Conroe, March 4 – Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal rudely shut down the remarks of renowned business and community leader Rigby Owen, Jr., this past Tuesday, February 27, 2018, when Owen spoke to the Montgomery County Commissioners Court and dared to suggest that the San Jacinto River Authority – and Doyal – might want to exercise “a bit of common sense” and lower Lake Conroe water levels during the hurricane season each year. Owen attended the meeting in response to an agenda item Doyal placed on the agenda to keep Lake Conroe water levels as high as possible in order to aid recreational use of the lake and to spur “economic development,” precisely the type of centralized government command and control Doyal so dearly craves.
Owen attempted to explain the concept of “common sense” to Doyal and the Commissioners Court but Doyal discourteously shut Owen down before Owen had the opportunity to complete his remarks. After Doyal forced Owen to stop speaking, another lady in the audience arose to make a citizen comment on the issue. Doyal immediately quieted her as well and would not even allow the lady to speak at all.
After the verbal fracas, Doyal proceeded to take 4 minutes, and 12 second to read his entire resolution word-for-word as if the people in the room could not read the item for themselves. Doyal’s new ally on the Commissioners Court, Precinct 3 Montgomery County Commissioner James Noack, then moved to adopt the resolution.
Precinct 4 County Commissioner Jim Clark commented that keeping the lake’s water levels high during the hurricane season didn’t make much sense to him either, especially since the water dumped from the Lake Conroe Dam floods East Montgomery County, which Clark represents on the Commissioners Court.
Owen’s and Clark’s concerns fell on deaf ears, as the Commissioners Court voted 4 to 1 to urge the San Jacinto River Authority to keep the Lake Conroe water levels high, even during the hurricane season. Apparently, recreational use of Lake Conroe is more important to Doyal, Noack, Charlie Riley, and Mike Meador than the safety of the thousands of homes downstream from the Lake Conroe Dam.
The following are longtime community leader and businessman Rigby Owen, Jr.’s comments to the Commissioners Court on February 27:
“Rigby Owen. I live on Lake Conroe. I’ve lived out there since 1989. And I’m up here to ask you to use some common sense on that lake.
“Unfortunately, the River Authority board doesn’t have much of it. In 1994, a dear friend of mine lived in the in the house at the Dam site that controlled watching the water level, Rem Scarborough. They all went deer hunting, let the lake go too high, and we got a foot of water in my house.
“For nearly 23 years after that, three hurricanes, Tropical Storm Allison, we never got water. Hurricane Harvey comes through town and somebody not just on Lake Conroe but Lake Raborn, Lake Livingston, they decided let’s see how high we can let that water right up here, because someone had the wild idea that we just let it get up real high, we might can stop some of it from going downstream. I got two feet of water. I had many neighbors there.
“The general manager of Walden told me about 250 homes in Walden got water. $600,000 later my house is back to normal except for the yard and the fence. I lost $150,000 of automobiles. We were out of town. $55,000 roof damage. I fortunately had flood insurance. I have two neighbors in million dollar homes and they didn’t have flood insurance.
“If you’ve never been through a good flood, you don’t know the devastating effect. It’s not just the devastating effect of the physical damage, it’s the mental anguish and the impact. I happen to live in an upside down house so the good stuff was upstairs. When I’m telling you it cost $600,000, I’m telling you that’s the by-God truth.
“All that had to take place for years Jim Adams and all of them would say they’d let that water out at a certain level.
“You know every year when the hurricane season is. It doesn’t change. You don’t know when a tornado is coming or when a wildfire is coming or you don’t when some of these national disasters are coming, but you know when hurricane season is. And what kind of genius does it take to lower that lake some to be prepared in case we have a huge onslaught of water? That lake’s not going to go dry. But do they do that? No, they decide. I was serving on a committee at the groundwater district and made the statement we got water. A guy was serving on the committee, I didn’t know who he was at the time, but it turned out he works for the River authority. I said, I can’t believe it I got 2 feet of water in my house. He pops up and says, ‘that was at 106, but let me tell you something we could’ve held it to 107.’ It’s a good thing we were sitting in a public meeting because I would have had more words with him. I did catch him afterwards and said, ‘What’s wrong with you? Do you feel good? You can’t control a lot of the flooding downstream. You can control all of the flooding above the dam. Do you feel good that you’re going to flood everybody? Does that make you feel good?'”
“Now, I’m one home. I’m $600,000 in one home. Do you know what it cost the millions and millions of dollars in damage up there and we’re going to sit here? It just takes common sense to know you need to lower the level of that lake some.”
[At that point, Doyal’s little bell rang.]
Owen: “We’re not going to destroy all these businesses by lowering the water a bit.”
Doyal: “Your time has expired.”
Owen: “Throw me out of here. That’s good. That’s good. That’s fine. throw me out of here but use common sense. What you’ve got to remember is the common good. It’s not political. It’s not what party you belong to. It’s the common good, Craig.”
Doyal: “I understand but your time is up. Your time is expired.”
Owen: “That’s fine. My house expired a few months ago. So I’ll leave now or you can have them throw me out. Whatever you want to do.”
Doyal: “Mr. Owen, you’ll have to leave. Your time has expired.”
Doyal: “It’s the common good, Craig. Vote for the common good.”
Doyal’s resolution calling for higher lake water levels raises some important questions:
- Why is the Commissioners Court, with no engineers or expertise, even sticking its nose into this issue at all?
- Why shouldn’t the San Jacinto River Authority, which has the statutory duty “to provide flood control” not address this issue entirely?
- Doesn’t Doyal have a major conflict of interest on this issue, since his best friend and business partner is Bobby Jack Adams, the engineer with Halff Associates which has a multi-million dollar contract to provide engineering services to the San Jacinto River Authority?
- Since reservoirs in Florida routinely lower their water levels during the hurricane season, why wouldn’t the San Jacinto River Authority follow those “best practices” for management of the Lake Conroe reservoir as well?