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Citizens water committee: No drought of expert advice
Jun 27, 2013 | 1127 views | 0 0 comments | 42 42 recommendations | email to a friend | print
BEEVILLE — Members of the citizens committee to study alternative water sources for the City Council voted Monday evening to add another expert to the three engineering companies already looking at the city’s water situation.

Kaveh Khorzad, P.G., of Wet Rock Groundwater Services, LLC in Austin will join engineers from Urban Engineering, NorrisLeal Engineering, Water and HDR, Inc. to report to the committee and make recommendations.

Some committee members expressed trust issues with one or more of the engineering firms that already have made recommendations on how the city should deal with a lingering drought.

Monday’s meeting dealt mostly with individual members outlining their thoughts on ways the city should deal with the dwindling supply of surface water.

The total capacity of both the Choke Canyon Reservoir and Lake Corpus Christi was reported to be at only 35 percent as of June 25.

Some water has entered the lakes from the Nueces River after recent rains in the Texas Hill Country.

However, with only 23 percent of capacity in Lake Corpus Christi as the Coastal Bend enters the third summer of drought, water experts are concerned. Some are predicting that the drought could last even longer and rival the infamous drought of the 1950s.

Beeville Water Supply District’s George P. Morrill, I Water Treatment Plant Superintendent Hector Salinas has reported that there is no more lake at the district’s raw water intake structure. The structure is pumping all of the water coming to Beeville from the river channel.

So far, the three engineering firms working with the city are recommending different solutions to the problem.

City Manager Deborah Ballí said HDR is recommending starting with a well already drilled at the Chase Field Industrial and Airport Complex and using an existing but abandoned pipeline between there and the city to pump the water to Beeville.

That company’s engineers also recommend negotiating leases with individual landowners between the city and the former naval air station for the right to drill wells to supplement that which is pumped from Chase Field.

NorrisLeal principals Bill Norris and Jesús Leal are recommending drilling one well in the Evangeline aquifer and one well in the brackish water of the Jasper aquifer and using a reverse osmosis plant to filter the suspended solids and chlorides from the water in the deeper aquifer.

Ballí said Urban seems to be recommending that the city wait for rain to refill the lakes west of the city.

At the committee’s first meeting on June 20, members elected John Galloway chairman and Tom Beasley vice chairman.

The members also voted to keep the committee meetings open to the public and to adhere to the Texas Open Meetings Act. That law allows for the committee to meet behind closed doors in the event it wants to discuss certain issues, such as lease agreements and legal situations.

Although some members recommended holding all its meetings in closed session, Galloway, Beasley, Orlando Vasquez and others said they thought Beeville residents would prefer to have the meetings open to the public.

Seventeen members originally were appointed to the committee but two nominees, Mike Scotten and Gilbert Herrera, dropped out before the first meeting.

City Council members were expected to appoint two residents to replace them.

During that first meeting, committee members also approved requiring a quorum of one more than half of the 17 members before a formal meeting could be held.

The committee also agreed to meet two nights a week because of the limited amount of time the group will have to study the alternatives and make recommendations to the council.

Those meetings will be held on Mondays and Thursdays, beginning at 6 p.m. at Beeville’s Event Center, 111 E. Corpus Christi St.

Several committee members expressed a desire during the June 20 meeting to bring in experts to explain the different options available. But Galloway suggested that each member take the reports issued by the different engineering companies home to read them first.

When asked what’s the status of the contract between Beeville and Corpus Christi concerning the purchase of water from Lake Corpus Christi, Ballí said the agreement allows Beeville to purchase water from Corpus Christi “as long as there is water in the lake.”

When committee members asked what information the city would provide to them, Mayor David Carabajal said, “We want to give you whatever you need to succeed.”

At one point, Kenneth Elsbury asked if the committee should assume that it will rain again some day and end the drought.

“I don’t,” answered member Tom Healey.

“The lake has been there 35 years and I can’t imagine it ever going dry,” Galloway countered. “We cannot discount the lakes.”

Committee members then discussed regulations on how much water the city would be allowed to withdraw from local aquifers.

Elsbury said the city would have the right to pull as much water out of an aquifer as it wants as long as a well is inside the city limits.

When committee member Roy Galvan asked about the quality of water in the aquifers where the city’s existing wells are located, Ballí said it was impossible for engineers to pump any water from them to be tested.

Committee member Jessy T. Garza reminded others that written reports from engineers are based on static numbers and those numbers are subject to change. He said it would be necessary to address those possible changes with the experts.

“One of the risks will be the dollar amount,” Galloway warned other committee members. “There are so many low income people in this town and they will be affected.”

Garza agreed with Galloway that the lakes probably will never run out of water. “But there’s risk that they will.”

Elsbury then reminded committee members that even if rains do refill the lakes, having a backup source of water would be important in the event of mechanical failure at the treatment plant.

Jim Crumrine, who also serves as president of the BWSD board of directors, was at the second meeting. He has advocated expanding the city’s ground storage facilities for years just for that purpose.

As the first meeting ended, Galloway asked each committee member to read the information they had available and return with a list of recommendations.

The committee’s next meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday at the event center.

Gary Kent is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 120, or at reporter@mySouTex.com.
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