The San Jacinto River Authority is legally sanctioned to release water from Lake Conroe to protect the dam and maintain the lake’s water level. However, when their actions directly cause devastation and destroy thousands of homes, can they be held accountable? Our firm believes so—and we’re not alone. Residents and property owners near Lake Conroe are suing the SJRA for their role in flooding hundreds of properties in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.
Hundreds of homeowners downstream from Lake Conroe believe that their homes would never have been flooded if it weren’t for the unprecedented releases ordered by the SJRA. Many of them were given little-to-no warning that they were at risk; some of them were given only an hour to leave, while others had been given no indication that their home was even at risk for flooding. For some homeowners, this was the first time their home had ever been flooded.
While Harvey dumped record-breaking amounts of water on the greater Houston area, residents downstream from Lake Conroe were relatively dry. For dozens of them, the water never reached their front yards. It wasn’t until the SJRA started their controlled releases at 12:30 am on August 27 that homeowners began to see water rising.
Accusations by Renowned Engineer
In a previous blog, we covered the allegations against the SJRA in a public statement from Ron Saikowski, an experienced city official and a renowned engineer. He believes that the flooding caused by the releases could have been prevented, had the SJRA been acting with more care and forethought. Specifically, he believed the SJRA failed to pre-release water in the week prior to Hurricane Harvey’s arrival—a fairly standard practice in flood prevention.
In addition, Saikowski accused the SJRA of not utilizing enough of Lake Conroe’s storage capacity. The SJRA is mandated to keep the water levels at 207 feet, but they began dumping 106 billion gallons of water almost 2 feet below their mandated maximum. The senior engineer believes that the rate of release did not match the situation the SJRA was facing. He also alleges that the reason the SJRA behaved like they did was to protect Montgomery County property tax revenue—large chunks of which are generated by the properties on Lake Conroe’s shores.