Conroe, September 15 – The San Jacinto River Authority has dominated recent news reports for their decision to release 79,181 cubic feet per second of water from the Lake Conroe Dam around 2 a.m., Monday, August 28, 2017, which not only flooded homes downstream but created such a massive velocity of turbulent waters that many homes were literally swept off of their foundations. Former State Representative Steve Toth of The Woodlands and current State Representative Dan Huberty of Kingwood are among many who are questioning why SJRA failed to pre-release water during the several days of warning before Tropical Storm Harvey struck this community, so that they would not need such gigantic releases from the Dam. The releases occurred without warning to the downstream neighborhoods impacted by the raging waters.
The Golden Hammer has obtained documents from SJRA which present a disturbing picture of its financial operations.
SJRA’s misguided purpose
Undoubtedly, the most disturbing aspect of SJRA’s complete failure as a subdivision of the State of Texas is its unwillingness to fulfill its statutory purpose.
The enabling legislation for SJRA, when the Texas Legislature formed the river authority in 1937, made clear that one of its primary purposes is “to provide flood control.” That purpose, which the 45th Texas Legislature approved in January, 1937, remains among the statutory purposes of SJRA.
The SJRA’s current “Mission” statement and “Vision” statement both leave flood control out of their statements of responsibility. Instead, SJRA seems to desire to “follow the money” by engaging in the sale of water as aggressively as possible. Its “Mission” statement does not mention flood control: “SJRA’s vision is to provide reliable, cost-efficient, and sustainable water resource management that supports economic and industrial growth in the region and earns the trust and confidence of SJRA’s customers.”
Similarly, SJRA’s “Vision” statement fails to mention flood control:
“SJRA’s mission is to:
- plan for and develop adequate and reliable long-term water supplies
- treat and distribute safe drinking water
- provide regional wastewater treatment services
- deliver raw water for municipal, industrial, and agricultural use
- monitor and protect source water quality
- ensure safe, dependable reservoir operations
- educate the public about water conservation and water resources.”
SJRA’s Board of Directors and its management seem to ignore one of its core statutory functions, flood control, which such neglect has brought Montgomery County’s residents to their knees and destroyed many lives.
SJRA’s disturbing financial picture
SJRA seems to focus almost entirely on water sales and massive salaries for its employees. Its annual operating budget of $120 million per year in revenue comes almost entirely from water sales. The following is SJRA’s presentation of its operating revenue.
SJRA has a five-person Board of Directors. The Board of Directors has none of the following:
- No one who lives east of Interstate 45
- No one from East Montgomery County
- No person of Hispanic heritage
- No women
- No African-Americans
- Any Board member who lives in a neighborhood flooded from the Lake Conroe Dam’s massive discharge during Tropical Storm Harvey.
SJRA has four divisions. Three of the division managers are male while one is female. The female employee earns the least of the four by far.
SJRA Board members receive an annual fee slightly under $5,000 per year, travel expenses, and hefty meeting expenses.
SJRA’s budget for legal fees is over $2.3 million per year.
SJRA has 171 employees. The total payroll, salaries only, is $11.7 million, with an average salary of $68,469 per year. SJRA provides approximately 50% of the salary amounts in benefits as well.
The average SJRA employee earns more than the median family income in Montgomery County, according to the United States Census Bureau.
The top ten salaried employees of SJRA are:
#1 Jace Houston, General Manager, $224,931.20, plus benefits
#2 Ronald Kelling, Deputy General Manager, $211,161.60, plus benefits
#3 David Parkhill, Director of Raw Water Enterprises, $177,652.80, plus benefits
#4 Thomas A. Michel, Director of Finance and Administrative Services, $177,652.80, plus benefits
#5 Steven P. Fenney, $161,137.60, plus benefits
#6 Mark Smith, GRP Division Manager, $150,176.00, plus benefits
#7 Raymond K. Johnson, Jr., $145,246.40, plus benefits
#8 Christopher L. Meeks, Woodlands Division Manager, $140,691.20, plus benefits
#9 Donald R. Sarich, $137,280.00, plus benefits.
#10 Phillip Smith, $129,230.40, plus benefits.
There’s no sacrifice for public service at SJRA!