the 15% statistic is extremely misleading.
Video Makes Many of Same False Claims And Some More
The video includes many of the same false claims and a few new ones. Let me focus on the new ones.
The video states or implies that:
Describing the lowering as Seasonal rather than Temporary implies we are trying to make it Permanent. I’m not sure how you get from either of those words to “permanent.” This is a logical fallacy. It’s a falsehood designed to inspire fear.
Recent events show that Lake Conroe is being unfairly blamed for downstream flooding. Kingwood still flooded during Imelda “even though we didn’t release anything” during Imelda. Please! The vast majority of all Kingwood flooding during Imelda was street flooding or related to Woodridge Village. Some homes did flood on the East Fork, but I can’t believe any of those residents would blame it on a fictional release from Lake Conroe that wasn’t coming down the West Fork.
There was an “organized effort” in Kingwood to send an unspecified number of “letters” to the SJRA board thanking them for not releasing during Imelda. So what is it? Are we allegedly blaming you for flooding us during Imelda or thanking you for not flooding us? Show me the letters. I’m not aware of any such organized effort. See the comment above.
Kingwood is trying to increase the lowering to 3 feet and Kingwood is winning that fight by a large margin. I’m aware of no effort to increase the lowering and no fight that we’re winning by a large margin.
Wading birds that require shallow areas are being destroyed. Duh! They’re saying birds need shallow water, but they want to make the lake deeper. So if water depth had something to do with destroying birds, who would be destroying them?
Boating Vs. Flooding
Let’s face it. The big reason Lake Conroe residents don’t want to see their lake lowered is that it makes boating more difficult. No argument there.
But the big reason Lake Houston area residents want more dredging is not boating. It’s to reduce flood risk. The mouth bar forms a sediment dam behind the dam that reduces the conveyance of the river through the heavily populated Humble/Kingwood corridor. And until it’s dredged, we need the help of Lake Conroe residents. The lake lowering strategy gives us the only effective way to mitigate flooding for now.
After the Army Corps removed 500,000 cubic yards of sediment from the West Fork mouth bar, Imelda promptly redeposited much of it. Here’s what it looked like after Imelda.
Compare These West Fork Damages
We are certainly sensitive to Lake Conroe lifestyle considerations. But during Harvey, Lake Houston Area damages on the West Fork alone included:
- Twelve people died after a senior living complex flooded; six from injuries sustained during evacuation and six from the stress of having their homes destroyed.
- Another died from flesh eating bacteria after getting infected by floodwater.
- 4484 homes on the West Fork alone flooded.
- 81 families lost townhomes in Forest Cove when floodwaters reached 20 feet into the second stories. They are now being demolished.
- After a year, only half the residents who flooded throughout the Lake Houston Area were fully back in their homes. Some still aren’t. Many homes have been abandoned.
- City of Houston estimated Lake Houston area damages to be in the billions.
- City of Houston estimated this area’s tax revenues were reduced 20-30 percent.
- TIRZ funded expansion of Northpark Drive had to be delayed several years.
- Humble ISD documented $97.5 million in damages to its facilities.
- Kingwood High School closed for 7 months; 4000 students had to be bused to another high school more than an hour away the entire time.
- U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spent $100 million on dredging and the job still isn’t done.
- 44 percent of all Lake Houston Area Chamber of Commerce businesses were adversely affected. Many closed for months. Many never reopened.
- Union Pacific Railroad had to replace its bridge, disrupting rail traffic for months. It’s now working on replacing it again with a more floodproof bridge.
- TxDoT had to replace part of the I-69 bridge for more than $20 million. All traffic in and out of Houston was delayed for eleven months.
- Memorial Hermann’s new hospital facility scheduled to open the week before Harvey had to be gutted. It finally opened fifteen months later.
- Lone Star College lost 6 of its 9 classroom buildings in Kingwood, plus its boiler room and library. Repairs cost $60 million.
- Kingwood’s library flooded. Repairs took more than eight months.
- Two local parks were inundated with sand; some dunes exceed 10 feet in height.
Gear Up for a Fight
More on this in future posts. Lake Houston Area residents need to gear up to fight the falsehoods and ensure that Lake Conroe seasonal lowering policy remains in place for another year.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 11/22/2019
815 Days since Hurricane Harvey