Conroe Mayor Powell Comes Out Swinging In Opposition To Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District’s Proposed Adoption Of “Management Plan” On September 11

Conroe, September 8 – Conroe Mayor Toby Powell came out swinging in a letter to the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District (LSGCD) late in the afternoon on Friday, September 7, 2018, after the LSGCD posted an agenda for a meeting on Tuesday, September 11, 2018, at 10 a.m. in which the district proposes to adopt a new “management plan” to ratify the so-called “Desired Future Conditions” (DFC) that LSGCD agreed were not reasonable in a settlement with the City of Conroe on November 16, 2017, during a hearing before the State Office of Administrative Hearings. The “management plan” ratifies the DFC to limit total Montgomery County groundwater withdrawals to 64,000 acre-feet per year, which would result in severe restrictions of private property owner use of groundwater throughout Montgomery County.

The LSGCD Board of Directors action is particularly shocking at this time, because all seats on the LSGCD Board of Directors are up for election by the voters of Montgomery County on November 6, 2018, in the General Election for the first time in history. In his letter, the entirety of which appears at the bottom of this article, Powell said “This Board should not adopt a new Management Plan for the district. Public confidence in the actions of this board has declined to the degree that the Legislature has directed that a new Board be elected by Montgomery County voters.” (Emphasis is Powell’s.) Powell further wrote that the proposed “management plan” adopts a “discredited and rejected DFC” that directly contravenes the LSGCD’s settlement agreement with the City of Conroe.

LSCGD, whose current Board is largely under the control and direction of the San Jacinto River Authority, has adopted restrictive groundwater production regulations to prevent private property owners from drawing their own groundwater ostensibly for conservation reasons. Numerous citizens, groundwater producers, and municipalities have challenged the reasonableness of those regulations, particularly in light of scientific studies which show that Montgomery County’s groundwater usage does not even come close to threatening the available groundwater aquifers.

What is particularly ridiculous about the proposed “management plan” and the DFC of 64,000 acre-feet that it proposes to adopt is that groundwater usage regulations in Montgomery County are far more restrictive with respect to the use of aquifers that cross between the geographic border of Montgomery County with its neighbors in Liberty, San Jacinto, Waller, and Grimes counties. Under the current regulations for the Texas Water Development Board’s Groundwater Management Area 14, of which LSGCD’s General Manager Kathy Jones is the President, Montgomery County must adopt regulations that will increase the level of the Evangeline aquifer by 4 feet over the next 61 years, only reduce the Chicot aquifer 26 feet during the same period, reduce the Jasper aquifer 34 feet, and increase the level of the Burkeville aquifer 4 feet. During the same time period, however, San Jacinto County may use groundwater to a degree to decrease the Evangeline aquifer 19 feet, the Chicot 28 feet, the Jasper 108 feet, and the Burkeville 19 feet. It is hydrologically impossible to draw down the same aquifer different degrees in geographically-adjacent areas!

In actuality, the silliness of the regulations to which LSGCD intends to pander becomes clear when one examines the hydrologic goals for counties adjacent to Montgomery County that may draw down the same aquifers different amounts all during the same 61 year time period:

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Montgomery County’s groundwater usage is severely more restrictive than the three counties adjacent to it in the DFC which LSGCD intends to adopt on Tuesday. Of course, the severe restrictions would force water users to purchase surface water from the San Jacinto River Authority in this regulation-induced monopoly scheme.

Restore Affordable Water (RAW) is a property rights organization fighting for landowners’ property rights to use their own groundwater and to bring an end to the SJRA’s intent to monopolize the sale of water to residential and business users. RAW has endorsed a number of candidates running for the LSGCD Board in the November 6, 2018. RAW President Simon Sequeira told The Golden Hammer, “LSGCD in November 2017 agreed that the 64,000 acre-feet per year pumping limit was no longer reasonable and avoided a trial that would have exposed their shenaningans by entering into a settlement with the City of Conroe. Now, on the eve of an election for an entirely new board, they’re reneging on their promise.”

Sequeira, an expert on the water regulation issue and the president of a utility company in the Magnolia area, explained that Montgomery County is the only county with pumping limits among all of the counties in the Groundwater 14 region of the Texas Water Development Board. “Montgomery County is the sacrificial lamb in the aquifers,” Sequeira noted with respect to the substantially higher water prices Montgomery County residential and business users must pay since the LSGCD regulations restricted groundwater use and forced water user to purchase surface water from SJRA at much higher prices.

That Water Works is part of the original Parker Brothers game of Monopoly obviously portended the monopolization through regulation of the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District to benefit the San Jacinto River Authority’s surface water sales.

Conroe City Councilman Duane Ham, who has been at the forefront on the water issue, in pressing for citizen rights to use their own groundwater, told this newspaper, “No action should be taken by the LSGCD board until it is voted into office and empowered by the people of MoCo. All of these regulatory actions were taken to prop up the SJRA. This current proposal set for Tuesday, September 11, is just bloviating by the current LSGCD board.”

Former Conroe Mayor Webb Melder, who currently sits on the LSGCD Board and is running for the Conroe seat on the new elected LSGCD Board in the November 6 election, added, “Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District already admitted the 64,000 acre-foot per year groundwater pumpage restriction is unreasonable. We certainly shouldn’t be adopting it inside the guise of a ‘management plan.'”

  

First page of Conroe Mayor Toby Powell’s September 7, 2018, letter to the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District Board of Directors.

Second page of Conroe Mayor Toby Powell’s September 7, 2018, letter to the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District Board of Directors.

ELIZABETH CUSTY