Image: La Cosa Nostra (“our thing”), circa 1922. Photograph courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution.
By David Kleimann, Guest Reporter to The Golden Hammer
Why is the San Jacinto River Authority acting like the mob trying to protect its turf? Is SJRA “our thing” (i.e., “la cosa nostra” in Italian) which SJRA’s bosses, the Municipal Utility Districts, the Woodlands Joint Power Agency, and other hyper-regulators use to gouge massive water prices from Montgomery County residents?
This article is a firsthand witness account of facts of why the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District (LSGCD) was formed, what happened to it, and how the San Jacinto River Authority (SJRA) has manipulated it.
In the Fall of 1999, friends in Harris County were being overly controlled and threatened to be put out of business by the Harris/Galveston County Subsidence District (HGCSD). After a phone call to its General Manager Ron Neighbors and his abusive attitude toward me, I realized this situation could not be good for Montgomery County, which is right where Neighbors wanted to control next. After the Spring of 2000, the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission (TNRCC) had designated Montgomery County as a high priority county to have groundwater control. Neighbors and Jim Adams, General Manager of the SJRA at the time and the father of Half Associates engineer Bobby Jack Adams, promoted the TNRCC’s proposal to regulate.
In November of 2000, the University of Houston hosted the Region H Water Planning Group of the Texas Water Development Board to present its plan for the supply of water for the next 50 years. I attended as a representative of Montgomery County Judge Alan B. Sadler. Not one word was mentioned about future plans of our County during that meeting. After discussing this oversight with Judge Sadler, we both concluded that if anyone was going to represent Montgomery County and stop HGCSD from controlling our water, we would have to form our own water district.
We contacted our State Representative Ruben Hope, who sat on the Texas House of Representatives Natural Resources Committee. During the formation process, State Senator Tommy Williams, Adams and Neighbors made it very clear that they wanted full control of Montgomery County water or they would NOT support the creation of a water district. We formed LSGCD as an appointed board, since the elected Board of Directors of the Montgomery County Hospital District was, at that time, a community embarrassment and was having elections on weekends and holidays, so that the only voters at the polls would be friends of the incumbents. To get approval from voters in Montgomery County, we formed LSGCD with an appointed board. After the Texas Legislature passed the approval to form LSGCD and after Governor Perry signed the law, Judge Sadler and I brought it to the people of Montgomery County for voter approval. It passed with 75% of the vote.
As the board was appointed, Jim Adams of the SJRA was very persuasive in the selection of the engineering firm to do the study on the aquifers. The board selected the firm used by the SJRA, Turner, Collie & Braden. I was not in favor of using them, since there was too much SJRA money and political influence at Turner, Collie & Braden already. If SJRA wanted a water shortage and not be responsible for the shortage in the Woodlands, they would engineer a solution protecting the SJRA even though they are the largest water user there.
Without hard scientific evidence, the engineering firm determined that the aquifer recharge for Montgomery County was 64,000-acre feet per year. This volume just so happened to be exactly what Montgomery County was using in groundwater at the time. As time went on, the engineering firm depicted the groundwater production situation as getting worse and worse. The worst of it was supposedly in the Woodlands where SJRA controls all the wells and municipal utility districts (MUDs) and has controlled them since the 1970s.
My question was – and I asked it publicly in many, many meetings – why is SJRA in the groundwater business, when it is a surface water entity of the State of Texas? Their ultimate solution was to transport its own surface water to itself in The Woodlands, thereby continuing the monopoly they’ve enjoyed there for over 40 years. Construction of the transportation system (pipeline) was the most expensive part of this idea. SJRA’s plan was to get everyone else to pay for the construction of the pipeline by devising a plan to have LSGCD force everyone, by regulation, into SJRA’s plan.
I have personally witnessed SJRA Board Members discussing how they would persuade LSGCD Board Members to:
- Start a penalty to Large Volume Groundwater Users (LVGUs) for not joining SJRA’s Groundwater Reduction Plan (GRP) before the actually required surface water conversion date.
- Not consider the Catahoula Aquifer as an alternative groundwater supply for Montgomery County, even though the Texas Water Development Board has always considered it to be.
- Not consider the waste water from Huntsville that flows into Lake Conroe as an alternative supply.
SJRA has always said that they would sell raw water to any and all who wanted it. What they didn’t admit, at the beginning, was that SJRA would force communities to buy water from SJRA, whether they wanted to purchase that water or not.
When SJRA refused to sell water to Walden, Walden was going to purchase water from the City of Houston, which has two-thirds ownership of the water in Lake Conroe. SJRA got rid of the competition from the City of Houston by contracting with the City of Houston so that no one else could have water without SJRA’s approval.
Appointed Board Members are one step away from an Elected Official. Quickly, LSGCD’s Board Members forgot they were sworn into office to defend the Constitution of the United States. The Constitution’s first words are “We the People.” This forgetfulness and arrogance of the appointed Board Members on SJRA and LSGCD has cost the people of Montgomery County well over $500,000,000 since the turn of the 21st century. Left unchecked, the SJRA will waste up to $2,000,000,000 more, if they are allowed to pursue the additional phases of their surface water buildout.
In conclusion, LSGCD was formed to protect, defend and represent water demands and supply, and to protect the water supply for the people of Montgomery County. With governmental authority, SJRA has been involved in manipulative Engineering and coercion of another governmental agency’s Board members (LSGCD) to achieve illegally a huge monopoly of the water in Montgomery County.
David Kleimann grew up in the Willis area in a renowned political family. Kleimann was a charter Board member of the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District from 2001 to 2006. In 2007, Texas Governor Rick Perry appointed Kleimann to the Board of Directors of the San Jacinto River Authority where Kleimann served until his resignation in protest of their policies in 2013.