The Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District, which is the state agency that manages groundwater resources in Montgomery County, will host a series of town hall meetings this week to receive feedback from the public on the district’s upcoming rule revisions, according to a notice from the district.
The LSGCD board had adopted a long-term planning mandate in 2006 that required all large-volume groundwater permittees—which includes municipalities and utility providers countywide—to reduce groundwater use to 70% of their 2009 totals by January 2016.
This was done to manage aquifer water levels and pressure and help prevent subsidence, or the lowering of the surface ground level, LSGCD officials said.
Shortly before the new mandate was to take effect, the city of Conroe and seven other utility companies filed a lawsuit against the district in 2015 over the district’s regulations.
But after years of ongoing litigation, visiting Judge Lamar McCorkle ruled in mid-September that the district did not have the legal authority to force large-volume groundwater users to reduce their annual groundwater usage.
Although the district appealed this decision Nov. 7, the newly elected LSGCD board of directors—who took their seats after the November election—voted Jan. 22 to dismiss the appeal and enter into a settlement agreement with the plaintiffs.
Once the 284th Judicial District Court of Montgomery County gives its final judgement, the large-volume groundwater user permits will be void, according to a letter the LSGCD sent to the San Jacinto River Authority and other large-volume permittees in mid-April.
However, some local entities are concerned about how not requiring large-volume users to reduce groundwater pumping could impact subsidence in the area, which can exacerbate flooding.
On April 18, the Lake Houston Area Chamber of Commerce issued a joint news release with the Lake Houston Economic Development Partnership and the Lake Houston Long Term Recovery Taskforce stating the entities were concerned about the flooding risk that lack of regulations could bring to Montgomery and Harris counties.
“Recent modeling has shown that even a modest increase in pumpage in Montgomery County will cause significant water-level declines in north Harris and southern Montgomery counties, the areas currently experiencing the worst subsidence,” the release stated.
The Chamber’s release stated the LSGCD’s Groundwater Management Plan, which was submitted to the Texas Water Development Board on March 12, indicated the district’s future management rules would not include pumping restrictions for Montgomery County users.
The LSGCD intends to host five town hall meetings in various locations throughout the county between April 22-25—with the first meeting held April 22 in The Woodlands—to gain community feedback. Following the meetings, the district will prepare its draft management rules, according to the LSGCD’s letter to large-volume groundwater users.
Here are the times and locations of the town hall meetings: