After LSGCD Ignores Citizen Water Rights, Bouche Accuses The Board Of Being “Prisoners Of Bureaucrats In Austin And Other Counties”

Conroe, September 20 – On Tuesday, September 18, 2018, the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District Board (“LSGCD”) of Director under the anti-citizen leadership of Board President Rick Moffatt and with San Jacinto River Authority General Manager Jace Houston, waiting with open arms to sell residences and businesses surface water from Lake Conroe, voted 5 to 4 severely to hamper the ability of private groundwater owners to produce and use their own groundwater by adopting a “management plan” under veiled threats from Austin bureaucrats and employees from other counties. LSGCD’s Board of Directors voted to approve a “management plan” to restrict groundwater production annually in Montgomery County to 64,000 acre-feet of water, a restriction the Board had stipulated in a November 16, 2017, settlement with the City of Conroe was an “unreasonable” regulation.

Board members Jace Houston (of course), Moffatt, Gregg Hope, John Bleyl, and Woodlands Joint Powers Agency Vice President Jim Stinson joined to approve the plan, while former Conroe Mayor Webb Melder, Willie Wood, Roy McCoy, and Scott Weisinger voted against it.

Jon Bouche, the conservative activist, Republican Precinct Chairman, and Republican Party Steering Committee member who is running for the LSGCD Board to represent Commissioners Precinct 3 attended the meeting and explained, “The Board’s action illustrated exactly why we need to replace them.  They’re prisoners of bureaucrats from other counties. I’m willing to assume the burden of drafting a reasonable management plan that doesn’t harm Montgomery County citizens as soon as the new Board of Directors comes into office.”

Conroe Mayor Toby Powell LSGCD on Friday, September 7, 2018, after the LSGCD posted an agenda for a meeting the following week 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, 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!

Bouche told this newspaper that he observed during Tuesday’s LSGCD meeting that LSGCD’s lawyer, Brian Sledge, didn’t want to tell the Board what would happen if LSGCD didn’t meet a deadline which the Texas Water Development Board in Austin has imposed for adoption of the new regulations. “The lawyer was trying to be evasive about the 64,000 acre-feet number,” Bouche said.

Melder explained, “I voted against the management plan out of principle. It’s flawed. LSGCD spent $700,000 on legal fees and then on the steps of the courthouse they agreed with the City of Conroe that the regulations they just adopted are unreasonable. The meeting on Tuesday was a complete circus.”

Bouche agreed with Melder’s comments: “The Board’s actions were deceptive and dishonest.”

Larry Rogers, running for the Board to represent the Woodlands Township, told this newspaper, “There’s a lot of things that need to be looked over when we become Board members.”

Melder said, “I’m very disappointed that the LSGCD Board succumbed to the will of bureaucrats with the Texas Water Development Board in Austin, who would do nothing if the Board didn’t adopt the management plan, and of county employees from counties outside of ours who want Montgomery County to restrict groundwater production so they don’t have to.”

Restore Affordable Water President Simon Sequeira didn’t mince words about the LSGCD Board’s actions: “LSGCD has not cared about doing what’s right and following the law and now at the final hour they have claimed they have suddenly found religion. I don’t believe they have to pass this plan to follow the law. The Texas Water Development Board will do nothing. They have no jurisdiction to do anything. Similarly, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality wouldn’t do anything to enforce against a local groundwater conservation district.”

Sequeira explained that the LSGCD Board could have adopted less restrictive rules, “but we know who wanted them to adopt more restrictive ones,” referring to the San Jacinto River Authority.

Melder, always willing to be blunt, said “the groundwater regulation system is broken. The State set up groundwater districts by county lines but allowed 14-county organizations to regulate those districts and influence their policies. Montgomery County just adopted an unreasonable set of regulations, because three bureaucrats from other counties are holding us hostage.”

Melder concluded, “The people of Montgomery County and of Texas deserve a better system to determine how to use their groundwater than outside-of-county bureaucrats telling Montgomery County landowners how to use their own water.”

ELIZABETH CUSTY