SJRA Highlands Division


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The SJRA Highlands Division article was written by Mr. Reed Eichelberger and published in Dock Line Magazine in December, 2011.

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SJRA Highlands Division

  1. 1. By: Reed Eichelberger, General Manager Large siphons with pipes ranging from 48 to 60 inches in diameter deliver water under roads, railroad tracks, and other surface features throughout the 25-mile stretch of the canal. Most readers of the Dock Line have a prettygood understanding of “who” and “what” the SanJacinto River Authority (SJRA) is. Many haveworked with our Lake Conroe Division on dockconstruction or lake irrigation permits. BlakeKellum, our Lake Conroe Division Manager, is aregular contributor to the Dock Line and a friendto many around the lake. With the many articleswritten in the Dock Line and newspapers overthe last several years about Montgomery County’sgroundwater shortage issue, readers are also prob-ably familiar with our Groundwater ReductionPlan (GRP) Division, which is currently in the This photo was taken during a recent rehabilitation project. The 60-plus year old siphon wasmiddle of a $500 million dollar program to build bypassed during the construction project so it could be repaired.a surface water treatment facility and distributetreated surface water to the main population cen-ters of the county. Mark Smith, our GRP Divi- vides wholesale water and wastewater services to proximately 45 employees operate and maintainsion Manager, is also a regular contributor to this the 100,000 people who reside in The Woodlands three wastewater treatment facilities, numerouspublication. A smaller percentage of the reading Township. Under the direction of Tojuana Coo- wastewater pump stations, 40 water wells, andaudience may be aware that the SJRA also pro- per, the SJRA’s Woodlands Division Manager, ap- miles of associated piping to collect and distribute30 Dock Line Magazine, Inc. - Lake Conroe Edition December 2011
  2. 2. the water and wastewater. Few readers, however,are probably aware of our fourth division, theHighlands Division, managed by Larry Gregory,Acting Division Manager. A short history lesson is in order. The SJRAwas originally created by an act of the 1937 TexasLegislature as the San Jacinto River Conserva-tion and Reclamation District, with the broadresponsibility to improve and protect the soiland water resources in the San Jacinto River wa-tershed (the legislature changed the name to SanJacinto River Authority in 1951). Created as anagency of the state, the SJRA had a mission andpurpose, but no funding in the early years. Be-cause the SJRA was unable to levy taxes and hadno other funding source, the 1939 Legislaturepassed the Tax Remission Bill, granting to theSJRA a 50% remission of the ad valorem taxes onall counties within the Authority’s service area. Continued on page 32 1 Dock Line Magazine, Inc. - Lake Conroe Edition December 2011 31
  3. 3. This photo shows a typical section of canalin the Highlands system.The bill was effective for 10 years and gave the Au-thority the funding it needed to start engineeringstudies on the watershed, and to begin providingsoil and water conservation services to the lo-cal property owners. With over 5,000 farms andranches in the watershed that were in need of helpwith soil erosion control and rebuilding depletedsoils, the task ahead was daunting. However, withthe purchase of approximately $50,000 worth ofequipment, the effort began. Mowing and maintaining the 25-plus miles of canals in the Highlands Division is an integral During the early 1940’s, the Federal Works part of ensuring a consistent, reliable flow of raw water for industrial and municipal customers.Agency built an extensive supply system to supplywater to the war industry in the Ship Channel area. thereafter. In return, the Authority received $1.00 funds mentioned above.Consisting of a pumping station on the lower reach per year, and all water rights were to be returned The SJRA was finally in the water business,of the river and canals on both sides of the river, at the end of the designated period. After the war, with a canal system and reservoir in Highlands,water was delivered to Humble Oil and Refining’s the City of Houston, the Federal Works Agency, Texas. Shortly after acquiring the canal system,Baytown refinery, as well as to other important in- and the SJRA reached an agreement, and on April contracts were signed with Humble Oil (Exxondustries to support the efforts of World War II. To 25, 1945, the Authority purchased the portion of today) to provide 20 million gallons of water perassist in this effort, the board of the SJRA passed a the canal on the east side of the San Jacinto River, day to their Baytown refinery, and over the yearsresolution on June 4, 1943, assigning to the Federal and the City of Houston purchased the canal on we have provided irrigation water for up to 5,000Works Agency all of the Authorities water rights the west side. The purchase price of $862,572.78 acres of rice, soybeans, and grass farms.for the duration of the war and twelve months was paid from bond sales and the tax remission Today, the Highlands Division maintains and32 Dock Line Magazine, Inc. - Lake Conroe Edition December 2011
  4. 4. operates a pump station on Lake Houston, a canalsystem running from Lake Houston to a 500-acrereservoir in the Highlands, and additional ca-nals running from the reservoir east to ChevronChemical and south to Exxon’s Baytown refinery.A number of municipal customers purchase rawwater from the canal, including Crosby, Newport,and Barrett Station. Rice farming has all but dis-appeared in the area, but several large grass farmsrely on the SJRA for raw water, and industrialusers purchase over 70 million gallons of waterper day from our canal system – that’s almostas much water as we use in all of MontgomeryCounty. With over 25 miles of canal to maintain,40-plus road crossings, a large pump station, andindustrial customers that require uninterruptedwater supply, our Highlands operations run 24/7,365 days a year. We are currently about a yearinto a $25 million dollar capital improvementprogram, which includes rehabilitation of severalsiphons (underground structures used to cross Continued on page 34 1 Dock Line Magazine, Inc. - Lake Conroe Edition December 2011 33
  5. 5. These photos show the SJRA’s LakeHouston Pump Station constructed duringthe completion of Lake Houston. Four largepumps ensure the continuous flow of up to70 million gallons per day of raw water.roadways, railroads, and drainage ditches), a newoperations center, and much-needed repairs tothe reservoir levee. These are all normal repairsconsidering that most of these facilities were con-structed during World War II. An interesting fact that many Lake Conroearea residents don’t realize is that Lake Conroewas built with bond funds that were guaranteed byrevenue from our contract with Humble Oil andRefining, and our current contracts with Exxon,Chevron, and other industrial customers providemost of the operating revenues the SJRA uses to sible for the revenues that supported the growth ning and building of the necessary water treatmentmaintain its operations, including maintaining that began in the late 1960’s with the planning and and transmission facilities to solve Montgomeryand operating Lake Conroe. building of Lake Conroe, continued in the 1970’s County’s water needs 50 years into the future. So, in reality, our fourth division was actu- with the water and wastewater facilities to service For more information, visit our website atally our first division, and was primarily respon- The Woodlands, and now, in the 2000’s the plan-, and “friend” us on Facebook. u34 Dock Line Magazine, Inc. - Lake Conroe Edition December 2011