Water Plan Continues to Cause Ripples

Oct 19, 2009 | Victoria Advocate by David Tewes | Related Press

A proposed regional water plan continued to draw the scrutiny of county officials concerned about the future of Victoria County’s water supply.

“How can they actually justify that Victoria County is going to be better off?” County Commissioner Kevin Janak asked. “This deeply concerns me.”

Local focus on the regional water plan has apparently shifted from a proposal for the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority to build a pipeline. It would take water from the lower Guadalupe River to serve the developing Interstate 35 corridor.

The focus has now shifted to a river authority permit request for authority to take up to 189,000 acre-feet of water from the lower Guadalupe.

Jerry James, the county representative to the South Central Texas Water Advisory Committee, said the river authority would also like the regional plan to include a 200,000 acre-foot off-channel storage area.

James told the commissioners court Monday a subcommittee of the Region L water planning group has recommended the pipeline project be considered as an alternate project.

“What it means is that it’s not recommended,” James said. “So, it really takes it off the table at this point.”

A project has to be on the recommended list before the state would consider approving a permit for it, he said.

General Manager Bill West with the river authority said his agency agreed to relegate it to an alternate status so it would not hold up adoption of a regional water plan. But he said that doesn’t mean it’s a dead project.

“If any one of those recommended water strategies is determined infeasible or doesn’t go forward, the alternative water management strategies are there to move up,” he said. “The Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority is trying to reach some middle ground with all these various interests, but it didn’t take it off the plan.”

James said the 189,000 acre-feet of water being requested on the river authority permit request would be for junior water rights. It would be diverted near the saltwater barrier on the lower part of the river.

“It would be junior even to Victoria’s water right,” he said. “All the water rights in the basin would have to be satisfied before they could take any of this water.”

James said he didn’t know if the entire amount would be granted, how often the water would be available or what restrictions would be placed on it. But a 200,000 acre-foot reservoir would be needed to store that much water, he said.

“You could take the water out during times of plenty,” James said. “Then during times of drought, you would have that water in the off channel storage so you can use it.”

The subcommittee passed the water permit and storage issues to the regional planning committee for technical review.

“I have some concerns about whether it’s necessary to do those projects,” James said. “I can see some benefit to the off-channel storage, possibly even for our area to have that water available, but it’s an awful lot of water for a very small projected need.”

West said if the state approves the permit for 189,000 acre-feet of water, that doesn’t mean the river authority will take that much. “We feel like it is appropriate to have as much contingency in a plan as possible.”

The size of the reservoir would be determined by such factors as the amount of water taken from the river. West speculated the reservoir would be closer to 20,000 or 30,000 acre-feet if it is built. It would likely be in Calhoun County.

“How many water projects have been built in the last 30 years?” he asked. “None. I rest my case.”

The land for the storage area would come only from willing sellers, he said. There would be no condemnation.

In addition to the 189,000 acre-feet of water rights being junior to all other rights, enough water would also be passed through to take care of the needs of the bays and estuaries, West said.

The project has the capability of providing water to customers in Calhoun, Victoria and Refugio, as well as upstream users.

“We have the obligation of meeting demands from Kendall County to Calhoun County,” West said. “Some of it could go back upstream.”

He said he understands the Victoria County concerns about water being shipped to users upstream. “The parallel concern of people around Canyon Lake is the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority releasing water from Canyon Lake for downstream demands.”

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