Decisions made by Montgomery County Commissioners Court and the city of Conroe continue to raise the stakes for the highly contested groundwater regulation in the county.

During its Feb. 13 meeting, the Commissioners Court appointed former Conroe Mayor Webb Melder as one of the county's representatives on the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District Board of Directors. Melder has been a public critic of groundwater regulations established by the LSGCD on Montgomery County. Melder was also in office when the city filed a lawsuit against the LSGCD in August 2015.

"I will have to walk a fine line. The die has been cast on both sides," Melder said. "The Texas Supreme Court has made it very clear that groundwater is private property. I have been on record repeatedly [saying] everybody is entitled to their own opinion, and that opinion can include groundwater science, but you are not entitled to your own set of law. The Supreme Court has made it real clear."

On Feb. 23, Conroe City Council passed a resolution stating that it would not pay an increase in the LSGCD water use fee. The district raised its rates from 0.06 cents to 0.075 cents per 1,000 gallons Jan. 1.

"That was a vote really to assist our citizens," Mayor Pro Tem Duke Coon said. "We appreciate what the [LSGCD] does, but our citizens continually are having higher rates imposed on them. We have to fight for our citizens, and that is what this is about."

The two decisions add to already convoluted disagreements between some county municipalities—such as Conroe and Magnolia—and the LSGCD.

LSGCD General Manager Kathy Turner Jones said the district respects the decision made by the county commissioners.

"There are always ways to work together for the betterment of Montgomery County, as long as both parties are willing to meet in the middle," she said. "The district is made up of nine members that represent a wide diversity of interests and bring differing expertise to the board.  We are confident that no matter the background of any particular member, or the opinions they might bring to the table, the board will continue to endeavor to make decisions that are in the best interest of the citizens of Montgomery County, both current and future."

In addition to the lawsuit, state Rep. Will Metcalf, R-Conroe, Rep. Cecil Bell, Jr., R-Magnolia, and Rep. Mark Keough, R-The Woodlands, filed HB 1982 on Feb. 16 in an effort to convert the LSGCD board of directors into a board of elected officials. The bill is supported by members of the Conroe City Council, who have voiced concern about conflicts of interest as the primary reason for the effort.

"Of all the groundwater districts in the state of Texas, the San Jacinto River Authority is the only river authority that has a seat at the groundwater conservation district board," Metcalf said. "So not only is that abnormal, all of these other special interest groups have a seat at the table. I want the citizens of Montgomery County to have a voice in who will be representing them."

During its Feb. 14 meeting, the LSGCD board of directors adopted a position of neutrality regarding the outcome of the bill.