Guest Editorial: The Truth is Out in The Montgomery County Water Scandal

Quadvest President Simon Sequeira, a hero in the fight for private property rights.

Publisher’s Note: This opinion editorial of Simon Sequeira, President of Quadvest Water and Sewer Utility, is a great analysis and summary of the terrible situation, which Montgomery County citizens must confront regarding water rights. Sequeira is a leader in the fight to reform the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District and the San Jacinto River Authority. Sequeira’s father, Gary Sequeira, and his father-in-law, Odell Vaught, founded Quadvest almost 40 years ago as an independently-owned utility providing service to approximately 50 communities.  

SIMON SEQUEIRA, Guest Columnist

Everyone in Montgomery County owes the City of Conroe, Magnolia, and Shenandoah, a big

thank you for having the courage to challenge Lone Star and the SJRA. As it turns out, the

Cities have been right all along. After several years of legal maneuvering, Lone Star/SJRA

have finally been cornered into providing documentation and swearing under oath

regarding the $1 Billion water scheme concocted by these two agencies. The legal efforts

led by Conroe have yielded a treasure trove of information that tells the story of how Lone

Star and SJRA devised their water plan.

You may recall that Lone Star started life in 2001. It immediately staked out a position that

any pumping over 64,000 acre/feet per year would drain the aquifers under MOCO. This

assertion was repeated at every turn, with Lone Star refusing to allow “aquifer mining.” The

64,000 acre/feet goal turned into a mandate that all groundwater users reduce their 2009

use by 30% by 2016. That edict resulted in the water suppliers of MOCO having to enter

into contracts with SJRA for surface water. Those contracts in turn resulted in the doubling

of water rates for all the citizens of the county. However, after over 20,000 pages of

documents provided by Lone Star, what is surprisingly absent is any scientific evidence or

support for the 64,000 acre/ft. pumping limit. Lone Star and SJRA have claimed for years

that they have studied the aquifers and after years of research from the best available

science, they imposed a strict 64,000 acre ft. /year pumping limit in Montgomery County,

but neither Lone Star nor SJRA can produce a shred of credible evidence supporting that

claim. If any support for their claims existed, surely they would have produced it by now

and put an end to all of these lawsuits.

On February 22, 2017, Jace Houston, the General Manager of SJRA, wrote a guest columnist

letter in the Courier where he quoted Thomas Jefferson, “honesty is the first chapter in the

book of wisdom”. Jace, along with Lone Star have claimed for years that our aquifer levels

in Montgomery County have been falling. Rick Moffatt, the President of Lone Star

Groundwater, in a May 2017 Courier guest columnist article states “… aquifer levels were

falling hundreds of feet and land subsidence was recorded…” But, Jason Afinowicz, one of

the experts hired by Lone Star, has acknowledged, under oath, that there have been no

declines in the water levels in the aquifers in Montgomery County. Mr. Afinowicz also

admitted that he does not know where Lone Star originally got the 64,000 acre/foot

number. Finally, although Lone Star has claimed repeatedly that wells in MOCO are not

performing properly due to water level declines, their expert John Seifert admitted that he

is not aware of any wells that are performing improperly.

Lone Star attempts to justify the 64,000 acre/foot limit by saying that it will avoid

catastrophic subsidence. But Mr. Larry French, from the Texas Water Development Board,

has admitted under oath that there is no subsidence caused by pumping from the Jasper

aquifer in Montgomery County. And all parties agree that two thirds of the groundwater

under MOCO is in the Jasper aquifer. Bill Mullican, the star witness for Lone Star, was forced

to admit that any subsidence in the Chicot aquifer in Montgomery County is possibly caused

by pumpage in Harris County, which is out of the control of Lone Star.

Jace Houston, in a January Dockline article “Yes, Montgomery County Has a Groundwater

Problem”, claims Conroe’s consultants are “outliers.” Maybe SJRA/Lone Star are just out and

out liars.

This begs the question; can state officials make false claims to the public for the benefit of

their bureaucracy? The public purchased SJRA bonds based on Lone Star’s and SJRA’s false

claims. Taxpayers in Montgomery County are responsible for the debt incurred by SJRA,

based on those false claims. Water providers across Montgomery County have been forced

to spend millions of dollars complying with Lone Star’s rules and regulations, all based on

years of deceptive claims. People go to prison all the time for misleading investors in the

business world. Are SJRA and Lone Star exempt from the consequences of committing fraud

and misleading the public?

When you get your water bill this month and you see the SJRA fee, or the Lone Star fee, or

the pass through fee, just know that the cities of Conroe, Magnolia, and Shenandoah are

fighting to get that removed or reduced. If SJRA and Lone Star really cared about the

citizens in Montgomery County, they would stop running from the courthouse and welcome

their day in court. SJRA, afraid to face you, their customers, sued the City of Conroe in

Travis County, the most liberal court in Texas, away from the public scrutiny that will

inevitably occur when SJRA will have to admit they were not honest with the public.

SJRA/Lone Star should for once do what is right, stop increasing the litigation costs, face its

customers in Montgomery County and deal with the consequences.

 

 

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