Signed into law: Bill calling for an elected Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District board gets governor's signature
AUSTIN – Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday signed into law the Montgomery County bill that makes the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District board positions elected.
The change goes into effect Sept. 1, with the first elections of the entire board scheduled for November 2018.
In addition to changing from an appointed to an elected board, the legislation also reduces the number of board members from nine to seven. Board members cannot serve more than three four-year terms under the new law.
"Montgomery County's needs are well represented in the Legislature and I was pleased to work together with the delegation to give the people a voice on how we manage our groundwater," said state Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, who co-authored Senate Bill 2250 with Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, stated in a release.
The legislation past both houses in May. That included the companion bill in the House (HB 1982), authored by Reps. Will Metcalf, R-Conroe, Mark Keough, R-The Woodlands, and Cecil Bell, R-Magnolia. The House bill, which initially called for five elected members, was amended to reflect the language of SB 2250.
"This legislation will provide direct representation by the people on an issue which is of such great public importance," Nichols stated in the release. "I look forward to continuing to work with the delegation for the constituents of Montgomery County."
The measure passed the Senate 31-0 and the House 144-0. Of the seven elected board members, one will be elected by Conroe voters and another by voters in The Woodlands. The other five are at-large, representing all of Montgomery County. Precinct 1 and the Conroe position initially will be a two-year term but will not count toward the three terms under the limits. Precincts 2-4 and The Woodlands position will start out with four-year terms.
"This has been a long time coming," Metcalf stated. "Our citizens will finally have a voice in selecting the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District Board. The entire county will have a seat at the table, and the two seats added by our Senate colleagues will reflect the needs of the county's largest groundwater users."
The appointed board has been under scrutiny, as the water issue has become political and litigious over the past few years. Montgomery County commissioners, who currently have two appointments to the board yet no authority over water, were under pressure to appoint an individual who had no ties to water providers and potentially would contest the LSGCD's mandated water reduction and estimated recharge rate. The city of Conroe and LSGCD are in a lawsuit over water rights, while the San Jacinto River Authority and the city are in a legal battle over water fees stemming from the $500 billion pipeline and water treatment plant that prove treated surface water to Conroe and The Woodlands as part of a groundwater reduction plan to enable other governmental entities to pump groundwater without reducing consumption by the LSGCD-mandated 30 percent.
"Months of discussions with constituents and stakeholders have resulted in the HB 1982 being presented in the Legislature and ultimately passed," Keough stated. "I am proud to be working with the entire Montgomery County delegation to bring change to this important board, ultimately placing the tax payers in charge of the future of this board."
The Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District was created in 2001 through legislation authored by the late state Rep. Ruben Hope, R-Conroe, and approved by county voters. The district's purpose is to preserve, conserve and protect Montgomery County's groundwater supplies.
"HB 1982 and its Senate companion bill SB 2250 allow for the LSGCD board to be elected instead of appointed, empowering the citizens of Montgomery County," Bell stated in the release.