‘We want our water back’

March 20, 2013

“We want our water back,” Joe Williams told some 450 people gathered at the Save the Lake town hall meeting Saturday night at the Granbury Resort Conference Center.

Williams is president of the Lake Granbury Waterfront Owners Association and Friends (LGWOA).

“For 38 years, we had water released from the hydro-electric plant at Possum Kingdom,” Williams said.

Water from the PK dam flows down the Brazos River into Lake Granbury. During that time, he said Lake Granbury was seldom 2.5 feet low or lower.

“How many here would be happy if we were only 2.5 feet low?” Most in the audience nodded, smiled and raised their hands in agreement. Today, the lake is approaching 5.5 feet low.

Hundreds of boat docks become unusable when the lake is more than 2.5 feet low. Most boat ramps are not usable after the lake is about 3 feet low. With continuing drought conditions, the Brazos River Authority (BRA) is predicting Lake Granbury could be 8 feet low by May 31.

Members of the LGWOA are among those protesting the BRA’s permit application to sell an additional 421,000 acre-feet of water from the Brazos Basin. The application has been on file with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) since 2004. Most recently, the BRA submitted a water management plan, as required in the permitting process.

“Until the BRA shows to be good managerial stewards of Lake Granbury, they should not be awarded one more drop of water,” Williams said.

A recommendation regarding the BRA’s water management plan is expected around July 1, according to Ken Ramirez, an attorney with extensive experience in water rights.

“The BRA owns the lake, and most of the water in it,” he noted.

Ramirez has been retained by the city of Granbury, along with an expert hydrologist, to help with lake level issues. “This is just the beginning of the process,” he said.

PROTECTION NEEDED FOR LAKE

Granbury City Manager Wayne McKethan said the county’s “biggest financial risk” is Lake Granbury. If waterfront values decrease, he noted, taxing entities could make up the lost revenue by raising the tax rate.

McKethan reviewed the financial impact of Lake Granbury on Hood County, as first presented at last year’s town hall meeting.

When Lake Granbury goes down, McKethan explained, “Lake-related business goes down. Sales tax from lake-related businesses goes down. Jobs from lake-related businesses go down. If you can’t put a boat in the water, the people from the Metroplex won’t come down to go boating and spend money here.”

McKethan commended the cooperative efforts of the city, county, LGWOA and state legislators working together on lake issues.

State Rep. Jim Keffer, R-Eastland, noted that bills have been filed by himself and state Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, to audit all river authorities. “River authorities are very powerful in Texas,” he said.

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