The Brazos River Authority Board of Directors received a preview of the next steps in what will be a lengthy but much-anticipated project to bring a new reservoir to the Brazos River basin and, with it, an estimated 100,000 acre-feet of additional water supply.
In addition to the Allen’s Creek Reservoir Project discussion, the Board also reviewed public comments and revisions to regulations of BRA lakes and associated lands and a new agreement to help a city outside the basin at its May 23 meeting.
Allens Creek Reservoir Project
This was the first presentation to the Board of Directors regarding the next steps for the Allens Creek Reservoir Project following the landmark agreement between the BRA and the city of Houston in which the city agreed to sell its 70% ownership interest to the BRA.
Covering about 9,500 acres of land, the projected amount of usable or firm water from the reservoir will provide about 100,000 acre-feet of water annually for municipal, industrial, agricultural, and mining use.
The next step is obtaining the 404 federal Clean Water permit. Stantec Engineering Services, the firm selected some 7 years ago by the BRA and the City of Houston to manage the project, has overseen multiple 404 federal Clean Water permits and worked with the BRA on several other projects. BRA General Manager/CEO David Collinsworth said they are a great partner, and he is excited to move forward with the group.
The time it takes to obtain a 404 permit is the time it takes a 404 permit, said Bill Swanson, Stantec water resources planning and management vice president. He said he’s seen agencies take 10 to 15 years to obtain the permit because they didn’t work in conjunction with the US Army Corps of Engineers. Swanson said they aim to reduce the timeframe by being proactive, minimizing misunderstandings and the potential for conflict and errors.
The US Army Corps of Engineers can only issue a permit for the Least Environmentally Damaging Practicable Alternative (LEDPA) – which means a project has the smallest impact, Swanson said. From there, the Corps must comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which is designed to protect public interest resources. Part of that process includes the most comprehensive NPA document – the Environmental Impact Statement. The Corps will consult multiple agencies to get their opinions on the proposed project during this process, including the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Marine Fisheries Service, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, and FEMA.
The permit application essentially comes down to three basic questions, Swanson said.
• Is a new water supply needed?
• What are the key environmental, social, physical, chemical, and socioeconomic issues raised by the proposed project?
• Are there other ways a reliable water supply can be secured with less environmental impact?
Over the next six-to-nine months, Stantec will put together a detailed schedule of the project for the BRA, Swanson said. After that, there will be opportunities for public outreach and the initiation of communications with the Corps, he said.
“(Allens Creek) is a strategically located site in the lower basin that will allow the BRA to do a couple of things: One, to capture floodwaters when they come down the river and store them. Capture the water in Allens Creek itself. And manage the other reservoirs of the system during non-flood periods when it makes sense to strategically move water from upper reservoirs into Allens Creek to make room for more water in the upper reservoir, thereby increasing your whole reservoir yield in the entire basin. But most importantly, have a point of release that’s very close to some of your largest customers on the Coast,” Swanson said.
The current estimated cost of the project is $500 million.
Watch the full presentation here.
City of Pearland Wastewater Treatment
During the meeting, the Board authorized the execution of an interim operations agreement to temporarily assist the city of Pearland with operation of its wastewater treatment plants.
City officials reached out to the BRA based on a recommendation from the city of Sugar Land, said Brad Brunett, BRA central and lower basin regional manager. The BRA began operating the Sugar Land Regional Sewerage System in 1975. As part of its stewardship of clean water, the BRA operates and maintains a number of wastewater treatment plants throughout the Brazos River basin
The city recently discovered some issues and requested assistance from an outside agency. The interim operations agreement is for four months.
BRA lakes and lands regulations revisions
The revised regulations for BRA lakes and associated lands will go into effect five days after the publication of two consecutive-week notices in area newspapers.
The Board initially reviewed the proposed revisions at its March meeting. The revisions were then posted online to allow the public to have 30 days to comment. There were 21 comments, and a few prompted additional changes, said Riley Woods, BRA senior staff counsel.
The changes affect all three BRA reservoirs: Possum Kingdom Lake, Lake Limestone and Lake Granbury. The last time revisions were made to the document was 2014.
Woods said probably the biggest change in the document was the addition of a permitting process for commercial on-water facilities. The new process will include a requirement the public have the opportunity to comment on the proposed plan.
Another significant change included increasing the distance watercraft must operate at a No Wake speed from 50 feet to 100 feet. The BRA is trying to be more proactive to the disturbances caused by boats traveling too fast and too close to docks, Woods said.
Also at the meeting, the Board:
• authorized the Texas County and District Retirement System plan provisions for BRA non-retirees and retirees for 2023.
• authorized the execution of a contract with Microsoft for a $1 million, three-year software enterprise agreement.
The currently scheduled remaining 2022 Board meeting dates are:
• July 25, 2022
• September 26, 2022
• November 14, 2022
Sign up for email board meeting notices here
Collinsworth will present meeting highlights, among other information, during the next virtual public meeting June 2, 2022. The hourlong Brown Bag on the Brazos provides the public the opportunity to ask questions of BRA management.
For a complete list of Board actions from the meeting, go here. Or watch the full board meeting here.
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