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Nearly 1,400 Conroe-area residents attend meeting to discuss whether to lower Lake Conroe for flood mitigation

San Jacinto River Authority approves new recommendation for City of Houston to consider

CONROE – More than 1,400 residents from the Conroe area attended the San Jacinto River Authority (SJRA) special meeting at the Lone Star Convention & Expo Center Thursday to discuss and vote on the temporary flood mitigation strategy of lowering Lake Conroe on a seasonal basis.

After more than five hours of public comment and discussion, SJRA approved a new strategy for the City of Houston, the other entity that has rights to the water, to consider. This all comes after several months of heated discussion from residents.

Those who live along lake Conroe generally pushed against the lowering of Lake Conroe.

“Estuaries are very important. We lost a lot of plant life. There’s been a lot of influx with Sunshine Kids fundraisers for children with cancer and bass tournaments,” Denise Newport, a resident along the lake, said.

“I don’t think anyone realizes the effect this community has on the fishing and recreational industry. The largest event for one of the restaurants here on the lake was a fishing tournament,” Danny Newport, a fisherman, said. “You just don’t realize what that does to an area. We lost the Toyota Bass Classic... the one tournament in the bass industry came to Conroe for two years. Not now. They won’t put it on the tour any longer.”

Those who lived downstream, south and southeast of Lake Conroe, as near as River Plantation, and as far as Kingwood, were for the lowering of the lake.

“When they release the water from the lake, our community always floods. And we have many lives that are in danger,” Jamie Goodman, a resident in River Plantation, said.

“In six hours, I had three feet of water in my house," Betty Brown, another resident said. "After 45 years, I lost everything and so did my neighbors.”

The original discussion was to have the SJRA discuss and vote on a proposal to lower Lake Conroe by one foot in the spring and two feet in the fall. According to the City of Houston and SJRA, this strategy is reviewed annually and would provide flood mitigation benefits for downstream residents by increasing the capacity to catch rainfall and runoff in the lake.

Nearly 1,200 attendees attended the initial special meeting and discussion on January 20.

At this February meeting, SJRA members were expected to vote and make a decision. Instead, the board members ultimately approved for the City of Houston to consider a new recommendation.

This recommendation, according to SJRA, would be to lower Lake Conroe to 200′ mean sea level (MSL) beginning April 1 through May 31 and have the recapture begin on June 1 for the spring lowering. For the fall lowering, the SJRA recommended that the process should begin Aug. 1 and lower the lake by 200′ MSL and then again beginning Sept. 1, lowering the lake to 199.5′ MSL. Then, under the condition that a named storm enters the region, the SJRA recommended that the City of Houston could initiate an additional pre-release to 199′ MSL by notifying SJRA in writing of their call for the release. This was the final amended proposal which SJRA is now asking the City of Houston to consider.