Hundreds attend meeting on lake level

February 19, 2014

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More than 300 people attended a Town Hall meeting Saturday night at the Granbury Resort Conference Center to hear from the Lake Granbury Coalition about a newly released study on the lake level.

The report, referred to as the “White Paper,” was prepared by attorneys with Haynes and Boone and includes data compiled by a hydrologist hired by the Coalition.

Coalition member Todd Garner told the audience that the group hopes to address with BRA officials three proposals. The proposals are:

Increase the drawdown ratio between Possum Kingdom Lake and Lake Granbury;

Limit diversions when the lake is below 690 feet MSL (mean sea level); and

Alter the storage relationship between Lake Granbury and Squaw Creek Reservoir.

The efforts of the Lake Granbury Coalition are part of a community-supported effort to fight the Brazos River Authority’s (BRA) permit application to sell more water from the Brazos Basin. This includes Lake Granbury, which has been at record lows for months.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst arrived late for the meeting after having been delayed. He addressed the audience about the state’s population growth of approximately 1,200 people per day, and the need to address water issues.

Though he said that he “can’t get involved in talking about a contested case,” he said he wants to be “supportive” of Hood County’s concerns about Lake Granbury.

The two main speakers regarding Lake Granbury were Garner and fellow Coalition member Mickey Parson, who also serves on the Granbury City Council. Other Coalition members and elected officials were in attendance.

Parson detailed the history of Lake Granbury and why the Coalition members believe that BRA management practices, coupled with the drought, have resulted in low lake levels that are threatening the local economy as well as public safety.

“From 1970 when Lake Granbury was filled to 2007, BRA managed water levels in Lake Granbury within three feet of full (690 feet mean sea level) more than 96 percent of the time,” Parson stated.

The stable elevations occurred even during periods of drought, he said, and led to a county population growth from just over 6,000 in 1970 to more than 50,000 today.

Judi Pierce, the BRA’s public information officer, sent an email to the Hood County News on Tuesday, providing responses from the river authority to the Coalition’s three proposals.

Her message stated that the BRA has already agreed to re-evaluate the study by Halff Associates and resulting drawdown protocol as long as stakeholders from both Lakes Possum Kingdom and Granbury are actively involved. Regarding Proposal #2, she wrote:

“Though having a set limit to diversions would make recreational opportunities more dependable at Lake Granbury, the mission of the Brazos River Authority to meet water needs simply does not allow serious consideration of this request. Limiting diversions from Lake Granbury would restrict the use of tens of thousands of acre feet of water supply.

“As a result, people, businesses, agriculture and industry could be forced to restrict, ration and, in extreme circumstance, go without water in order to allow people to enjoy recreation. Moreover, during drought conditions such as those we are currently experiencing, water specifically set aside for recreation would simply evaporate without having provided the beneficial use for which it has always been intended. Lake Granbury was built specifically for the purpose of providing a storage space for water supply that is meant to be used to benefit the community and the Brazos basin.”

In response to Proposal #3, Pierce wrote: “This request is not an option that may be decided by the Brazos River Authority. Luminant is responsible for managing Squaw Creek Reservoir and the BRA has no control of what becomes of the water they pump into the reservoir. This question should be directed to Luminant.”

an altered equation?

Parson said that the BRA’s decision in 2007 to shut down the hydroelectric plant at Possum Kingdom Lake “changed the water supply equation for Lake Granbury.” The releases had helped maintain consistent elevation levels for Lake Granbury, he said.

BRA officials have attributed the current state of Lake Granbury to record drought.

“In decommissioning the hydropower facility, BRA fundamentally altered the management relationship between Possum Kingdom and Lake Granbury, a fact BRA acknowledged in 2010 when it hired Halff Associates to analyze the relative impact of various drawdown levels on each lake,” Parson told the crowd.

“It is now clear that this management approach is not balanced or fair and, in fact, represents a significant reduction – by more than half – of the average historical hydropower releases from Possum Kingdom,” Parson stated.

Garner gave a slide presentation about the White Paper report. The document details the Brazos River Authority’s application for water use permit No. 5851, as well as the BRA’s management practices regarding Lake Granbury.

The lake is currently 9 feet low.

Garner showed photos highlighting the “real world impact” of the low lake level – dry docks, dry canals, fish kills and fire hazards.

“The danger is real,” he said.

Garner stated that the taxable value of homes, particularly properties around the lake, are dropping.

Garner stated that the Lake Granbury Coalition “acknowledges that drought has contributed to lower lake levels.” However, he said, data shows that Granbury “is bearing a disproportionate burden of drought conditions” and the BRA “is seeking to withdraw even more water from the Brazos Basin, including (Lake) Granbury.”

Several people told Dewhurst that there needs to be more accountability for river authorities.

Precinct 4 Commissioner Steve Berry received a standing ovation when he told the lieutenant governor that the problems tied to Lake Granbury are not about “cry babies.” The lake level affects not just homeowners, he said, but bankers and mortgage companies.

“When we’re raising taxes at the local level, we all get voted out,” he said. “But yet the BRA keeps doing business as usual.”

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