BRA Board of Directors approve PK Lake dam reviews, mussel conservation agreement

BRA Board of Directors approve PK Lake dam reviews, mussel conservation agreement

As part of the maintenance and preservation of Possum Kingdom Lake's Morris Sheppard Dam, the Brazos River Authority Board of Directors approved a $1.3 million contract for annual inspections required by state and federal agencies at its regular bimonthly meeting.

Possum Kingdom Lake, located on the Brazos River northwest of Fort Worth, was the first water supply reservoir the BRA constructed. The project was authorized through a permit issued by the state of Texas in 1938.

Technical Services Manager Blake Kettler said five companies submitted proposals for the work. The Board approved a roughly $1.3 million contract with Walter P. Moore and Associates, Inc. for engineering services required to complete the annual inspections and five-year inspection for Morris Sheppard Dam.

"These inspections are in addition to what we do on a regular basis," Kettler said.

The BRA's Reservoir System Maintenance Unit, called RSMU works year-round and performs different inspections daily, monthly, and quarterly, Kettler said. These BRA employees are skilled in welding, fabricating, blasting, coatings application, metalizing, heavy equipment operation, and much more.

Due to the looming freezing temperatures outside, the Board only reviewed action items and one agenda item for discussion during the meeting and tabled the other matters. Agenda items voted on or discussed included No. 2, 3, 6, 7, 11, 12, 13, and 14.

False spike and Texas fawnsfoot study

In August 2021, the US Fish and Wildlife Service proposed federal protections under the Endangered Species Act for two freshwater mussels known to occur in the Brazos River basin, said Tiffany Malzahn, BRA environmental and compliance manager. Specifically, the USFWS proposed endangered protections for Fusconaia mitchelli (false spike) and threatened protections for Truncilla macrodon (Texas fawnsfoot). The USWS is expected to publish its final decision on the species' status this year.

Listing either species can have significant implications for current and future water supply operations and other activities in rivers in the basin occupied by the two species, she said.

USFWS published its decision to protect the two in which they stated the reason these two freshwater mussels are facing extinction is due to alterations to their habitats caused by dams, decreased flows from surface water and groundwater use, flood events that lead to scouring of riverbeds, water quality degradation, excessive sedimentation from erosion, and population isolation created by dams and low-water crossings, according to the report.

In 2018, to proactively address these anticipated actions, BRA staff, with the assistance of Bio-West, Inc. staff, began negotiating an agreement with USFWS, Malzahn said. The Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances was approved in 2020 and solidified a voluntary partnership between the BRA and the USFWS to address the conservation needs of the two Brazos basin species, Malzahn said.

The CCAA includes activities related to research and monitoring to further knowledge of the two species, avoidance to protect existing populations, education and outreach from engaging the public and employing both collaborative conservation and adaptive management principles, among other things.

Phase 1 of the contract with Bio-West, Inc. will be completed this year. Therefore, during the meeting, the Board authorized more than $3.6 million for the second phase, which spans a 20-year agreement.

Texas Water Development Board assistance

The Board authorized an application be filed with the Texas Water Development Board for $50 million in financial assistance for money spent on acquisition of Allens Creek Reservoir and related permits.

To apply for the assistance, the project requesting funding must be in the State Water Plan, said BRA Chief Financial Officer David Thompson.

The BRA purchased the city of Houston's 70% ownership interest in the long-planned reservoir in May 2022. Covering about 9,500 acres of land, the projected amount of usable or firm water from Allens Creek Reservoir will provide about 100,000 acre-feet of water annually for municipal, industrial, agricultural, and mining use. The estimated cost of the project is $500 million.

Thompson said the financing would be more beneficial than issuing open market debt. So beneficial, it has the opportunity to save the BRA $20.3 million over open market borrowing, he said.

Allens Creek Reservoir will be constructed as an "off-channel" reservoir on Allens Creek, a very small tributary of the Brazos River. However, the primary source of water will be pumped into the lake from the Brazos River during periods of high streamflow. The water supply will then be available for release back into the Brazos River to meet downstream needs during periods of low flow.

Also at the meeting, the Board:

  • heard a presentation with options for a potential interlocal agreement with the Palo Pinto County Sheriff's Office for collaboration in providing a safe and secure environment for the public and BRA's critical infrastructure. Read more here.
  • accepted the BRA's Annual Comprehensive Financial Report for the fiscal year ended August 31, 2022.
  • adopted the BRA's investment policy

The next Brown Bag on the Brazos virtual public meeting will be held at noon Thursday, February 9, 2023. In the meantime, for updates on BRA current projects, go here. For information on the current drought situation, see our drought update videos here

For a complete list of Board actions from the meeting, go here. Or watch the full board meeting here. Sign up to receive email Board meeting notices here.

Still have questions? Email information@brazos.org.