Image: The Texas Sunset Commission and the 87th Texas Legislature may hold the key to true reform of the San Jacinto River Authority, the enemy of the people of the San Jacinto River watershed and those families and businesses who live downstream from it.
The Golden Hammer Staff Reports
Conroe and Austin, November 18 – The San Jacinto River Authority (SJRA) is the enemy of the people it should serve in the San Jacinto River watershed. Instead of fulfilling its statutory duty to provide flood control, soil conservation, and reforestation, SJRA has:
- Attempted to monopolize the sale of water to the public by trying to cause overregulation of groundwater and private property rights, for which SJRA now faces a major antitrust lawsuit in United States District Court;
- Hidden its major operative documents, the alleged plan for reducing downstream flow from the Lake Conroe Dam, for which SJRA now faces a writ of mandamus in the 284th District Court of Montgomery County and a pending appeal in the Beaumont Court of Appeals;
- Operates mostly through secret meetings outside of public view under the pretext of consultations with the river authority’s high-priced Houston attorneys;
- Flooded thousands of families and businesses during Tropical Storm Harvey and now faces more than a dozen lawsuits as a result;
- Has tried to fight the deregulation efforts of the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District through SJRA’s financial relationship with the Texas Water Development Board, which supposedly oversees groundwater conservation districts;
- And so much more.
SJRA has abjectly failed to provide flood control. Rather than spending its more than $50 million in unencumbered funds on flood control in the San Jacinto River watershed, the river authority has tried to foist flood control duties on the Montgomery County government, the City of Conroe government, and the Harris County Flood Control District. Taxpayers face an acute challenge from SJRA, which refuses to spend its massive funds from water sale profits in Montgomery County and Houston and instead wants property tax increases and income tax increases (through the federal government) to subsidize the flood control, which SJRA already has a statutory duty to provide.
SJRA is nothing but ugly, as it operates out of its multimillion beautiful prime real estate “Taj Mahal” building next to the Lake Conroe Dam in one of the most ornate government buildings in the United States.
Simon Sequeira, the property rights advocate and hero, who has fought SJRA at every turn, told The Golden Hammer, Montgomery County’s leading daily newspaper, last night that “Nothing will improve at SJRA unless and until the Board of Directors replaces the current management entirely.”
“Nothing will improve at SJRA unless and until the Board of Directors replaces the current management entirely.” – – – Property rights advocate and hero, Simon Sequeira.
Meanwhile, citizens of Montgomery County and Kingwood, the two communities who have suffered mightily at the hands of SJRA in recent years, await Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s appointments to fill three Board of Directors positions, which are expiring this year: long time Board President Lloyd Tisdale, Jim Alexander, and Kingwood’s Kaaren Cambio.
Tisdale has consistently worked against the interests of Montgomery County as has Alexander. Cambio has been nothing but a major disappointment. Prior to her appointment to the Board, Cambio had advocated forcefully for Kingwood’s interests. Nevertheless, SJRA’s General Manager Jace Houston quickly put his arm around Cambio and completely took control of her and eliminated her advocacy efforts entirely.
Very clearly, all three – Tisdale, Alexander, and Cambio – must go from SJRA’s Board before much-needed reforms will ever occur.
How can citizens work to ensure reform of SJRA right now? Clearly, the greatest current opportunity, short of multiple litigation victories at multiple courthouses across Texas in the pending litigation, comes in the Austin Capitol, where SJRA faces “sunset” review. Citizens must get involved in the sunset review process immediately and keep their feet on the throat of SJRA until the 87th Texas Legislature adopts major reforms, if they don’t abolish the agency in its entirety.
SJRA has already submitted a self-serving self-evaluation report to the Texas Sunset Commission, which readers may find at sunset.texas.gov. The Sunset Commission was to have issued its staff review report on Monday, November 16, 2020. Instead, The Golden Hammer has learned that the Sunset Commission staff will issue its report of the SJRA on Friday, November 20, 2020.
After issuance of the Sunset Commission staff report, SJRA will face public hearings at which citizens may participate. The Sunset Commission has not yet set the schedule for those hearings. After the public hearings and Commission deliberation, the Texas Sunset Commission will issue its formal recommendations to the 87th Texas Legislature, which must act on those recommendations and reauthorize SJRA, or else the agency will go into extinction (!).
The good news about the Sunset Commission is that it’s a twelve-person Commission with a strong group of conservative pro-citizen members. The Chair of the Texas Sunset Commission is State Representative John Cyrier, a Republican from Bastrop. The Commission includes conservative Senators Bob Hall and Angela Paxton, as well as pro-citizen Democrat Terry Canales. There are also two public Commission members who are not legislators. Clearly, there are opportunities for citizens to remain involved in the process and to fight for reforms of SJRA. For additional information, readers should go to the Commission’s website, particularly the page on citizen participation at https://www.sunset.texas.gov/how-sunset-works/how-participate .
There is an effort by a number of Montgomery County leaders to bring about many reforms of SJRA. One of those reforms would be to implement a retention election system for SJRA Board members, who presently are gubernatorial appointees and largely out of touch with citizen needs. With a mandated retention election for Board members, the Board would have to look into the eyes of voters and explain their actions after they served for a certain period of time by appointment. That system is very similar to the manner in which many western states, such as Utah and Colorado, choose their judicial officers.
Citizens interested in participating in the “sunset” process and who have questions about how to get involved are welcome to call this newspaper at 832.496.4898 for additional information.