Conroe, September 11 – The Board of Directors of the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District (LSGCD) voted to defer action on the proposed groundwater water regulation “management plan” for one week until a public hearing on Tuesday, September 18, 2018, at 2:30 p.m., at the LSGCD’s gigantic office building located at 655 Conroe Park North, Conroe, Texas. The deferral came after three members of the Texas Legislature – State Senators Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe) and Robert Nichols (R-Tyler) and State Representative Will Metcalf (R-Conroe) – provided a letter to LSGCD’s Board asking for them to wait in adopting the regulations until after the November 6, 2018, General Election which will elect the full LSGCD Board for the first time in history.
Currently, the entire Board came into office by appointment for various interest groups, such as municipal utility districts, the San Jacinto River Authority, and the County government.
General Manager Kathy Turner Jones explained to The Golden Hammer that the LSGCD Board had “received several comments suggesting amendments to the proposed regulations” so the Board wanted to give the public the opportunity to provide additional input.
On Friday, September 7, 2018, Conroe Mayor Toby Powell wrote a letter to the LSGCD Board after the LSGCD posted an agenda for a meeting on Tuesday, September 11, in which the district proposed to adopt a new “management plan” to ratify the so-called “Desired Future Conditions” (DFC) that LSGCD agreed were not reasonable in a settlement with the City of Conroe on November 16, 2017, during a hearing before the State Office of Administrative Hearings. The “management plan” ratifies the DFC to limit total Montgomery County groundwater withdrawals to 64,000 acre-feet per year, which would result in severe restrictions of private property owner use of groundwater throughout Montgomery County.
All seats on the LSGCD Board of Directors are up for election by the voters of Montgomery County on November 6, 2018, in the General Election for the first time in history. In his letter, Powell said “This Board should not adopt a new Management Plan for the district. Public confidence in the actions of this board has declined to the degree that the Legislature has directed that a new Board be elected by Montgomery County voters.” (Emphasis is Powell’s.) Powell further wrote that the proposed “management plan” adopts a “discredited and rejected DFC” that directly contravenes the LSGCD’s settlement agreement with the City of Conroe.
LSCGD, whose current Board is largely under the control and direction of the San Jacinto River Authority, has adopted restrictive groundwater production regulations to prevent private property owners from drawing their own groundwater ostensibly for conservation reasons. Numerous citizens, groundwater producers, and municipalities have challenged the reasonableness of those regulations, particularly in light of scientific studies which show that Montgomery County’s groundwater usage does not even come close to threatening the available groundwater aquifers.
It does still appear that LSGCD intends to adopt the groundwater regulations next week, despite numerous complaints about the proposed regulations. Early yesterday, the law firm representing large groundwater producers provided a detailed letter complaining about the lack of reasonable scientific basis for the proposed DFC. That letter in its entirety appears at the bottom of this article (below the Monopoly board).
LSGCD’s precipitous action questionable
The LSGCD Board’s proposed intent to take precipitous action to adopt the groundwater regulations just before the November 6, 2018, General Election for an entirely new Board seems bizarre in light of discussion that occurred towards the end of the LSGCD’s Board meeting yesterday.
An attorney for LSGCD made a presentation to the Board about proposed groundwater well spacing requirements to conserve groundwater resources. The attorney explained that, while the regulations were ready for consideration by the Board, he recommended that the Board delay adoption of those regulations until the newly-elected Board of Directors comes into office a just a few weeks.
Clearly, something is going on with respect to the Board’s hurry to adopt the DFC regulations before a citizen Board comes into office. Look no further than the interests of the San Jacinto River Authority (SJRA), whose General Manager Jace Houston currently sits on the LSGCD Board and who controls a majority of the current appointees on the Board.
Montgomery County’s groundwater usage is severely more restrictive than the three counties adjacent to it in the DFC which LSGCD intends to adopt on Tuesday. Of course, the severe restrictions would force water users to purchase surface water from the San Jacinto River Authority in this regulation-induced monopoly scheme.
Restore Affordable Water (RAW) is a property rights organization fighting for landowners’ property rights to use their own groundwater and to bring an end to the SJRA’s intent to monopolize the sale of water to residential and business users. RAW has endorsed a number of candidates running for the LSGCD Board in the November 6, 2018. RAW President Simon Sequeira told The Golden Hammer, “LSGCD in November 2017 agreed that the 64,000 acre-feet per year pumping limit was no longer reasonable and avoided a trial that would have exposed their shenaningans by entering into a settlement with the City of Conroe. Now, on the eve of an election for an entirely new board, they’re reneging on their promise.”
Sequeira, an expert on the water regulation issue and the president of a utility company in the Magnolia area, explained that Montgomery County is the only county with pumping limits among all of the counties in the Groundwater 14 region of the Texas Water Development Board. “Montgomery County is the sacrificial lamb in the aquifers,” Sequeira noted with respect to the substantially higher water prices Montgomery County residential and business users must pay since the LSGCD regulations restricted groundwater use and forced water user to purchase surface water from SJRA at much higher prices.