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
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.