Weekly Digest of Lake Houston Area Flood-Related News

Below is this week’s digest of flood-related news affecting the Lake Houston Area.

San Jacinto Regional Flood Planning Group

Save the date. The San Jacinto Regional Flood Planning Group (Region 6) will hold it’s next public meeting on Tuesday, August 31, 2021, from 6:30 to 7:30 PM. You must register here to receive meeting access information and an online calendar invitation.

The first regional flood plans will be due in January 2023, and the first state flood plan will be due to the Texas Legislature by September 1, 2024.

The upper watershed has a new representative to this group: Neil Gaynor from The Woodlands. Mr. Gaynor has a PhD in Geology and will serve the area well.

Liberty County Drainage District

According to the Bluebonnet News, on Tuesday August 10, Liberty County commissioners approved the creation of a drainage district to serve the entire county. County Judge Jay Knight is quoted as saying, “The goal is to mitigate flooding and enhance drainage in the entire county.” Commissioners appointed a temporary board to draw up by-laws. But the District must still be approved by voters, because this would be a taxing district.

“I don’t want Liberty County to be in the same situation as Harris County is in now with its drainage problems,” said Knight. “Now is the time for Liberty County while drainage improvements can be done cheaper and while land acquisition for those plans is much easier. It will be much more expensive if we wait….This gives us another way to make developers behave. I just wish it had been in place 20 years ago.”

Harris County Engineer Resigns

John Blount, the Harris County Engineer, resigned last week, continuing the alarming exodus of experience among Harris County department heads. When Russ Poppe, head of the Flood Control District, resigned in June, he received multiple honors and media recognition. So this time, the political leadership has reportedly put out a gag order on the media. But this letter went to Commissioners Court members and all department staff last Friday.

The 34-year veteran of the department served many different judges and commissioners. According to one engineer I talked to, he had the toughest engineering job in the county, perhaps even tougher than Poppe’s. But the silence from the media on his resignation speaks volumes.

The Engineering Department works hand in hand with the Flood Control District on many drainage projects, especially those that relate to roads, streets, highways and subdivisions. The Engineering Department is also home of the Infrastructure Resilience Team which works with the Community Flood Resilience Task Force.

Blount has agreed to stay until the Judge and Commissioners agree on a replacement…as long as that can be done before October 1.

Lake Conroe Association Pleads for Donations

With its legal challenge to the Seasonal Lake Lowering Plan being heard in MoCo District Court on August 24, the Lake Conroe Association has issued a plea for donations, saying that its legal battles “have fully consumed our lake protection reserve fund.”

For the full text of the letter, click here.

From April though July, the Lake Conroe Association filed approximately 2,800 pages of legal briefs in the case.

The case places much emphasis on drought.

Drought Monitor

The Texas Water Development Board posts a weekly drought monitor. Only problem for the Lake Conroe Association is, there isn’t any within a thousand miles. The pocket near El Paso was in drought, but they just had their wettest June/July in 127 years.

Source: Texas Water Development Board

Lake Level Report

As of Tuesday, 8/17/2021 at 11PM, Lake Conroe stood at 200.45 feet. That’s about a half foot below its conservation pool but still about a foot above the monthly mean level for August (199.6). That monthly mean goes back to 2000.

USGS data showing the average monthly levels of Lake Conroe for the 18 years before the seasonal lake lowering started. Note: the averages for August and September.

In other words, evaporation usually reduces the lake level in August as far as the SJRA has been with its seasonal lake lowering plan.

When I came across those figures, I realized that the seasonal lake lowering plan was just designed as insurance in case Mother Nature didn’t do her job in a particular year.

Shhhh. Don’t anyone tell the judge in the LCA lawsuit about Mother Nature’s “wasteful, ineffective, and deceitful program.”

Meanwhile, Lake Houston is slightly above its normal level.

Source: Coastal Water Authority via USGS.

Wayne Dolcefino Takes on MoCo

One of the world’s great investigative journalists, Wayne Dolcefino, has set his sights on Montgomery County now. A subdivision there named Carriage Hills is fighting another subdivision going in next to it. The new subdivision evidently started building streets before the plats were approved. It also failed to take its drainage to the river, so the drainage is spilling onto properties in Carriage Hills.

Photo taken May 26, 2021 of new development next to Carriage Hills on left. Looking South. Note substantial erosion already.
Also taken May 26, 2021 looking South. Note how drainage channel stops short of river. Carriage Hills is to left in heavily wooded area.

Neither the MoCo engineer, nor LJA, which does contract work for the MoCo engineer, seem overly excited about the oversight.

LJA is also reportedly working with TxDoT to build another bridge across the West Fork that will go through several Carriage Hills properties. This has the property owners upset because other routes were available that would not affect their properties.

See Dolcefino’s latest, the “Road to Ruin,” on YouTube.

Dolcefino Carriage Hills Video

TCEQ Best Management Practices for Sand Mines

TCEQ has proposed Best Management Practices for Sand Mines in the San Jacinto River Basin.

If you haven’t yet submitted your public comments, they’re due tomorrow. My last post on this subject includes links to a series of previous posts that describe gaps and areas for improvement.

If you want to help reduce future buildups of sediment in the San Jacinto, please consider sending your thoughts to Macayla.Coleman@Tceq.Texas.gov with the subject line “BMPs Guidance Document” before August 19, 2021.

Later today, I hope to post a summary of concerns that you could forward with one click.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 8/18/2021

1450 Days since 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.