Montgomery County Commissioners Court approved a resolution 3-2 at its Jan. 14 meeting opposing the seasonal lowering of the level of Lake Conroe. The resolution cites concerns about the financial and environmental effects of the policy of lowering the lake level for four months of the year.
The SJRA board of directors has authorized the seasonal lowering of Lake Conroe since 2018 as a temporary flood prevention strategy.
SJRA will vote on the item for this year on Feb. 20, and the city of Conroe passed a resolution opposing the practice at its Dec. 23 meeting.
The SJRA lowers the level of Lake Conroe from 201 to 200 feet above mean sea level during April and May, and to 199 feet in August and September.
“Lake Conroe was not intended to be a flood control reservoir,” said Precinct 1 Commissioner Mike Meador, who introduced the county resolution. “If we go into a summer like we had in 2011, two feet down like we are currently, that lake would become a mud flat and that certainly would damage our tax levy."
The resolution states negative effects of the reduction could include interfering with recreational uses of the lake, depriving environmentally sensitive areas of water, exposing the lake bottom and impeding access to the lake from several points.
The resolution also states that lake level reductions could affect property values and drinking water supplies and does not clearly reduce the threat of downstream flooding.
It also calls upon the SJRA to stop releases. However, the resolution does not have the power to force a policy change.
According to the SJRA, Texas District 16 Rep. Will Metcalf also opposes the lowering, but the city of Houston, Mayor Sylvester Turner and Houston City Council Member Dave Martin support the lowering.
Precinct 2 Commissioner Charlie Riley and Precinct 4 Commissioner James Metts voted against the resolution.
"We've got some people in River Plantation and downstream from the dam that think the lake is causing the problem. It's never been proven that it does, never been proven that it doesn't," Riley said after the meeting. "I was one of the ones that recommended lowering the lake during different seasons ... and until Harris County and Montgomery County get through doing their projects on San Jacinto River, I think it's a policy that needs to stay in place."
In the public comment portion of the meeting, Kingwood resident Daryl Palmer said he felt the lake lowering was part of a regional effort to mitigate flooding, and noted that the lake was already just below the 199-foot level.
He also disputed claims that it would affect home values.
“With a quick glance at Zillow, home values have not changed due to the lowering of the lake; in fact, some of them have gone up,” he said.
Eva Vigh contributed to this report