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Chairman Lyle Larson Offers Update on SJRA and Recent Hearing

Chairman Lyle Larson recently offered an update on the San Jacinto River Authority and the flooding mitigation projects that are underway in the Lake Houston Area. You can read the entirety of his update here. Thank you Chairman Larson for your help in HD 127.

“When Harvey dumped 30 inches of rain in the Lake Conroe basin, the SJRA released water at a rate of more than 79,000 cubic feet per second from Lake Conroe dam, about 2-1/2 times the previous release rate record of around 33,000 cfs set in the 1994 floods. Areas downstream, which include Kingwood Humble, and Atascocita, were inundated with floodwaters from the various tributaries in Montgomery County pouring water downstream, with SJRA and the Lake Conroe Dam release bearing the brunt of the blame for thousands of homes and businesses flooded and even swept away, including lawsuits filed.

Jace Houston, General Manager of the San Jacinto River Authority, provided the committee with a response to my office’s request that the authority conduct an analysis of the impact to the water supply and flood control capacities of the reservoir if the authority were to lower the elevation in Lake Conroe by one, two, or three feet during hurricane season.

After completing the requested technical assessments, SJRA is now proposing a seasonal lowering of Lake Conroe and Lake Houston to allow for flood control capacity in these reservoirs, which have been traditionally kept full in order to fulfull their intended purpose as water supply reservoirs. The City of Houston, the majority water rights holder in Lake Conroe, owning two-thirds of the water rights, still must weigh in on this proposal. This is a major step forward for the Lake Houston region situated downstream from Lake Conroe, which has requested a temporary lowering of the reservoir as part of the region’s remediation plan following the devastating flooding to homes and businesses in the area. Lowering the levels of these reservoirs in anticipation of rain events will have minimal impact on water supply and will provide capacity to absorb the shock of future inundations in the region.

SJRA also discussed its creation of a Flood Management Division. Partnering with the Harris County Flood Control District, the new division will work on regional flood management for the entire basin. The agencies are collaborating on a $2.5 million regional flood control study that evaluates possible flood management projects in the San Jacinto River Basin, which according to the Greater Houston Flood Mitigation Consortium, accounted for 14% of the region’s damages.

Harris County Flood Control District Executive Director, Russ Poppe, discussed several initiatives to alleviate flooding in the region, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ plans to begin dredging the West Fork of the San Jacinto River to remove the sand build up that prevented the river from holding more water in its banks during the storm and contributed to flooding. That project has now been given a start date of June 8th. This effort will remove 3 million cubic yards of sand, enough sand to fill the Astrodome 2-1/2 times or 911 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

See below an aerial tour of San Jacinto River Dredging Project by the US Army Corps of Engineers. You can read more here.

Russ also addressed speculation that the HCFCD would be leading the charge on an additional flood control reservoir on the west side of Harris County. The Addicks and Barker reservoirs are owned, operated and maintained by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and any effort to provide additional flood control capacity in the form of a third reservoir would be a Corps project, with HCFCD serving as the local sponsor. The Corps of Engineers was appropriated $15 billion for the construction of projects in states where there’s been a presidential disaster declaration, and the decision on further action for this project now lies with the Office of Management and Budget within the Corps of Engineers. A lot of speculation remains about whether such a project would have provided meaningful flood relief during the hurricane.

TCEQ provided a report on their surveillance and enforcement actions taken against illegal sand mining operations along the San Jacinto River as well. We must hold violators who dump sand into our rivers illegally and exacerbate the effects of flooding accountable. We will continue to work with TCEQ and other stakeholders to ensure that the agency has adequate enforcement authority to ensure that efforts to dredge the river aren’t undone by illegal sand dumping.

We also heard testimony from the Nature Conservancy and Texas Ag Land Trust on the role strategic conservation easements can play in flood mitigation to protect population and infrastructure from flooding.

We’re pleased with efforts being made in the short-term to prepare for the 2018 hurricane season which will be upon us in August, and will continue to work to provide long-term solutions for the state’s flood control needs.”

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