The Lake Conroe Association, a nonprofit association that advocates for residents and businesses on the lake, filed a lawsuit against the San Jacinto River Authority and the city of Houston over the seasonal lowering of Lake Conroe. The temporary strategy is intended to mitigate flooding in areas downstream, but Lake Conroe residents allege the practice is not backed by science and causes harm to their properties and livelihood.
The lawsuit, which was provided to Community Impact Newspaper from the Lake Conroe Association, was filed in Montgomery County's 284th Judicial District Court on March 31. The petition is for a supplemental temporary and permanent injunctive relief—otherwise known as a restraining order—against the city of Houston and the SJRA. The lawsuit claims the lowering is unlawful and seeks an immediate temporary restraining order and a final injunction that would prohibit discharging from the lake except in certain circumstances.
Other parties involved include several petitioners who allege the lake lowering, which went into effect in August 2018, has resulted in property damage and a loss of business, according to the lawsuit. Petitioner Susanne Mitchell Allen claimed low lake levels forced her to spend $2,000 repairing her boat dock and mitigating erosion. Petitioner Robert Ferrante claimed the lake lowering made his bait shop go out of business.
The seasonal lake lowering—1 foot in the spring, and 2 feet in the fall—is a controversial strategy that has drawn both criticism and support. The SJRA claims the temporary strategy benefits downstream residents by increasing capacity to catch rainfall and runoff. Residents downstream in flood-prone areas such as Kingwood have also been largely supportive of the measure, believing it helps prevent flooding.
The temporary measure was reapproved by the SJRA board of directors in February 2020. The board agreed to keep the strategy in place until December 2022 when the Lake Houston dam gate project was estimated to be complete—although that date that has been pushed to early 2024.
The seasonal lake lowering was set to begin April 1. SJRA officials did not immediately respond to an email seeking confirmation if the lowering had begun, but according to the SJRA's website, current lake conditions indicated seasonal lowering was occurring at a rate of 450 cubic feet per second as of 4:20 p.m.
Lake Conroe Association sues San Jacinto River Authority, city of Houston over seasonal lake lowering
A San Jacinto River Authority-operated dam at Lake Conroe controls water releases. (Vanessa Holt/Community Impact Newspaper)