Coats: No Equivalency Between Lone Star and SJRA

Commentary: Robert Coats

With regards to so called ” Water Wars in Montgomery County”, the implied equivalency between the San Jacinto River Authority (SJRA) and the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District (LSGCD) as the principal players is ludicrous hyperbole. This comparison between the principal players in the ongoing drama does not exist in reality for those who must live under the yoke and scope of power represented by the Groundwater Reduction Plan (GRP) of the SJRA and previous (un-elected) LSGCD board.

The SJRA and the old LSGCD boards’ regulatory schemes, which planned to cement more expensive surface water as the primary source of water for all of Montgomery County is breathtakingly callous. Instead of concern for those who have to pay the bills if captured by the SJRA and this older arbitrary plan, the public pays exorbitant use fees (even though they can receive no surface water from the SJRA) that can more than double your water bills. 

However, because the current elected LSGCD board has to seek approval for its GRP from a regulatory authority that has a vested interest in its board reinforcing SJRA’s ludicrous and arbitrary use of the 64,000 acre feet of groundwater cap (based off of the “old” un-elected LSGCD board’s arbitrary plan) along with a 1 foot subsidence cap which together further drives up the cost to the average water user captured by SJRA’s complete and only it’s, total point of view. 

They still insist on the same cap of 64000 acre feet. A completely arbitrary cap designed to drive up the price of water to repay their incurred debt on the water plant and pipeline heading south. The ordinary person is the true David here in Montgomery County. I ask you, my neighbors and friends: can anyone actually say with a straight face that SJRA is acting in good faith?

The SJRA and the “old” LSGCD board colluded in implementing an illegal and unenforceable rule to hold the cities and private water companies hostage to their designs and whims. All to pay for the albatross of a $500 million water plant at the dam on Lake Conroe. They are not acting with good faith for the public good. This is just Phase 1!

The reinforcer of all this is the Texas Water Development Board which has shown extreme bias and conflict of interest in siding with the SJRA’s efforts to force LSGCD to limit groundwater pumping artificially and arbitrarily. This scheme to make Lone Star have the same pumping limit that the old Lone Star board wrote was found to be illegal and unenforceable in a District Court Ruling. Any humility or accommodation from SJRA yet? Is SJRA democratic and elected? Nope, and they are still trying to recoup costs at your (the public’s) expense, even though they have lost every court case against them so far.

The LSGCD board is fighting for average people and lowered their rate by 20%. SJRA came back and increased their rates and then blame LSGCD for the mess they in fact, created. Did SJRA ever consider lowering their use fees? 

There is no legal, ethical or financial equivalency between LSGCD in this regulatory nightmare that favors the non-elected SJRA. The public pays the price in every way, but not due to LSGCD’s recent efforts to seek lobbying help.

SJRA is the Goliath with enormous power over everyone in its grasp. They will resort to any tactics to pay back the first phase of several proposed future phases.

 Water users must be protected immediately with maximum effort and a minimal cost. SJRA has spent millions on lawyers to maximize profit to recoup their expenses in audacious and costly water projects that send water by pipeline primarily to the southern portion of this county.

LSGCD is fighting for the public because we have the highest water rates in the state.  The board members are not given a salary. The old LSGCD was unduly influenced by two SJRA members sitting on both boards. Consumers of water have felt the squeeze. 

Since 2019,  the LSGCD has had an elected board that is responsive to the public in wanting lower water rates for its customers. I have always been a huge proponent of personal property rights. Lone Star is protecting these very Texas rights. It is a proponent for ordinary people who cant afford these terribly high bills.

We have about 50 inches of rain a year in this County and we should never be paying these kind of prices. The inherent stupidity of the regulatory, financial, and ethical design of this scheme to artificially inflate water prices with phony, arbitrary projections is big government overreach of the worst kind. Also, we have exponentially more water than the arbitrary number given to and used by SJRA by the “old” LSGCD board. Remember, since 2019 the “new” LSGCD board is elected and responsive to the public.

I also ask all of my friends in the City of Conroe to not arbitrarily resolve the lawsuits between themselves and SJRA. Now is not the time. The case is on the verge of running its course and concluding in victory for the ordinary consumer.

The likelihood of the City of Conroe prevailing is extremely high.The legal money has already been spent. To settle now would be to allow the SJRA not only to keep the 11 million dollars it has extorted from the citizens of Conroe, it also dooms the citizens of Conroe and many in the county to very high water prices in the future.

The $11 million is the people of Conroe’s money the city currently holds in escrow. It should be given back to the citizens in its entirety.

If the Conroe City Council settles, it will also be dashing the hopes of all the other towns and cities who are currently fighting the SJRA. They would be abandoning your neighbors in this county who are not as powerful as our city is and can still be if we stay the course and continue the winning fight.

You never settle when you are winning.

This is David verses Goliath in every sense. When any governmental scheme reduces the public’s ability to have any sort of input into the process, you end up with a regulatory dictatorship that erodes public confidence. I will always be fighting for those who have no voice and I believe in limited government.

To the Conroe City Council, my message and that of thousands of voters who agree with me: vote to keep the lawsuit going and be a champion for your friends.

God Bless Everyone who serves in good faith for others.

Published by Reagan Reed

Reagan is a journalist and educator from East Texas. He has been involved in numerous campaigns, worked at the Texas Legislature, and covered Texas politics for years as a journalist.

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