SJRA, Big Water pack Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District Town Hall to create fear, divert attention from SJRA’s monopolization of water, failure to fulfill its job duties

SJRA, Big Water pack Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District Town Hall to create fear, divert attention from SJRA’s monopolization of water, failure to fulfill its job duties

Image: Renowned hydrologist Robert Harden finally got to present facts and hydrological models after the San Jacinto River Authority and its Big Water allies sought to foment fear at the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District’s Town Hall Meeting on Monday, April 22, 2019.

The Woodlands, April 28 – The Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District (LSGCD) Board of Directors and senior staff held a Town Hall meeting for the general public on Monday, April 22, 2019, at the South Montgomery County Community Center in The Woodlands. While the intended participants were regular citizens, Big Water and other allies of the monopolistic San Jacinto River Authority packed the meeting after Woodlands Joint Power Agency (WJPA) General Manager Jim Stinson called them to appear from all of the Greater Houston area.

Very few regular citizens attended the meeting at which sixty-three (63) people gathered. Approximately one-third of the people attending came from outside of Montgomery County.

Stinson provided far more publicity for the gathering than did LSGCD. The meeting began with very brief remarks by LSGCD Interim General Manager Samantha Reiter. LSGCD General Counsel Stacy Reese, geological consultant Mike Thornhill, renowned hydrologist Robert Harden, LSGCD Board President Webb Melder, Vice President Harry Hardman, Board member Jon Bouche, and Board member Larry Rogers also attended.

Reiter explained that the lawsuit, which LSGCD recently settled with the City of Conroe and others, including a ruling from Senior District Judge Lamar McCorkle that LSGCD’s thirty percent (30%) reduction of groundwater usage regulations were invalid and exceeded LSGCD’s statutory authority. Those regulations had become the mechanism by which SJRA, which had controlled the LSGCD Board prior to elections by the citizens on November 6, 2018, began to monopolize the sale of water and had greatly increased water prices on the surface water SJRA sold to municipalities and other water users.

Reiter noted that the previous LSGCD Board, under SJRA’s control, had spent over a million dollars in legal fees trying to defend the groundwater regulations but still lost.

Under LSGCD’s new Management Plan, LSGCD will manager total groundwater production based entirely upon scientific evaluation and will measure reservoir trends rather than forcing specific targeted reductions on individual groundwater producers.

Prior to the meeting, several people observed Stinson of WJPA and Matt Corley, the administrative manager of the GRP Division of SJRA, handing out scripts to individuals who spoke at the meeting. Several individuals who stood up to speak read from the scripts actually had difficulty reading their remarks, even though they continued to pretend that the comments came from them. Stinson, Corley, and SJRA had nicely staged the comments.

Some of the comments were downright ridiculous. One man complained that his patio in his backyard had sunk a few inches. He blamed “subsidence from groundwater drawdowns” for the fact that a heavy slab of cement sunk into the dirt. Apparently, the force of gravity does not operate in his backyard!

Laura Norton, a long time Woodlands resident who identified herself as a member of the “Drainage Task Force,” said she was “extremely concerned about flooding…Even 1 inch of subsidence is going to make matters worse. Home values are lost when neighbors flood. It’s turning our hometown into not a very nice place to live.”

Apparently, according to the SJRA and its cronies, overdevelopment, poor planning, and the lack of drainage facilities have nothing to do with the flooding which Montgomery County and the Greater Houston area has experienced in the past ten years. Apparently, according to SJRA and its cronies, the complete failure of the San Jacinto River Authority to fulfill its statutory duty “to provide flood control” since 1937 when the state agency came into existence had nothing to do with flooding. Apparently, according to SJRA and its cronies, SJRA’s decision to release 79,131 cubic feet per second of water from the Lake Conroe Dam had nothing to do with the massive flooding which occurred in August, 2017. Rather, the decision of Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District to begin some reductions of regulations of groundwater production in early 2019 caused the massive flooding during the SJRA’s precipitous release of water in August, 2017!

Apparently, according to the SJRA and its cronies, overdevelopment, poor planning, and the lack of drainage facilities have nothing to do with the flooding which Montgomery County and the Greater Houston area has experienced in the past ten years. Apparently, according to SJRA and its cronies, the complete failure of the San Jacinto River Authority to fulfill its statutory duty “to provide flood control” since 1937 when the state agency came into existence had nothing to do with flooding. Apparently, according to SJRA and its cronies, SJRA’s decision to release 79,131 cubic feet per second of water from the Lake Conroe Dam had nothing to do with the massive flooding which occurred in August, 2017. Rather, the decision of Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District to begin some reductions of regulations of groundwater production in early 2019 caused the massive flooding during the SJRA’s precipitous release of water in August, 2017!

After approximately a dozen speeches from Jackie Chance, Jr., Mayor Tom Ramsey of Spring Creek Village (in Harris County), Helen Bostock, SJRA’s Matt Corley who is the administrative manager of its GRP Division, Bob Leilich, Claude Hunter who is always ready to lend a hand to the Big Government Establishment, and others all of whom had direct business ties to SJRA and its expensive surface water distribution system and the hundreds of millions of bond debt SJRA issued to finance that system, a few inches of subsidence in a small corner of southeast Montgomery County have caused all of the flooding, the County has experienced.

After almost an hour of SJRA’s propaganda speeches during the so-called “town hall meeting,” one citizen finally stood up and asked a question of LSGCD and its Board rather than speechifying. The question was (1) is there really subsidence which is having an impact on flooding? (2) when will LSGCD end the regulation of groundwater which is forcing municipalities and utilities to have to purchase expensive surface water from SJRA at monopoly prices rather than allowing them to purchase far less expensive groundwater of which there are almost unlimited quantities?

LSGCD’s scientists, Mike Thornhill and Bob Harden, actually answered the first question regarding subsidence. They conceded that there has been some subsidence in southeast Montgomery County during the past century approximately. Thornhill, the geologist, noted, however, that subsidence is a normal process near a gulf coast, because there is compaction of soils and sedimentary layers.  Thornhill is, in fact, entirely on the mark. One of the fundamental principles of stratigraphy is that sedimentary layers respond to the forces of gravity over time in the subsurface and near the surface.

At the same time, however, SJRA has made the problem much worse by failing during the past 82 years to fulfill its other primary statutory duty, besides providing “flood control.” That other statutory duty is to provide “soil conservation” and prevention of erosion.

Enabling legislation giving SJRA responsibility for flood control in the entire San Jacinto River Basin. Source: San Jacinto River Authority.

After answering the first question, Reece, the LSGCD’s General Counsel, explained that the issues regarding SJRA’s monopolistic practices regarding the sale of water were still in litigation. The lawsuit, which SJRA brought to try to enforce its monopolistic contracts, forced upon large groundwater producers and utility companies to require them to purchase surface water, is now pending before the Supreme Court of Texas on an issue to determine whether SJRA must litigate that case in Travis County or in Montgomery County.  SJRA, through its previous control of the LSGCD Board of Directors (before the first citizen election in November, 2018), acquired a virtual monopoly of water sales by reducing groundwater production through LSGCD’s stringent regulations.

LSGCD Board members, particularly Jon Bouche, Jonathan Prykryl, Jim Spigener, Larry Rogers, Harry Hardman, and Webb Melder, are fighting against SJRA’s monopoly, so that they may eventually reduce Montgomery County’s exorbitant water prices by bringing free market competition back into the water business locally. Clearly, if SJRA is the sole source of water production, SJRA will control prices and keep those prices as high as possible. SJRA doesn’t want competition from a plethora of private groundwater producers.

In summary, SJRA’s and WJPA’s speechifying dominated the so-called “Town Hall” meeting. The Board members of LSGCD never had the opportunity to express their policy approaches. Even the scientific consultants of LSGCD had little opportunity to present the hard science over the atmosphere of fear SJRA attempted to create.

SJRA made a fundamental mistake, however. They chose a forum where there were no real citizens in the room. SJRA may have packed the room with its allies who then gave speeches to themselves. The real people of Montgomery County are sick of the government regulation and continue to have a lot of confidence that their elected LSGCD Board will reduce LSGCD’s wasteful spending of public dollars and eventually bring real deregulation of groundwater, which is private property.

 

 

 

 

Comments

comments

You must be logged in to post a comment Login