BRA, lake level: two sides to every story

March 16, 2013

There has been a great deal of talk and discussion in the community regarding the Lake Granbury water level and its effect on the future of Granbury and Hood County.

But as we all know, there are two sides to every story. And, it is unfortunate that there has been so much misinformation voiced and without a response. It is also unfortunate that some city and county leaders who have voiced their concerns in the media and otherwise have not responded to opportunities to meet with the BRA to seek the facts.

As a recently reappointed member of the BRA Board of Directors, over the past eight years I have learned much about the current and future water requirements of our basin and the state. I am also a native Texan, resident of Hood County for over 20 years and lakefront property owner for half that time. Like so many of you in this community, I am seriously concerned by the lower lake levels and river flows here and throughout Texas. I want to take this opportunity to state some facts so that each and every one of you may decide for yourselves what is reasonable, what is factual and what is not. Here are some of the unfounded rumors, along with the actual facts.

BRA has not put money into infrastructure for the local community.

Without DeCordova Bend dam there wouldn’t be a Lake Granbury. Lake Granbury was built as a water supply reservoir and recreation is a secondary benefit. In the past 5 years, the BRA has spent $6.7 million on major rehabilitation projects at the dam. Additionally, normal annual maintenance required for a 40+ year old structure averaged $394,400 annually for each of the last 5 years. Please keep in mind, as I cite some pretty substantial expenditure numbers; BRA Is Not a taxing entity, nor do we receive appropriations from the state. The BRA is a self-supporting, nonprofit, quasi-state agency, as are all Texas river authorities.

BRA is not taking advantage of the lower lake levels to fix boat ramps.

The BRA spent $80,800 to widen the Granbury Rough Creek boat ramp to 4 lanes. For the past 5 years, the BRA has spent an average of $115,000 per year on maintenance and general repairs at Granbury lakeside parks.

In February, the BRA posted an advertisement for bid for the first phase of a three-year project to extend and widen boat ramps, build bulk heading and improve park amenities at Lake Granbury.

The BRA does nothing financially to support the local community.

The BRA has indeed supported the local community; including a sale of lakefront property that is now City Beach and parking areas for the Convention and Visitors Complex. The city of Granbury purchased these properties from the BRA at a cost of $5,500. The property is currently valued by the Hood County Appraisal District at $2 million! Additionally, the BRA continues to provide the city with permits for 5 commercial docks, including the breakwater at City Beach, free of charge.

Along with these community amenities, the BRA provides the Granbury Peewee Football and Cheerleaders association and the Granbury Soccer Association with leases of BRA property at a minimal cost. The BRA has not felt the need to publicize or toot their horn over these beneficial programs and partnerships. They are simply a means of supporting this local community.

BRA is letting water go down the river and be lost to the Gulf of Mexico.

The System Operation Permit, which has upset so many Granbury residents, includes the means for BRA to allow for the beneficial use of water before it flows downstream into the Gulf of Mexico. Without this permit, state law prohibits the BRA from using or storing the flows that are lost into the Gulf.

BRA chose to close the Possum Kingdom hydroelectric plant in hopes of getting a new water permit.

In August of 2007, the hydroelectric plant at Possum Kingdom Lake was closed due to safety concerns. The 70+ year old facility needed substantial renovations for continued operations. The BRA entered into a contract to allow the existing electric generation company to assume control of the facility and perform the needed restoration; however, the electric company did not pursue the option of continuing operations.

BRA has shut down the dam at PK and there is no way to release water.

Without the hydroelectric generators, the BRA continues to release water from the PK dam via 9 flood gates and 3 low-flow gates. In addition, the BRA is currently constructing a controlled outlet conduit, in the area of the former hydroelectric generators, which will allow for water to be released at the same elevation as during hydroelectric generation. The project cost for the controlled outlet conduit is $9.3 million.

BRA is not accountable for their actions.

The BRA is accountable to the Texas Legislature, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, our system water customers and the Governor of Texas, to name a few. The State of Texas needs more water for a growing population and entities like the BRA are responsible for securing new water resources. Further examples of accountability and transparency include budgets, audits, and audio minutes of the board meetings, available to the public on the BRA website. If you are not able to attend the BRA board meetings, you may listen to them in their entirety on the BRA website: www.brazos.org. The fact is that BRA is doing exactly what it was created to do – provide water from the lakes it built for that very purpose.

Low lake levels have affected tourism in Granbury.

On December 22, 2012, the Hood County News quoted City Manager Wayne McKethan stating that “last year was a record year for sales tax revenues, but the first few months of the current fiscal year have proven even better – 10 percent higher than last year’s,” suggesting that the local economy is thriving.

Home sales and property values have decreased due to the lower lake levels.

Last July, the Hood County News quoted Hood County Chief Tax Appraiser Greg Stewart as saying the trend in lower property taxes had reversed. He was surprised there was a slight increase in tax values, noting “I figured the values would be flat.” Just a few days ago, the Hood County News reported that pending home sales for January were up by 25.5 percent from last year, while pending sales were up 37.5 percent. These facts suggest that home sales and property values are not being adversely impacted by lower lake levels.

The lower lake levels are not a result of drought. They are a result of BRA mismanagement.

State Climatologist John Nielson-Gammon reported that 2011 was the driest year since rainfall has been recorded in 1890. He reported that 2012 also broke records for drought, noting that October – December was the third driest on record.

The BRA has not made a water supply release from Lake Granbury since January, 2012. With the exception of one flood water release made when Lake Granbury filled in the springtime, the only releases from Lake Granbury have been the regular low-flow made to maintain the health of the fish and wildlife in the river. Though Lake Granbury filled at the beginning of 2012, Possum Kingdom Lake did not recover.

Many residents have claimed that the lack of hydroelectric generation has caused water level at Granbury to drop. In 2007, the BRA discontinued operations of the hydroelectric facility at Possum Kingdom Lake; yet Lake Granbury was full for most of 2008 and all of 2010.

Drought conditions, high evaporation rates, and low flow environmental releases in 2009, 2011 and 2012, as well as the continued use of the stored water supply in the reservoirs, caused the lake levels to drop.

Additionally, according to BRA’s license with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, hydro releases were stopped when Possum Kingdom’s water supply level dropped below elevation 990 mean sea level. Therefore, if hydro were in operation today, with today’s reservoir level of 989.75, only low flow or water supply releases would be made from Possum Kingdom Lake.

The major cause of lake level decline is the lack of rain, coupled with the continued use of the water supply from these reservoirs for households, electric generation and agriculture.

It is important to remember that anyone can make a statement and claim it is fact; therefore, I issue you this challenge. Ask your city and county officials if the information brought to light here is correct. Check the budgets and audited financial reports available on the BRA website (www.brazos.org).

Watch the state and local news and follow drought conditions in the basin, state and nation. Verify the facts for yourself and then reach your own conclusions.

Thankfully, our current situation is not permanent. The fact is that at some point – today, next week or next month, it will rain again and the reservoir will fill.

The vitriol and angst frequently generated in local meetings serves no purpose except to create misdirected emotion.

Therefore, I urge us to all come together, pray for much needed rain and be grateful for all that we have in this Great State.

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Category: Forum Archived