The residents were there to urge SJRA board members to vote against the seasonal lake lowering–a strategy that is meant to mitigate flooding for residents downstream of Lake Conroe, including Kingwood, but lake residents said hurts their property values and livelihood.
The SJRA board of directors will consider renewing the current flood mitigation strategy of temporarily lowering Lake Conroe 1 foot in the fall and 2 feet in the spring, according to a Dec. 12 SJRA news release.
After Hurricane Harvey in August 2017, the SJRA was called upon by the state to consider temporary lake lowering as a flood mitigation strategy. The board will vote to renew the strategy Feb. 27.
According to the SJRA, the strategy is reviewed annually and is intended to provide a temporary flood mitigation benefit until more permanent mitigation strategies, such as dredging of the lower West Fork of the San Jacinto River, are completed.
The seasonal lowering results in lower peak levels during storms and lower release rates from the date, essentially by creating additional storage space to capture rainfall, according to the SJRA. Two 2018 engineering reports showing the benefits of the strategy are available on the SRJA’s website.
However, Lake Conroe residents questioned the scientific evidence, saying it is likely areas downstream, including Kingwood, would flood regardless of Lake Conroe.
“[In a September storm, Lake] Conroe ... had no release, yet Kingwood flooded again,” said Rich Cutler, the director of the Lake Conroe Association, drawing applause from those in attendance.
Residents said they are losing patience with the “temporary” strategy, which they said has resulted in damage to their boats or makes it difficult or impossible to access the lake from their boat launch. Residents said they are paying high property taxes for their homes—which they worked hard to afford—and want to be able to enjoy the lake.
Meanwhile, several downstream residents urged Lake Conroe residents to consider the effects not lowering the lake could have on their downstream properties and the costs to rebuild a flooded home.
Owen Parker, the president of Harris County Municipal Utility District 109 in Atascocita, commended the board for its flood mitigation efforts and urged them to vote "yes" to lake lowering in February.
“We appreciate your policy; it has been a responsible one,” Parker said. “I’m asking you guys to maintain that responsible policy.”
Because the lake lowering was not an item on the agenda, the SJRA board of directors did not respond to comments or questions from the public.
The SJRA will hold its next board meetings Jan. 23 and Feb. 27 at 8 a.m. at its headquarters, located at 1577 Dam Site Road.
This story is a recap of the Dec. 12 SJRA meeting. Community Impact Newspaper will continue providing more in-depth coverage of this topic.