BREAKING NEWS! The Golden Hammer sets tomorrow (June 9) to release San Jacinto River Authority’s Emergency Action Plan after almost 4-year court fight

Estimated Peak Water Flows, Tropical Storm Harvey, August 25 to 29, 2017. Source: San Jacinto River Authority.

BREAKING NEWS!

The Golden Hammer Staff Reports – The Golden Hammer, Montgomery County’s leading daily newspaper, will release to the public the San Jacinto River Authority’s Emergency Action Plan (EAP) after this newspaper prevailed in an almost four year long court battle to obtain the crucial public information. Eric Yollick, Editor-in-Chief, said, “We’ll release SJRA’s documents at 12:01 a.m., Wednesday, June 9, 2021. Our analytical team is perusing the documents and has discovered major misfeasances and malfeasances from the river authority both during Tropical Storm Harvey and prior to that fateful event. We also want to warn parents of minor children, in particular, that the document has a very eery and upsetting quality to it which suggests children should not read the document without parental supervision.”

We’ll release SJRA’s documents at 12:01 a.m., Wednesday, June 9, 2021. Our analytical team is perusing the documents and has discovered major misfeasances and malfeasances from the river authority both during Tropical Storm Harvey and prior to that fateful event. We also want to warn parents of minor children, in particular, that the document has a very eery and upsetting quality to it which suggests children should not read the document without parental supervision.” – – – The Golden Hammer Editor-in-Chief Eric Yollick

Late in the night on Monday, August 28, 2017, during Tropical Storm Harvey, without any meaningful warning to families and businesses downstream, SJRA opened the gates of the Lake Conroe Dam and began a release of 79,141 cubic feet per second (cfs) of water in order to lower water-swollen Lake Conroe. The torrent of water destroyed more than five thousand homes and businesses downstream from the Dam within hours of the release. At least two people died from the raging wall of water.

Entire communities in East Montgomery County, Kingwood, Humble, and the Lake Houston area suffered total destruction. Many of the losses were uninsured. Thousands of those families are now suing SJRA for flooding their homes under a claim that the river authority took the homes by condemnation or eminent domain, because, they contend, SJRA’s actions were intentional destruction of their homes. Please see “After Decades of Failing to Provide Flood Control, San Jacinto River Authority faces existential lawsuit after Houston Court of Appeals opinion,” The Golden Hammer, December 8, 2018, https://thegoldenhammer.net/after-decades-of-failing-to-provide-flood-control-san-jacinto-river-authority-faces-existential-lawsuits-after-houston-court-of-appeals-opinion/ and “San Jacinto River Authority loses major appeal in Texas Supreme Court as quagmire of litigation looks to sink scofflaw river authority,” The Golden Hammer, April 21, 2021 https://thegoldenhammer.net/san-jacinto-river-authority-loses-major-appeal-over-harvey-flooding-in-texas-supreme-court-as-quagmire-of-litigation-looks-to-sink-scofflaw-river-authority/

Within a few days after the SJRA-caused flooding in 2017, State Representative Dan Huberty (Republican of Kingwood), State Senator Brandon Creighton (Republican of Conroe), Houston City Councilman (now Houston Mayor Pro Tem) Dave Martin, and thousands of other individuals complained to SJRA in a feverous pitch about the thousands of families, which the river authority destroyed in its unplanned and hasty actions during Tropical Storm Harvey. A chilling September 1, 2017, video presentation by SJRA General Manager Jace Houston, who along with former County Judge Craig Doyal, former Precinct 1 County Commissioner Mike Meador, and former Woodlands Township Director Laura Fillault tried to rationalize the SJRA’s terrible mismanagement. The video made SJRA’s public relations problems even worse.

Image: On Friday, September 1, 2017, the San Jacinto River Authority (SJRA) released a video in which the Authority tried to explain its actions. The video did little more than enrage Montgomery County citizens who saw through the video for what it was: a thin rationalization. This photograph is from the video. On the front row are, from left to right, Laura Fillault (Woodlands Township Board), Jace Houston (SJRA Executive Director), Mike Meador (Precinct 1 County Commissioner). In the back row, from left to right, Lloyd Tisdale (SJRA President), Darren Hess (Montgomery County Emergency Management Director), and Craig Doyal (Montgomery County Judge).

In order to try to head off a citizen revolt, SJRA issued a press release on September 8, 2017, entitled “SJRA responds to lawsuit regarding Hurricane Harvey flooding.” In SJRA’s press release, its central argument was:

“While we understand the frustration and confusion many people are experiencing as a result of this natural disaster, we also know that allegations in lawsuits are not facts but simply what a lawyer chooses to claim. Despite the misinformation and speculation that has been circulated in the media, int he pending lawsuit, and elsewhere, the actual facts are that the Authority’s operation of the Lake Conroe dam was in accordance with both the law and a carefully prepared engineering plan that, among other things actually has the effecting of reducing downstream peak flow as water passes through the lake from the San Jacinto River.” (Emphasis added.)

Senator Creighton, Representative Huberty, State Representative Steve Toth (Republican of Conroe), State Representative Will Metcalf (Republican of Conroe), and the staff of the Texas Senate Agriculture Committee all confirmed to this newspaper that they specifically asked SJRA for a copy of its Emergency Action Plan. SJRA refused to provide the document to those legislative representatives.

In response to the September 8 press release, this newspaper sent a request for “public information,” pursuant to the Texas Public Information Act to SJRA and requested:

  1. “The carefully prepared engineering plan” to which your September 8, 2017, Press Release referred;
  2. All engineering plans since October 1, 1994, SJRA has prepared or had prepared for it for the operation of the Lake Conroe dam with respect to mitigation or reduction of downstream peak flows as water has passed through Lake Conroe from the San Jacinto River;
  3. All flood control plans SJRA has developed since August 28, 2007.

In response, SJRA told this newspaper that there are only two documents responsive to The Golden Hammer‘s request for public information: (1) a 2010 Emergency Action Plan for the operation of the Lake Conroe Dam, and (2) a 2017 Lake Conroe Dam Gate update. SJRA also informed this newspaper that it refused to produce the documents under the Texas Public Information Act.

After a trial of this newspaper’s lawsuit over the “public information” request, 284th District Judge Kristin Bays issued a Writ of Mandamus and ordered SJRA to produce the documents immediately to this newspaper on February 22, 2019. SJRA appealed to the Beaumont Court of Appeals and lost its appeal two years later on March 18, 2021. After waiting for other appeal avenues to dissipate, SJRA finally found itself in the position wherein it must comply with Judge Bays’ Writ of Mandamus and finally has made the “public information” documents availalable to The Golden Hammer.

Readers will have the opportunity to discover what is in the documents SJRA has fought vociferously to withhold from public view and why SJRA fought so hard, when this newspaper publishes tonight at 12:01 a.m.

 

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