Water committee meetings on hold
by Gary Kent
Jul 29, 2013 | 1557 views | 0 0 comments | 26 26 recommendations | email to a friend | print
BEEVILLE – The last two meetings scheduled for the Citizens’ Committee studying alternate water sources for the City Council have been canceled.

Committee chairman John Galloway said the July 18 and 22 meetings that were supposed to be held at the city’s Event Center were canceled because the committee will not be able to hear its next speaker until July 29.

Mark Ellison of the Texas Water Development Board is scheduled to speak at that meeting.

Galloway said Ellison is expected to discuss public/private financing partnerships at that session.

He said Ellison has had experience with such agreements, and will be able to outline the pluses and minuses of that method of funding for water projects.

Public/private agreements became a topic of interest earlier this month when Bill Norris of NorrisLeal Engineering Water in Austin offered to finance the drilling of two wells and the construction of a reverse osmosis filtering plant to treat water from one of the wells.

Norris said his company would arrange financing of what is expected to be a project costing about $15 million.

He said his company would then sell water to the city at a cost comparable to what the city is paying now. When the city has paid off the debt through water sales to city residents (about 20 years), the city will attain ownership of the operation.

That offer has been doubted by Galloway and others who have favored a plan that would involve the city entering into an agreement with the Bee Development Authority for the use of a well the authority has at the Chase Field Industrial and Airport Complex.

Water from that well would be purchased by the city and pumped into town through an existing pipeline that runs to the former naval air station.

Although that well, which is drilled into the shallower and less salty Evangeline aquifer, would only be able to provide the city with about one million gallons of water a day, proponents of that project have said additional water could be pumped from wells drilled on other properties in the area.

But the city would have to approve lease agreements with the property owners at each well location along the State Highway 202 corridor.

Norris’ plan calls for the city to drill two wells inside the city, at Beeville’s water storage facility on West Cleveland Street. One well would be drilled to the Evangeline aquifer and other would be drilled into the Jasper aquifer. The Jasper aquifer would allow the city to pump more water on a daily basis, but that water would need to be treated and filtered to remove suspended solids and chlorides (salts).

Otherwise, Jasper water would not meet the guidelines of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

The City Council appointed 17 members to the committee in May after voters turned down a $15.3 million bond sale to finance the project that Norris had recommended.

New Mayor David Carabajal asked committee members to study the alternatives for providing the city with a water supply other than the surface system which serves Beeville with treated water from Lake Corpus Christi. The lake has been drying up as the Coastal Bend experiences a third year of serious drought.

Lake Corpus Christi has become heavily silted over the years, and the water has become so shallow there that it evaporates rapidly during summer months.

Ballí has told the council that the city needs to be able to provide up to 3 mgd of water from alternative supplies. That could increase substantially, to 5 or 6 mgd, in the event that the lake level drops to the point that the Beeville Water Supply District will no longer be able to pump water from the raw water intake structure at Swinney Switch.

At its last meeting, committee members seemed to be about evenly divided on whether to recommend the Chase Field/SH 202 wells option or the RO plant option.

The council is hoping for a recommendation from the committee by next month, at the latest.

Ballí said that if the council needs to call another bond election to pay for a water project, it must be called by Aug. 26 if it is to be held as part of the November general election.

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