Crucial Week for Future of Subsidence, Flooding

Three meetings will make this a crucial week for subsidence and flooding for large parts of Montgomery and Harris Counties. For months now, the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District (LSGCD) has adamantly opposed any mention of subsidence in its Desired Future Conditions (DFCs) while it argues for increased groundwater pumping. But LSGCD must get the other members of Groundwater Management Area 14 (GMA-14) to approve its DFCs before they can allow increased pumping. And opinions regarding those DFCS are far from unanimous. GMA-14 members are pushing for a metric that limits subsidence; LSGCD is fighting that.

TownshipFuture Meeting Tuesday

With that in mind, a group called TownshipFuture will host a Zoom webinar featuring experts from the San Jacinto River Authority (SJRA), the Houston-Galveston Subsidence District (HGSD), and The Woodlands Water Authority (WWA). Says Robert Leilich, president of Woodlands MUD #1 and a steering committee member of TownshipFuture, “The meeting will explore how the cost of water is related to the potential for more flooding and what you can do about it. Upcoming proposals from the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District could lead to increased subsidence, causing residents to pay more for water. These proposals could also increase the risk of physical damage to homes and the risk of flooding in flood-prone areas of The Woodlands.”

The TownshipFuture Meeting is Tuesday, April 6, at 7PM. The Zoom webinar is free and all are invited. To register, go to https://forms.gle/GYcG1Q1uekCGbrCz6. You will be sent an email with instructions how to sign into the webinar.

TownshipFuture has also launched a petition opposing the desire of the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District to increase groundwater pumping. To view the TownshipFuture petition to the GMA 14 Board of Directors, click here or go to https://townshipfuture.org/home/our-advocacy/petition-to-limit-groundwater-pumping-in-montgomery-county/.

GMA 14 has the authority to approve or disapprove any increase in LGGCD’s groundwater pumping. To support the petition, add your name at the bottom.

LSGCD Meeting Wednesday

Then, on Wednesday, April 7, at 4PM, the LSGCD will hold a special board meeting. According to the agenda, the board will go into executive session immediately after public comments to consider litigation. (However, they don’t disclose the nature of the litigation.) They will then take up two matters:

  1. Proposed Desired Future Conditions for GMA 14.
  2. Hiring a PR firm.

LSGCD staff recently finished a series of stakeholder input sessions. But the agenda does not list a report to the board on staff findings.

The hiring of a PR firm is a highly unusual move for a group of this nature. According to some observers, it indicates that LSGCD failed to convince scientists of their position on subsidence and is now taking its case to the public. One insider, though, claimed the board just feels “misunderstood.” They feel they are the victims of “misinformation.”

The LSGCD meeting will also be a Zoom webinar. To register, visit https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_cxsukkSBSg2VQE9uiUayRA. For other participation options or to make public comments during the meeting, see the instructions at the start of the agenda.

GMA-14 Meeting Friday

On Friday, April 9 at 9AM, GMA-14 will take up the matter of DFCs. It has a statutory deadline to meet to finalize DFCs: no later than January 5, 2022.

However, GMA-14 has a May 1 deadline to formulate proposed DFCs for 14 counties. So if LSGCD and the other members can’t reach a suitable compromise this week, they will need to schedule another meeting before the end of the month. And they are already pushing up against a public notice requirement for a second meeting.

Between May and January deadlines, GMA-14 must solicit public comments for 90 days on the proposed DFCs; review and publish the comments; adopt or modify the DFCs; and submit them to the TWDB. Final adoption of the DFCs requires a two-thirds vote of all the members of the groundwater management area.

At the last GMA-14 meeting, LSGCD requested more time to meet with stakeholders and its board before finalizing a DFC statement. The big questions are, “Will LSGCD request more time to finalize a proposed DFC statement for Montgomery County?” And if so, “Will it include a mention of subsidence?”

You can attend the GMA-14 meeting via the GoToMeeting App. Register here. Click here for the meeting agenda. And click here if you wish to make a public comment.

How Subsidence Relates to Flooding

USGS is a non-political, scientific agency. It states in its research that the “land subsidence in the Houston-Galveston Region … partially or completely submerges land”, “disrupts collector drains and irrigation ditches”, and “alters the flow of creeks and bayous which may increase the frequency and severity of flooding.” To read the full research on Texas Gulf Coast Groundwater and Land Subsidence, please visit: https://txpub.usgs.gov/houston_subsidence/home/

Other scientists have also documented links between subsidence, flooding, and other damages. Check out these studies.

Subsidence exposes inland areas to increased risks of flooding and erosion by altering natural and engineered drainage-ways (open channels and pipelines) that depend on gravity-driven flow of storm-runoff and sewerage. 

Expected subsidence in Harris County if GMA-14 lets Montgomery County pump 30% of its aquifers (70% remaining). The assumption going in was that this could cause up to 1 foot of subsidence, but modeling shows it creates far more.

Differential subsidence, depending on where it occurs with respect to the location of drainageways, may reduce or enhance preexisting gradients. Gradient reductions decrease the rate of drainage and thereby increase the chance of flooding by storm-water runoff. See https://pubs.usgs.gov/circ/circ1182/pdf/07Houston.pdf.

Other studies show that:

Posted by Bob Rehak on 4/5/2021

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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.