Judge Michael Mayes of the 284th Judicial District Court in Montgomery County filed an order today dismissing the Lake Conroe Association (LCA) lawsuit against the San Jacinto River Authority (SJRA). But the most significant part of the dismissal was the way he did it.
Meaning of “With Prejudice” and “Want of Jurisdiction”
“With prejudice” means that the plaintiff cannot refile charges in another court. Basically, the court is saying that it found the case meritless. One lawyer told me, “It’s like saying, ‘Don’t waste the court’s time anymore.'”
Re: Plea to the Jurisdiction, according to the website Houston Courts and Cases, “In Texas…A plea to the jurisdiction can challenge either the sufficiency of the plaintiff’s pleadings or the existence of jurisdictional facts.”
In April 2021, the Judge dismissed the case against the City of Houston for want of jurisdiction, but the case against the SJRA remained active until today.
Purpose of Lake Lowering Plan
The Seasonal Lake-Lowering Plan was conceived shortly after Harvey as a way to provide an extra measure of flood protection for the Lake Houston Area while it implemented other flood-mitigation measures such as dredging and additional gates for the Lake Houston spillway. By creating extra storage capacity within Lake Conroe during the wettest months of the year, the SJRA hoped to reduce the risk associated with another massive release like the 79,000 cubic feet per second during Harvey. By itself, that was the ninth largest flood in West Fork history.
2800 Pages of Legal Briefs Come to a 102-Word End
The Lake Conroe Association pulled out the stops for this lawsuit. It filed approximately 2800 pages of legal briefs in four months, ran out of money, and started begging with residents to donate more so it could continue the fight. Today’s ruling will put an end to that.
Reality repeatedly contradicted the LCA’s factual claims. LCA claimed:
- Home values around Lake Conroe would plummet because of the plan. They increased.
- The school district would run out of money. It didn’t.
- Nature would not be able to recharge the lake after a lowering. It did. Repeatedly.
- Lake Conroe was not conceived as a flood-control lake. Flood control is a key element of SJRA’s charter.
- The lowering would not help protect people in the Lake Houston Area. It did.
- The City of Houston committed fraud … by calling for the release of its own water.
In contrast to (or maybe because of) the 2800 pages of legal briefs, today’s court order was mercifully brief – 102 words.
“On this 30th day of August, 2021, came on before the Court San Jacinto River Authority’s Plea to the Jurisdiction, and after considering same, all Answers, Responses, Replies, pleadings, stipulations, evidence, affidavits and attachments filed by the parties, all statutory and caselaw authorities, and all arguments relating thereto, the Court was of the opinion that the following Order should be entered; it is therefore ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED that San Jacinto River Authority’s Plea to the Jurisdiction be, and it is hereby, GRANTED AND SUSTAINED, and that the above Cause be, and it is hereby, DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE FOR WANT OF JURISDICTION.”
Now a Meaningful Dialog Can Begin
I’m sure this must come as a bitter blow for some residents of Lake Conroe who supported the long court battle. But perhaps some good will come from the clarity that now exists.
Hopefully, this will open the door to reasonable people who wish to craft a long-term joint management plan for both Lake Conroe and Lake Houston. The people of this region are inextricably bound together by the need to balance water and flood control. Perhaps now we can start a meaningful dialog that addresses both.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 8/30/2021
1162 Days since Hurricane Harvey