At its April 13, 2021 board meeting, the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District (LSGCD) finally approved Phase 2 of its Subsidence Study. Approval of the study had been on the agenda for months, but kept getting postponed. It was only after Groundwater Management Agency 14 (GMA-14) insisted on a subsidence metric in its Desired Future Conditions (DFCs) last Friday, that LSGCD finally approved the study this Tuesday.
Samantha Reiter, General Manager of LSGCD, has repeatedly stated for months that subsidence is not a limiting factor in Montgomery County, so it shouldn’t be included in DFCs for Montgomery County. She made three motions in the GMA-14 meeting last week that would have let LSGCD avoid a subsidence limitation that she claimed did not apply.
The study – which might or might not support that conclusion – will take 60 weeks to complete. But the Texas Water Development Board deadline for DFCs from all groundwater management areas is January 5, 2022 – in 38 weeks.
Scope of Work to Focus on MoCo
A thorough reader will also note that while LSGCD has been trumpeting “subsidence is not a limiting factor here,” the scope of work acknowledges that Phase One of the study was basically a literature review of pre-existing studies. Most of those were based in other counties.
The ostensible purpose of the Phase Two study is to develop data specific to Montgomery County and LSGCD (see pages 1/2). So it appears, they may not really obtain data to prove or disprove their claim until long after DFCs must be finalized by statute.
Lone Star Still Hopeful It Can Avoid Subsidence Metric
To her credit, Ms. Reiter admitted later in the board meeting that GMA-14 rejected her three alternative motions to make a subsidence DFC optional. However, during that discussion, she also said she thought part of the pushback came because she circulated her motion(s) for review at 11 p.m. the night before the meeting. That angered some people who said they had been begging for motions to review, even if only in draft form, for months.
Reiter stated last night to her board that she hoped those GMA-14 members would reconsider her motions in October. That would happen after the public comment period on the DFCs adopted last Friday. However, making a major change at that point might trigger a second 90-day public comment period. That’s going to be tight. Only 91 days exist between October 6th (the next GMA-14 meeting) and January 5, the state’s mandatory deadline.
Two Potential Issues with Study Scope
First, LSGCD said it plans to review the DFCs with stakeholders. But many of the people impacted are outside Montgomery County and they aren’t considered “stakeholders.” For instance, models show that at the rate LSGCD wants to pump groundwater, it would cause approximately 3 feet of subsidence in the Kingwood, Humble, Atascocita and Huffman areas but only 1 foot of subsidence at the Lake Houston Dam. That would essentially bring floodwaters two feet closer to upstream homes in Harris County. But we’re not considered LSGCD stakeholders.
Second, the scope of work for the Lone Star subsidence study says, “we will evaluate logs up to 10 miles beyond the Montgomery County boundary to aid in constraining the interpolation of surfaces within LSGC.” Said another way, it appears that they won’t evaluate their impact on Harris County. The purpose of a groundwater management area is to bind all the people of a region together in a common cause. But that doesn’t seem to be happening here.
Fortunately, Harris County residents will still have an opportunity to provide input directly to GMA-14 or the Harris-Galveston Subsidence District.
People must stay engaged on this issue. We should not assume it is behind us simply because GMA-14 adopted some proposed DFCs for public comment.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 4/14/2021
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