Court dismisses city of Houston from lawsuit that seeks to stop Lake Conroe lowering

A judge has dismissed the city of Houston from a lawsuit in which a Lake Conroe nonprofit sought to file a restraining order against the San Jacinto River Authority and the city. (Vanessa Holt/Community Impact Newspaper)
A judge has dismissed the city of Houston from a lawsuit in which a Lake Conroe nonprofit sought to file a restraining order against the San Jacinto River Authority and the city. (Vanessa Holt/Community Impact Newspaper)

A judge has dismissed the city of Houston from a lawsuit in which a Lake Conroe nonprofit sought to file a restraining order against the San Jacinto River Authority and the city. (Vanessa Holt/Community Impact Newspaper)

A judge has dismissed the city of Houston from a lawsuit in which a Lake Conroe nonprofit sought to file a restraining order against the San Jacinto River Authority and the city. The city was dismissed from the lawsuit April 9, but all matters concerning the SJRA are still pending, according to court documents.

The Lake Conroe Association, which advocates for residents and businesses on the lake, and other plaintiffs filed a lawsuit in Montgomery County to stop the seasonal lowering of Lake Conroe. The temporary strategy is intended to mitigate flooding in areas downstream, such as Kingwood and Humble, but Lake Conroe residents have claimed the practice causes harm to their homes, businesses and livelihood.

The lawsuit claimed the lowering is unlawful and sought an immediate temporary restraining order and a final injunction that would prohibit discharging from the lake except in certain circumstances, Community Impact Newspaper reported.

Judge Kristin Bays of the 284th district court dismissed the city of Houston from the case by granting the city’s plea for jurisdiction, which sought governmental immunity from the lawsuit, according to the amended court order.

"The Texas Legislature has held that governmental entities like the SJRA and the city of Houston generally have immunity from many of the kinds of suits that can be brought against them by other companies or individual people, unless the Texas Legislature specifically authorizes that kind of suit," said attorney James Stilwell, who is representing the SJRA.


In an email, Jessica Beemer, chief of staff for District E in Kingwood, verified that the city had been dismissed from the lawsuit.

"Any potential hearing ... will not involve the City as a defendant, because the City is no longer a party to the lawsuit," she said.

Additionally, the court’s ruling disputed the plaintiffs’ unconstitutional takings petition, which claimed that by discharging water from Lake Conroe, the city of Houston was taking a property interest from the lake’s residents. The ruling dismissed this claim, stating that the residents did not own the lake’s water, according to the order.

"The crux of Plaintiffs' takings complaint is that SJRA and the City are wasting state water by lowering the lake level in Lake Conroe. But the operative term here is 'state water.' Plaintiffs do not own the water," Bays' order stated. "Given that they do not own the thing that they complain has been taken, they have no takings claim. Their allegations, even if true, are insufficient under Texas law to create a takings claim."

Meanwhile, the SJRA also filed a plea for jurisdiction April 12, arguing the court should dismiss the claims against the authority because it was established by the state of Texas and therefore has governmental immunity from those claims. Stilwell said the judge is set to hear the SJRA's claim on May 7, and the case will be dismissed if the plea is granted. A temporary injunction hearing will be held May 28 if the plea of jurisdiction is not granted, he said.

Officials began lowering the lake's level April 1, an effort that will continue throughout the month. Lake Conroe will remain at 200 feet above mean sea level until May 31, per the approved strategy.

The temporary lake lowering 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.

Eva Vigh contributed to this report.
By Kelly Schafler

Editor, Lake Houston | Humble | Kingwood

Kelly Schafler is the editor for the Lake Houston, Humble and Kingwood edition of Community Impact Newspaper, covering public education, city government, development, businesses, local events and all things community-related. Before she became editor, she was the reporter for the Conroe and Montgomery edition for a year and a half.



MOST RECENT

Texas Litter Control will also offer dog and cat adoptions at its new Humble clinic. (Courtesy Texas Litter Control)
Nonprofit organization Texas Litter Control opens new Humble clinic

It also provides adoption services, community education, and surgery training for high-volume spaying and neutering.

ExxonMobil moved employees from its Springwoods Village campus to a Hughes Landing to cure a default on a Montgomery County tax abatement. (Courtesy ExxonMobil)
ExxonMobil resolves tax abatement default; Home Depot distribution center taking over superfund site; and more top Houston-area news

Read the most popular business and community news from the past week from the Houston area.

The University of St. Thomas is a private Catholic college in Houston. It also has a microcampus in downtown Conroe. (Emma Whalen/Community Impact Newspaper)
University of St. Thomas offering free tuition to first 500 students who apply

The online degrees are in the following fields: cybersecurity, network technology, electronic technology, general business, and alcohol and drug dependency counseling.

houston firefighters rally
Appeals court rules in favor Houston firefighters in collective bargaining case

The 14th Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the fire union in a case that originated when the city and the union failed to reach an agreement on a labor contract in 2017.

The city of Humble has been investing in improvements to its four parks, such as Schott Park. (Kelly Schafler/Community Impact Newspaper)
Officials talk park improvements, incoming e-commerce tenant at Humble BizCom event

Local business leaders and community members gathered virtually May 6 at Humble BizCom event hosted by Partnership Lake Houston.

The Texas Department of State Health Services projects a significant shortage of nurses by 2032. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Q&A: Why Texas faces a growing nursing shortage and what can be done to address it

In 2018, the state health department estimated about 11% of the demand for nurses was not able to be met, and that number is expected to rise to 16.3% by 2032.

Legacy Community Health is bringing COVID-19 vaccines to historically underserved communities across Beaumont and Houston. (Courtesy Pexels)
Legacy Community Health vaccine rollout targets underserved communities in Houston, Beaumont

The health network is partnering with other entities, including Beaumont Independent School District.

HTV
Houston, Harris County annual addresses no longer hosted by Greater Houston Partnership over Texas voter bill dispute

Local leaders criticized the area chamber of commerce for not taking a definitive stance on two voting access bills currently being deliberated in the Texas Legislature.

The new location is Chipotle's first in Magnolia. (Courtesy Chipotle Mexican Grill)
Chipotle opens in Magnolia; get a sneak peek of new Houston aquarium and more metro news

Read the latest business and community news from the Houston area.

The business specializes in customized in-home consultations during which families will receive a fire safety plan specific to their house's floor plan and an age-appropriate, individualized plan for each family member. (Courtesy Fire Smart, LLC)
Fire Smart, LLC celebrates one year of providing fire safety education across Greater Houston area

The business specializes in customized in-home consultations during which families will receive a fire safety plan specific to their house's floor plan and an age-appropriate, individualized plan for each family member.

The Houston Interactive Aquarium & Animal Preserve's marine building has sharks, turtles, stingrays, alligators, fish and eels. (Kelly Schafler/Community Impact Newspaper)
UPDATED: Houston Interactive Aquarium & Animal Preserve opening delayed as attraction awaits final approval, inspections

The Houston Interactive Aquarium & Animal Preserve will open off Beltway 8 in the Humble area.