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OVER 1000 ATTEND SAN JACINTO RIVER AUTHORITY BOARD MEETING TO BE HEARD ON THE LOWERING OF LAKE CONROE LEVELS

Over 1000 attended the San Jacinto River Authority Board Meeting Tuesday night at the Lone Star Convention. Several hundred filed forms to have their 3-minutes in front of the board. Some arrived by two charter buses. Many in the Kingwood and Atascosita Area pushed for the temporary level of the lake to continue this season. The lake is normally 201 feet above sea level. It can hold up to 207 feet. The temporary drop from the 201 level to the 200 level from April 1 to May 31 with recapturing starting again on June 1st. Again they propose to once again lower the lake by 2-feet to 199 feet from August 1 to October 30 to additional storage space in case it is needed after an event like Harvey. Many downstream blame Lake Conroe for flooding even though only 14% of the water making it to Lake Houston comes from Lake Conroe. Lake Conroe was built in the early 1970s with the City of Houston bearing 2/3 of the cost and SJRA 1/3. At any time Houston can request water from the lake even if at the time it is below the 201 marks. Lake Conroe property owners and businesses are against the lowering as at times they cannot even get their boats in the water or have mud front property over waterfront property. Many business owners talked about their losses since SJRA started the procedure. It was only to b done until a time flood mitigation was done downstream. Much of that was done. Two large dredging projects took place in the Kingwood area. Lake Houston is adding another flood gate which will be the same type Lake Conroe operates with. Many detention areas have been added. Many more projects which were to be completed this summer are just now being started by the City of Houston. Many say now those projects which should be completed in 2023 so Lake Conroe suffers until then and what happens after 2023. During the periods of lake leveling, there is a lot of absorption also which has added to the headaches as if the lake is lowered on August 1, and absorption takes place or Houston requests additional waters and no significant water has replenished the lake it could drop a lot more. Several even asked to at least start replenishing for the Memorial Day weekend instead of replenishing a few days after. Imelda was brought up many times during the meeting as the Lake Conroe releases flooding them again. However, very little rain fell above the lake and a release was not necessary. Others stated the Harvey release flooded them when the flood gates released close to 90,000 CFS of water. Besides Lake Conroe, several other watersheds flow into the West Fork of the San Jacinto River. Cypress Creek and Spring Creek which also flooded homes in the Spring and Tomball area dump into the San Jacinto west of US 59. Houston Mayor Pro-Tem Dave Martin who also lives in the Lake Houston area stated, “I know this subject is very emotional to everybody in this room… but let me go over the facts. The city of Houston has land and watershed rights in Lake Houston, Lake Livingston, and Lake Conroe. Theoretically, that means the city of Houston owns the water and the land that the boat docks are built on. With all due regard, the SJRA owns the permitting rights, the city of Houston owns two-thirds of the water rights in Lake Conroe, 75% of the water rights in Lake Livingston and 100% of the water rights in Lake Houston.” In addition to Lake Conroe being used to supply Lake Houston for Houston’s water supply that demand could soon grow. Several projects are underway which include a new pumping station at Lake Houston. Connected to that are several 108″ pipelines. One of those goes to the Greenspoint area yet another travels 35 miles across to West Houston and to Fort Bend County. Called the Houston Surface Water Supply Project. Construction began late last year and is evident by the large pipes being installed currently on the Beltway east of US 59. Delivery of surface water to West Harris County Regional Water Authority (WHCRWA) and the North Fort Bend County Water Authority (NFBWA )residents through this line is scheduled to begin in 2023. The West Authority was charged with finding a reliable source of surface water (water from rivers, lakes, etc.) that could be delivered to MUDs in west Harris County so that they could reduce reliance on pumping underground water. Though there were several public and private entities that own water rights in our region, the City of Houston has been securing water rights and property for reservoirs since the early 20th Century and now has three reservoirs available for its water supply – Lake Houston and Lake Conroe on the San Jacinto River and Lake Livingston on the Trinity River. In addition, the City of Houston has three water treatment plants that can purify several hundred million gallons of water a day. The City of Houston had water to sell and it was geographically desirable. The 96″ and 84″ waterlines will carry much-needed treated surface water from Lake Houston across almost 39 miles of Harris County to water users in the west. Another future pipeline will branch off the mainline near US 290 and the Sam Houston Tollway and run south under the Katy Freeway to north Fort Bend County where water demand is also on the rise. There are also two pump stations at key locations that will take water from the pipeline and store it in tanks and then when needed, pressurize it and transfer it to smaller lines that deliver it to water districts. One pump station will be built at Fry Road and Clay Road, which will deliver water to customers in the west. The second pump station, the point where a portion of water will branch off from the mainline and transfer to a “smaller” 42-inch diameter pipeline that will deliver water to north Fort Bend County. Many wonder with the demand growing for Houston and surface water what will the future of Lake Conroe be. Over 100 signed up to speak to the board on Tuesday night. Close to 9 pm there were still close to 100 that had not spoken. It was announced that it could go to the wee hours of the morning which at that point people started to leave. Many who signed to speak had left by the time their names were called. Yet many others stayed to be heard.The last speaker addressed the board just before 11 pm. Another public meeting will be next month.

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