Lonestar Groundwater District Approves Settlement Offer with City of Conroe et al

During Tuesday’s Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District board meeting, the board announced that they have agreed on a settlement offer in the case brought by the City of Conroe et al against the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District. The specifics of the settlement will not be made public until all parties have reviewed and signed it.

When asked about how the settlement will impact the board’s ability to regulate groundwater usage, President Webb Melder directed me to the ‘Courier article describing the ruling back in October.’ That article is entitled, “Judge rules LSGCD acted outside its authority to reduce water usage in Conroe” and can be found here: https://bit.ly/2FStCvX.

The article quotes (Conroe) city attorney Marcus Winberry describing the ruling issued by Visiting 284th State District Judge Lamar McCorkle on September 18th as follows:

“The now invalid rule severely limited groundwater pumping throughout Montgomery County and forced large volume groundwater users to enter into costly Groundwater Reduction Plans to replace the lost groundwater with an alternative supply,” said City Attorney Marcus Winberry. “As a result, Conroe water customers have seen rates double and millions of dollars have been paid to the San Jacinto River Authority in its capacity as the operator of the GRP. Prosecuting this lawsuit against the Lone Star District has been part of the Conroe City Council’s continuing effort to challenge the Lone Star District’s and SJRA’s actions that have inflated water prices in Montgomery County.”

The board’s actions to-date, obviously, suggest that it intends to unwind current groundwater regulations. The question mark is how exactly the board will write its new groundwater management plan. Based on the news of the settlement and Board President Melder’s reference to the article, it can be concluded that the board intends to eliminate the groundwater usage limitations which created the need for the Groundwater Reduction Plan (GRP). The GRP provided a path for large-volume water users to meet a requirement to reduce groundwater usage by 30% through a partial conversion to surface water.

Harry Hardman, on his director page on Facebook, announced the settlement saying, “Tonight the LSGCD board voted unanimously to approve the settlement agreement between the District and the City of Conroe and several Large Volume Groundwater Utilities, subject to approval by the plaintiffs. When approved, it will put an end to the needless litigation defending the indefensible, which has resulted in almost $1.8M of expenditures of the taxpayer’s money over the past 3 years.” The full text is here: https://bit.ly/2B24QpN.

The specific discussion regarding the settlement is found on our recording of the board meeting here: https://youtu.be/ntvVXBsNP2I?t=848.