Conroe, October 19 – The engineer leading the Halff Associates, Inc.’s $2 million flooding study for the embattled San Jacinto River Authority (“SJRA”) revealed a frightening ignorance of the geographic location of the San Jacinto River watershed, the area of SJRA’s responsibility “to provide flood control” under its Enabling Act which created SJRA. “The San Jacinto River…takes a large portion of the County’s watershed …of course the San Jacinto is notorious for flooding,” said the $2 million engineer Sam Hinojosa, after he introduced himself to the Montgomery County Commissioners Court on Tuesday, October 10, 2017, as a civil engineer and also a resident of Montgomery County.
Hinojosa presented Halff’s proposed study to the public at a special meeting of SJRA on July 12, 2017, in which Hinojosa and SJRA’s David Parkhill, an in-house SJRA engineer, explained that the $2 million study would examine the San Jacinto River Basin in two phases, the first down to the junction of Lake Creek with the River and the second phase all the way down to Lake Houston. Hinojosa suggested to the Commissioners Court that the County government should pay for the second phase study which would cost in the range of $1 million. Doyal seemed rather excited about spending money on such engineering studies, which makes sense, since Halff Associates, Inc., is the engineering firm whose Regional Vice President is none other than Bobby Jack Adams, Doyal’s best friend, business partner, and a leader of Doyal’s criminal legal defense fund.
SJRA’s actual area of authority is the entire San Jacinto River watershed under the 1937 Enabling Act which created the agency.
The watershed of the San Jacinto River includes all of Montgomery County in addition to areas outside of the County as well.
In other words, SJRA has the legal authority – and duty – “to provide flood control” for the entirety of Montgomery County and the remainder of the San Jacinto River Basin outside of Harris County.
That a lead engineer under a $2 million contract with SJRA would not understand that the watershed of the San Jacinto River encompasses the entirety of Montgomery County this far into the study reveals the carelessness with which SJRA and Halff are approaching the $2 million expenditure.
Hinojosa told the Commissioners Court that “the study consists of looking at the existing conditions, the extent of the flood plain, and the impact of Lake Creek on the San Jacinto River, looking at impacted areas, doing a flood damage assessment, and also looking at alternatives to reduce the flood risk downstream, as well as an updated response plan.”
That all sounded well and good until Montgomery County Judge Doyal, who is very protective of his engineering friends at SJRA and especially his Halff Associates political contributors, chimed in to remind Hinojosa that “Y’all are basically just look down the San Jacinto, right? Hinojosa quickly replied, “That’s correct.”
Doyal reminded Hinojosa that SJRA would only recognize responsibility for the portions of the San Jacinto River from which SJRA makes hundreds of millions of dollars per year in water sales and enjoys immense profits.
Precinct 3 County Commissioner asked, “Who hired you do to this?” to which Hinojosa ruefully admitted, “SJRA” as a hush fell across the room (but not an actual shadow as often would occur in horror films when a vampire would enter).
Hinojosa then quickly added that the first phase of the flood study received funding from the Texas Water Development Board, SJRA, the City of Conroe, and of course the spendthrift Montgomery County government.
Noack then rightly complained that he saw two problems with SJRA’s approach to the study: “Number one, we need a broader picture than just what’s happening in the San Jacinto River, and, number two, with all due respect, I thing the community wants something not associated with the SJRA…We need an independent study that not connected to SJRA whatsoever…We need to have a study done of what role SJRA played in it [the Harvey flooding].”
Doyal then tried to deflect attention away from SJRA’s area of responsibility by arguing that a study broader in scope to include Peach Creek, Caney Creek, and Lake Creek was necessary. Amazingly, Doyal also failed to understand that SJRA’s area of responsibility “to provide flood control” under its Enabling Act is the entirety of the San Jacinto River watershed, which includes all three of those creeks and a much wider area.
In response to another question by Doyal, Hinojosa made his infamous remark:
“No, this [study is] all involving flood reduction, flood mitigation, risk, starting with the San Jacinto River, because it takes a large portion of the County’s watershed…of course the San Jacinto is notorious for flooding.” (Emphasis added.)
Doyal also tried to deflect responsibility away from his SJRA buddies by emphasizing that the federal government (i.e., the taxpayers) should “help with financing this agenda item.”
Despite the massive funds SJRA has in its unencumbered cash coffers, Doyal seeks to minimize the financial burden on SJRA so that SJRA may maximize its payment to Doyal’s engineering political supporters.