Mayor Turner Proposes New Compromise on Lowering Lake Conroe

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and Public Works Director Carol Haddock have sent a compromise proposal to the SJRA board on the eve of the meeting that will decide the fate of their seasonal lake lowering policy.

Details of Original Proposal

The original policy has received heavy pushback from Lake Conroe people who claim its destroying property, schools, recreation and the Montgomery County tax base. It has also sparked vigorous support from Lake Houston Area businesses and residents. They see the extra storage capacity in Lake Conroe as a buffer against flooding until they can finish permanent mitigation projects such as dredging and the construction of additional gates on Lake Houston’s dam.

That original policy implemented in the fall of 2018 called for lowering the lake to 199 feet from 201 during the peak of hurricane season. It also called for lowering the lake to 200 feet in the rainiest months of spring.

Due to dry weather this winter, Lake Conroe never fully recovered its normal pool level. And at this writing, it remains at 199.21 feet.

Details of Proposed Compromise

The new proposal by Mayor Turner calls for continue lowering Lake Conroe to 200 feet during April and May. However, Turner calls for lowering Lake Conroe to 199.5 in the the fall from August 1 through November 1. That’s a wider window but a smaller reduction.

Turner puts two other conditions on the compromise:

  • The policy would remain in place until dredging is complete and the City has install new floodgates on the Lake Houston Dam.
  • In addition, Lake Conroe would be lowered to 199 feet any time a named tropical storm is predicted to impact our region within a 5-day forecast.

Full Text of Letter

The full text of the letter is below.

What This Really Means in Practical Terms

It seems that there is little for Lake Conroe people to argue about here. With the exception of an approaching tropical storm or hurricane, the lake levels would rarely be dropped much below the normal levels due to evaporation. See graph below. In fact, the most lake levels would drop manually beyond historical averages would be .42 feet in August or about 5 inches, unless a tropical system approaches.

Source: SJRA presentation by Chuck Gilman. Lake Conroe was built in 1973, so this data goes back to the beginning.

Turner Has Power to Order Reduction If Lake Conroe People Don’t Compromise

Although he did not explicitly say it, Turner has the power to order the reductions simply by calling for the water. The City of Houston owns two-thirds of the water in Lake Conroe.

The last paragraph in Turner’s letter, the one about collaboration and partnership, may be a veiled reference to that fact. If the SJRA does not cooperate, he may not feel obliged to either. In that case, Lake Conroe residents could find themselves with even lower lake levels.

All in all, it’s an attempt to hold off another bar-room brawl like the SJRA hosted last month.

I’d feel more comfortable with a larger reduction. But I’m sure the Conroe people would like no reduction. Such is the nature of compromise…a lost art in American politics.

All in all, the Mayor’s proposal is a good compromise between drought and flood mitigation. Both are key elements of the SJRA’s mission as defined by the State legislature.

Keep in mind that the figures above show AVERAGES. If a named tropical storm comes into the Gulf and the lake is already at or above 201, it would still be lowered to 199.5. That would be much more than 5 inches. But still, it should not create an abnormal hardship for anyone.

Make Your Voice Heard

Tomorrow is the last chance to make your opinion known about this issue before the crucial vote. For more information, see the Lake Lowering page of this web site.

  • Thursday, February 20, 2020
  • 6pm at Lone Star Convention and Expo Center
  • 9055 Airport Road, Conroe, Texas 77303
  • Doors open at 5pm.

Those wishing to address the board or register a comment at a special meeting may fill out a Comment Registration Form Comment Registration Forms may be submitted at the special meeting. The form may not be mailed, emailed, or dropped off prior to the meeting date.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 2/19/2020

904 Days after Hurricane Harvey

The thoughts expressed in this post represent opinions on matters of public concern and safety. They are protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution and the Anti-SLAPP Statute of the Great State of Texas.