CONROE, TX – September 13, 2016 –On Tuesday, during September’s regular meeting, the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District Board of Directors approved a reduced fee rate for pumping groundwater from the Catahoula Aquifer in Montgomery County. “With the adoption of this lower pumping fee for the Catahoula, we hope to send a message that the Lone Star Board encourages use of this alternative water supply and hope it will help provide an incentive for water users to pursue additional development of this deeper aquifer to relieve pressure from the overlying Gulf Coast Aquifer,” said Billy Wood, Chairman of Lone Star’s Budget and Finance committee.
Also approved by the Lone Star Board of Directors was a motion to begin defensive preparations against another legal jab thrown by the City of Conroe.
At a Special City Council meeting held on August 16, 2016, Conroe council members approved a resolution to appeal the Desired Future Conditions (DFCs) adopted by the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District on August 9. In Texas, DFCs are set on a regional basis within a Groundwater Management Area (GMA), and represent the goals for groundwater conditions in the aquifers in 50 years (defined in terms of water levels, quality, spring flows, etc.). Lone Star is part of GMA 14, which in April completed the five-year planning process necessary to adopt the most current DFCs, which are then required by law to be adopted without changes by the individual groundwater districts like Lone Star.
Board members questioned the timing and wisdom of Conroe’s decision to pursue additional litigation to challenge the DFCs. Rick Moffatt, Chairman of Lone Star’s Findings and Review Committee pointed out that Lone Star is in the middle of a 3-year technical study requested by the City of Conroe to develop the science to support changes to the DFCs to allow additional groundwater pumping. “In 2014, Lone Star was asked by Conroe to pursue a technical study to determine if more groundwater could be developed,” said Moffatt, whose committee oversees technical studies. “And now, in the middle of that study that Conroe requested and Lone Star agreed to fund, and even after the Lone Star board has committed publicly to seek amendments to the DFCs if the science from the study supports it, Conroe votes to start another round of litigation which will do nothing but lengthen the process and cost the taxpayers and fee-payers even more money.”
Lone Star’s President, Richard J. Tramm, reminded the other directors that Lone Star had even hired the consultants that the City of Conroe requested them to hire to spearhead the study.
Brian Sledge, Lone Star’s General Counsel, noted that the study was designed from its beginning to provide the science to support amendments to the DFCs in the next cycle of planning, because the results from it would not be available until then. He estimated that the City of Conroe’s maneuver will cost Montgomery County citizens at least another half million dollars in legal fees and consultant fees for both sides. “This is not something we asked for, and it makes no sense for anyone involved,” Sledge said. “Lone Star will now unfortunately have to divert resources and spend additional public funds to defend itself in this new litigation, and it will not do anything but delay our ability to amend the DFCs as Conroe has requested.”