Conroe, The Woodlands, and Kingwood, September 10 – State Senator Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe), State Representative Dan Huberty (R-Kingwood), and former State Representative Steve Toth (R-The Woodlands) have called for an investigation in the Texas Legislature of the San Jacinto River Authority (SJRA). Creighton has added that he’s glad the SJRA is up for sunset review during the 86th Legislature in 2019.
Huberty, who is Chairman of the powerful House Education Committee, told The Golden Hammer, “We’re working on a formal letter asking for an explanation. One we receive a response from SJRA, then I’ll ask for a formal investigation by the House of Representatives Investigations Committee chaired by Representative Sarah Davis, of Houston. Something has to be done, because there is no rhyme or reason for what they did.”
Creighton became the State Senator for Senator District 4 in August, 2014. His district extends from Conroe through Kingwood and then over to the Beaumont and Port Arthur areas. “Our district map is like a ground zero for the destruction that Harvey brought to southeast Texas.”
Before Creighton began his service in the state senate, he had served for seven years in the Texas House where he had been the Vice Chairman of the Investigations Committee. “It’s a surprisingly powerful committee. It’s got subpoena power and is like a sleeping giant. Once you wake it up, watch out for all that it can get done,” Creighton remarked.
Creighton added: “The river authorities, including SJRA, have some major explaining to do and need to provide the justification to say it was within the law for them to refuse not to early release. I disagree with that decision. The SJRA is talking about protecting the basin and the dam, but they could’ve lowered the basis before August 28 and, instead of thousands of people who lost their homes to downstream flooding, we might’ve been faced with only a few angry lake owners who couldn’t launch their boats for a few extra days.”
State Senator Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe): “The SJRA is talking about protecting the basin and the dam, but they could’ve lowered the basis before August 28 and, instead of thousands of people who lost their homes to downstream flooding, we might’ve been faced with only a few angry lake owners who couldn’t launch their boats for a few extra days.”
Toth, who served in the Texas House of Representatives from 2013 to 2015 and is now running for that seat again, told The Golden Hammer, “I support Representative Huberty’s and Senator Creighton’s calls for an investigation of SJRA. It’s not just an issue of rising water, but that they were letting water out so fast from the Lake Conroe Dam that it literally swept homes off their foundations.”
Toth was one of the first people who called SJRA out for their failure to warn people downstream about the intended release of water and their failure to pre-release water over the several day period when the weather forecast had revealed that Harvey was coming to the Houston area as a hurricane or tropical storm.
Huberty said, “We still don’t know exactly how many homes in Kingwood and around Lake Houston were flooded but the number is in the thousands.” He continued, “When SJRA released the water on August 28, the water was about a foot over the Lake Conroe Dam spillway. They said they needed to release the water to protect the structural integrity of the dam. But when you know you’re flooding homes and properties downstream, you’ve got to take the greatest care.”
The Kingwood member of the Texas House of Representatives, Huberty, said that SJRA should have considered slowing the water release down and giving more time for the water to recede. “This is this third time we’ve had a situation like this in 16 months. Water should’ve been released before Lake Conroe got to its highest point in order to control the speed of the flow downstream.”
“People in this community want answers. They’ve lost everything,” Huberty said.
Sunset in 2019 for SJRA?
Creighton noted that he and Senator Brian Birdwell, a Republican from Granbury, pushed to include the river authorities under the state’s sunset review process. SJRA will come up for sunset review during the 86th Legislative Session in 2019.
“Sunset review own’t circumvent the investigation Representative Huberty is calling for, but may actually help with the process of getting to the bottom of the problem with the SJRA’s decisions,” Creighton said. “It’s very unusual that SJRA provided no early warning to downstream communities before they started major water releases from the Lake Conroe Dam.”
Creighton told this newspaper, “There’s a lot of frustration because the river authorities are appointed by the Governor, so there’s not much of a check and balance over them. There have been other decisions SJRA took prior to Harvey that warranted an investigation, but these decisions over the past several days have harmed a lot more people and their homes.”
Toth added, “While someone has to run the dam, we need a board with individuals who are accountable to the community and whose actions are transparent. We need legislation that causes them to be accountable. We cannot continue to allow some directors of SJRA to have a close relationship with engineers who should be providing professional services.”