Conroe, March 13 – Prior to the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District’s (LSGCD) Board of Directors meeting last night, the San Jacinto River Authority (SJRA), through a letter from its General Manager Jace Houston, and its close ally, the Woodlands Joint Powers Agency, tried to put the scare into the LSGCD to continue to impose groundwater reduction plan (GRP) regulations, even though the 284th District Court, Visiting Judge Lamar McCorkle presiding, has already ruled the regulations were unreasonable as a matter of law.
LSGCD Board member Jonathan Prykryl, who represents Commissioners Precinct 4, the portion of Montgomery County which SJRA flooded the most when it released water from the Lake Conroe Dam during the Harvey storm, responded to Houston’s letter in an exclusive interview with this newspaper:
“I believe Mr. Houston and the SJRA need to focus on their statutory duty of flood control and mitigation rather than nitpicking our Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District draft management plan.”
LSGCD Treasurer and Board member Jim Spigener very succinctly described the situation with SJRA:
“It looks to me like SJRA is going to fiercely hang on to their source of revenue through the GRP regulations. That’s how they fund their bonds. Before we were an elected Board, SJRA collaborated with Lone Star [GCD] to create the GRPs, so they could force Quadvest, other utilities, and cities like Conroe and Magnolia into long-term contracts to purchase surface water from SJRA. Jace Houston’s letter looks like they’re no desperate.”
LSGCD Board member Jon Bouche told The Golden Hammer,
“I wish Jace Houston was as concerned about doing his job as we are doing ours. Isn’t that how we got in this situation? He needs to be concerned about flood mitigation, but he’s going around telling Senator Brandon Creighton and others that SJRA doesn’t have a duty to control flooding but only a right. Mr. Houston draws all sorts of incorrect conclusions in his letter.”
Bouche added, “We on the Lone Star Board didn’t declare the groundwater reduction plan regulations unreasonable. The 284th District Court did. Houston’s letter smacks of desperation.”
Voters, by large margins, elected all seven (7) LSGCD Board members on a deregulation of groundwater platform, because there is no scientific basis for any claimed necessity for groundwater regulation. Spigener has referred to the groundwater aquifers in Montgomery County as “the Saudi Arabia of groundwater.” Texas A&M University’s Bush School of Government generally agreed that there is no shortage of groundwater other than “regulatory-induced shortage” in a 2012 study.
In his letter to LSGCD, dated March 11 (a full copy of which is at the end of this article), Houston, who served on the LSGCD Board, when it was still an appointed Board, argued:
“SJRA has been actively involved fo the last two decades in working with the District and numerous other stakeholders in Montgomery County to address the rapidly declining water levels in local aquifers, decreasing well yields, and the prevention and mitigation of land subsidence by promoting responsible water resources planning and management and the conjunctive use of groundwater and surface water resources to support continued population growth and economic growth in the county.”
In reality, thanks to the GRP regulations which LSGCD imposed on large groundwater producers and municipalities when SJRA still controlled the LSGCD Board, SJRA rapidly developed a monopoly in water sales in which it successfully drove water prices up radically to result in Montgomery County end users suffering some of the highest water prices in Texas.
In 2018 alone, SJRA enjoyed an operating profit of $33.182 million from its highly profitable increases in surface water prices. By driving out competition for water by over-regulation of groundwater through LSGCD’s previously arbitrary regulations, SJRA has made a fortune, which it has refused to spend on its core statutory duty “to provide flood control.”
Jim Stinson, General Manager of the Woodlands Joint Powers Agency, which has worked closely with SJRA, also wrote a letter to LSGCD’s Board yesterday in which Stinson pled with the Board to delay implementation of groundwater regulations which would permit private groundwater producers to enjoy genuine competition with SJRA. Stinson had also previously served on the LSGCD Board and voted with SJRA’s demands for stringent groundwater regulations consistently.
Houston’s letter follows.