Conroe, June 13 – Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal’s comment on a major community misconception about flooding highlighted an outstanding presentation by consultants to the San Jacinto River Authority (SJRA) on the Flood Protection Study and Flood Early Warning System Project. The meeting occurred at the SJRA’s Boardroom overlooking the beautiful Lake Conroe Dam (the source of far too many puns from lobbyist and Princeton University alumnus Rob Eissler).
The purpose of the meeting, which the SJRA’s Director of Raw Water Enterprise David L. Parkhill, P.E., led, was to permit consultants from Halff Associates, Inc., engineers to present the plans for the two-phase study. The project will update flood plain information on the studied streams within Montgomery County in order to improve the existing hydrologic monitoring network in the community and to enhance flood early warning capabilities in the region.
Doyal’s clarification of the watersheds
At the end of the presentation during citizen questions from the audience, Judge Doyal explained from the back of the room that there is a common misunderstanding among many citizens in Montgomery County that the flooding in the area around River Plantation, which has suffered terrible drainage issues since the 1994 500-year-flood disaster, has almost nothing whatsoever to do with water coming from the Lake Conroe Dam or within the control of the SJRA, which only oversees the West Fork of the San Jacinto River. As Doyal noted, “water was moving through the River Plantation area and under Interstate 45 at the rate of 60,000 cubic feet per second, but water was only coming out of the Lake Conroe Dam at the rate of 22,000 cubic feet per second.” The Texas A&M University Geology graduate, who is now Montgomery County’s Judge, explained, “The flooding in River Plantation and south of the City of Conroe occurred as a result of drainage from the Lake Creek watershed, not the Lake Conroe watershed. It had nothing to do with water released from the Lake Conroe Dam.”
Doyal: “The flooding in River Plantation and south of the City of Conroe occurred as a result of drainage from the Lake Creek watershed, not the Lake Conroe watershed. It had nothing to do with water released from the Lake Conroe Dam.”
Similarly, both Doyal and Parkhill said that most of the flooding that has occurred in The Woodlands is the result of drainage from the Lake Creek watershed rather than Spring Creek.
Doyal is precisely correct. Citizens should pay close attention to his important hydrological explanation of where the drainage problems occur. In a brief interview after the meeting, Doyal explained to The Golden Hammer that drainage problems in East Montgomery County are more likely related to the East Fork of the San Jacinto River, which is also outside of the jurisdiction of the SJRA, which only regulates the West Fork.
Presentation of plans for the study
This meeting seemed a bit premature, because Halff’s Sam Hinojosa, P.E., only presented the plans for the study rather than any actual results. Hinojosa explained that the study would occur in two phases. Phase I would study the Lake Conroe watershed southward to its confluence with Lake Creek. The second phase of the study would include areas south and southeast of the Phase I study area.
The Texas Water Development Board granted $460,000 for the work, while the SJRA will contribute $230,000, Montgomery County $90,000, and the City of Conroe $140,000 for the Phase I study. There are not yet formal estimates for the Phase II study or a grant to pay for all or part of it, but Hinojosa estimated the cost would be approximately the same amount as the Phase I study.
The studies will include field surveys, hydrologic studies (to generate and understand flow rates of streams), hydraulic analyses (to develop models for how deep the water gets and how far it extends when flooding occurs), and an environmental analysis. The study begin on February 17, 2017. The SJRA will present the final report for the Phase I study in August, 2018, with at least two more public meetings for presentations and comments before then. The two public meetings likely occur in February, 2018, and June, 2018.
Parkhill explained that two Montgomery County representatives closely involved with the Phase I work will be Darren Hess of Montgomery County’s Department of Emergency Management, and Mark Mooney, the Montgomery County Engineer.
Parkhill, Hinojosa, and Doyal all expressed their goal to improve the early warning system for flooding from the data and analysis garnered from both studies.
These studies are quite expensive. Nevertheless, considering the terrible floods Montgomery County has suffered in May of 2016 and May of 2015, and during other periods as well (such as two days ago), developing a far more accurate early warning system for flooding seems a very good investment that should benefit large areas of the County.