Never says never. Especially in a lawsuit. It didn’t take long to disprove that claim! Two days after LCA filed the claim on April 28th, the SJRA had to open its gates to keep Lake Conroe homes and businesses from flooding. And they are still releasing water…three weeks later.
This afternoon, I read the third supplement to the petition by the Lake Conroe Association (LCA) in its lawsuit against the San Jacinto River Authority (SJRA) and nearly busted a gut laughing. After a week where we received more than half the rain for the year so far, I needed the comic relief. And got it.
Two licensed professional engineers – with more than 80 years of experience between them – filed affidavits. They claim that the SJRA’s seasonal lake lowering policy “does not allow Lake Conroe to refill through rainfall in the Spring and Fall.” Their claim is repeated over and over again in affidavits by others.Lake Conroe Association’s Third Supplement to its Original Petition
SJRA Forced to Go Beyond Seasonal Lowering to Avoid Flooding
Twice this month, the SJRA has had to release water from Lake Conroe above and beyond the seasonal lowering policy to prevent flooding. After the May Day event, they released almost 10,000 cubic feet per second (CFS) for several days to keep the homes and businesses around Lake Conroe from flooding.
The rains this week have been more spread out, but the SJRA still had to release almost 3,000 CFS most days to reduce flood risk around Lake Conroe.
Engineers rarely deal in absolutes. They deal in extremes and qualify almost everything they say. But these intrepid professionals stepped over the edge on the far side of reality. Mother Nature always gets the last word.
One of Many Exaggerated Claims
Say That Again!
The latest filing claims that the Lake Conroe Association has the authority to speak for all of its members because LCA feels it proved actual or imminent damages to at least one of its members. In logic, they call that “the fallacy of generalization.” I know at least one influential member of LCA who disagrees vehemently with the lawsuit. So which of those two individuals should we listen to?
LCA also asserts that the Association’s rights are “in every practical sense identical” with “its members.” Its interests, however, may not be.
In its original petition, LCA claimed that its purpose was “over-seeing, directing, initiating, and promulgating programs that directly affect the control, use, and enjoyment of Lake Conroe…” Had it not been for the seasonal lake lowering policy, many homes and businesses upstream or down would likely have flooded after the May Day rains.
In the same sentence about enjoyment, LCA also claims that Lake Conroe is operated exclusively for the benefit of the citizens of Montgomery County, Texas.
Did they really mean to say that Lake Conroe is operated exclusively for MoCo residents when the City of Houston owns two thirds of the water in it?
At one point, the lawsuit claims the sole purpose of Lake Conroe is to supply drinking water. But most of LCA’s complaints refer to lost recreational opportunities.
The second supporting document LCA filed sought relief for irreparable damages but did not specify what those were. Previously LCA members have complained about:
- Damaged bulkheads…which any number of businesses on the lake can repair.
- The loss of property values and tax revenues…which promptly increased after implementation of the seasonal lowering.
- The loss of water from the Lake…which has managed to refill itself for the last 45 years.
- Low water
- High water
Could Dredging Costs Be The Real Issue?
But LCA’s latest filing reveals what could be the real issue here: dredging. Reportedly, the former president of the LCA had shallow water next to some lakefront property he was trying to sell. But with the water lowered, shallowness made the property less marketable.
Shallow water especially impacts residents at the north end (headwaters) of the lake.
Some LCA affidavits claim that access channels to the lake have been cut off by siltation. This latest filing references dredging in numerous places.
Wildwood Shores claims the estimated cost to dredge area canals exceeds one million dollars. They have hired an engineering company to set up a multi-year dredging plan that would spread out the costs. But they worry that the costs may still not be affordable. Dredging companies have explained the costs of dewatering the dredged materials; hauling them out of the floodplain; and the Army Corps’ permitting process.
Residents from Wildwood Shores, an area without fire hydrants, also claim that the Sam Houston National Forest could burn down if a house fire gets out of control and the local fire department can’t find a way to draw water from the lake.
I wonder if they’ve compared the cost of dredging to putting in a water well and tank from which tanker trucks can refill. I googled “cost of water tanks” and quickly found one that holds 90,000 gallons for $35,000. That’s a lot less than a million dollars for dredging. And the capacity would be enough to fill up at least 30 of the tanker trucks they reference in the lawsuit. The engineer who filed that affidavit didn’t explore that option. Perhaps because he had something else in mind…like boating, for instance.
Let’s Focus on the Real Issues and Work Together
I’m not trying to minimize the:
- Loss of recreational opportunities
- Inconvenience of silt
- Expense of dredging.
We in the Lake Houston Area have been grappling with those same issues…on top of the flooding that silt dams contribute to. They are all real.
But making claims that are false at face value; inventing one doomsday scenario after another; and ignoring reasonable, cost-effective alternatives only undermine your own credibility.
Keeping water high is a temporary solution at best. Eventually, silt will pop up all around Lake Conroe. Especially after heavy rains.
Until you start enforcing regulations that reduce the effects of egregious development (including sedimentation) and form a Flood Control District to help dredge, this problem will dog you.
Realize that we’re all in this together – upstream and down. Let’s focus on ways to mitigate our mutual problems, not fight each other for a temporary advantage.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 5/22/2021
1362 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.