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SAN JACINTO RIVER AUTHORITY

SAN JACINTO RIVER AUTHORITY. The San Jacinto River Authority was established by special acts of the legislature in 1937 as the San Jacinto River Conservation and Reclamation District. Like many such agencies, it was charged with numerous duties and given a broad scope of operational latitude, although it received no appropriation of money at that time. The district was granted the power to levy taxes but never exercised this power. Its operating income came primarily from the sale of revenue bonds, the sale and distribution of water, and fees collected for the disposal of wastewater. The boundaries of the district embraced all of the watershed of the San Jacinto River outside Harris County, including parts of Walker, San Jacinto, Liberty, Waller, and Grimes counties and all of Montgomery County. The agency had authorization to operate both within and without the district boundaries. The name of the district was changed to San Jacinto River Authority in 1951 by the legislature. It was governed by a board of six directors who served six-year terms, and the directors were selected in such a manner as to represent all areas of the watershed. The authority was actually in the "paper stage" until 1945, when the Federal Works Administration put the water system it had constructed up for sale as a war emergency measure to supply surface water to the industries located on the Houston Ship Channel. The original system consisted of dual canals, one being the West Canal and the Sheldon Reservoir and the other the East Canal and the Highlands Reservoir. One pump station, located on the San Jacinto River a mile upstream from the present Lake Houston dam, pumped water for both canals. This station was constructed to withstand rises as high as any yet recorded.

Following a long series of negotiations, a purchase agreement with the FWA was finally completed on April 25, 1945, and the authority purchased that part of the canal and reservoir system east of the San Jacinto River. The city of Houston purchased the west half of the system. The pumping plant remained the property of the FWA and was operated by the city of Houston with operation expense shared by the authority and the city. The authority paid a total purchase price of $862,572 for the east system, which included sixteen miles of canal and the 1,424-acre reservoir. Funds for the purchase of the system were provided by a bond issue and from funds on hand through collection of state tax remission revenues. The city of Houston continued to operate the west system after the construction of Lake Houston. Later, it sold the Sheldon Reservoir to the state Fish and Game Department (now a part of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department), which operates it as a game preserve and fish hatchery and offers seasonal public fishing in certain sections of the reservoir. The original pumping arrangement continued until the summer of 1947, when a period of extremely low rainfall caused the pumping capacity of the single station to be inadequate for both systems. In order to ensure that the authority's industrial customers were served without interruption, two auxiliary pumping units were placed in operation on the east bank of the San Jacinto River near the beginning of the open section of the east canal. The drought continued, and in 1948 two additional auxiliary units were added. These four units were used intermittently in conjunction with the main pumping plant until the filling of Lake Houston in 1954. The authority constructed a modern electrical pump station at the east end of the dam of Lake Houston to pump water from the upstream side of the dam. The authority pays the city of Houston a monthly amount for regularizing its flow of water plus a power saving rate based upon the increased elevation of water in the lake. The station was equipped with three electrically-powered pumps, each capable of pumping twenty-five million gallons of water daily. A fourth pump (electric or diesel) with a daily capacity of thirty million gallons of water was added in 1984. The station was designed and constructed to accommodate an ultimate capacity of 300 million gallons daily.

The canal system of the authority runs easterly from Lake Houston, skirts Crosby to the east, and continues in a southerly direction, paralleling the Crosby-Lynchburg road until it enters the Highlands Reservoir. Below the reservoir the canal continues south until it reaches Humble's (now Exxon) Baytown refinery. Humble has been the authority's major water customer since the system was purchased. This canal also supplies surface water to United Carbon Company (now Advanced Aromatics) and Marbon Chemical Company. The Gulf Oil Corporation (now Chevron Chemicals Company) also became one of the authority's industrial customers, requiring the construction of eight additional miles of canal. In addition to industrial water supply the authority provides water to two MUD (Municipal Utility District) and farmers from the canal. After the construction of Lake Houston, the Highlands Reservoir was only partially utilized for water storage. In times of excessive rainfall, large quantities of local run-off water are impounded in the reservoir, thus adding to the conservation of available surface water. Systematic samplings of the fish population were made periodically with the results showing a good cross-section of game fish in the reservoir. There was also an abundance of trash fish, which provided excellent food for the game fish.

As a joint project with the City of Houston and the Texas Water Development Board, in 1973 the San Jacinto River Authority completed the construction of Lake Conroe on the West Fork of the San Jacinto at a cost of $30 million. The 21,000-acre reservoir, which lay partially within the boundaries of the Sam Houston National Forest, provided the area a water supply and conservation facilities, as well as many recreational opportunities. The San Jacinto River Authority has provided water supply and waste water treatment to the MUDs at the Woodlands since 1975. In the 1990s eleven active districts received this service. At that time projects of the San Jacinto River Authority included: implementing a comprehensive water resource development plan for the district; working with the Sabine River Authority to plan a transfer of water from the Sabine River to the San Jacinto Basin; conducting a feasibility study regarding the development of Spring Creek Lake as a surface water supply; and developing a sixteen-acre park on Lake Conroe.

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

"SAN JACINTO RIVER AUTHORITY," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/mws03), accessed November 28, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.