Mark your calendar for upcoming virtual Brown Bag lunches

  •  August 5
  •  October 7
  •  December 2

Brown Bag on the Brazos - June 2021

Brown Bag on the Brazos

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Q&A from Brown Bag

Going into yesterday morning (June 8), we received some very heavy rainfall on top of an already swollen river upstream of Possum Kingdom Lake. We were receiving 18,000-19,000 cubic feet per second of inflows prior to the rain event, and we had two gates open. Our operational full level at Possum Kingdom is elevation 999. The top of the gates is elevation 1,000. Our emergency spillway is elevation 1,000.

We were hopeful we could maintain a two-gate release and not have to open a third gate which increases the release rate to around 27,000 cfs, and we know that impacts portions of Parker County. But inflows continued to rise, including about 1.8 inches to 3 inches of rain right on top of the reservoir. The lake level continued to rise to above 999.50, and if we would not have opened a third gate, the lake level would have risen further and would have overtopped the gates and presented a dam safety issue. That’s why we had to make the tough decision to open gates at Possum Kingdom Lake and particularly that third gate. We don’t take (these gate openings) lightly. We look at streamflow. We look at the rainfall amounts. We coordinate very closely with the West Gulf River Forecast Center that issues the forecasts.

We don’t make decisions on forecasts. We make decisions on lake level rises and the calculated inflows into the reservoirs. We’re taking a change in reservoir storage over time and calculating inflows, and if those inflows rise above 30,000 cfs to 35,000 cfs, that triggers that need for that third gate.

This goes back to how lucky the Brazos River basin is to have Lake Whitney. Lake Whitney is a huge component of the flood control decisions and infrastructure that allows folks to be safe downstream of the dams. Our releases from Possum Kingdom Lake will reach Lake Granbury and then will travel to Lake Whitney. The US Army Corps of Engineers will then make releases out of Lake Whitney while watching the downstream gages and making decisions on evacuating the flood control storage while making sure there is no flooding downstream. (Effectively, the releases from Possum Kingdom Lake and Lake Granbury will have no effect on the current river levels at Richmond and Rosharon.)

At each of our three reservoirs, we have what’s called a downstream call list. You can reach out to be included on those call lists. I will warn you; you will get called potentially at all hours of the day and night. For each reservoir, we have specific intervals or criteria that trigger a callout. You can get a phone call, an email, a text or all three detailing what is happening, like the reservoir release rate, the timing, and the potential impacts downstream. You can find that form here.

Absolutely, Board meetings are always open to the public. We will be back in the Central Office in Waco having in-person meetings for the July 26 Board of Directors meeting. That puts our next Brown Bag virtual meeting on Aug. 5.

Hopefully, the rain subsides, and we can get in there and mow soon. We hope to have it open by the end of the week for sure.

One of the things we have wanted to do and are willing to do with regard to downstream landowner concerns on the Navasota River downstream of Lake Limestone is to provide education (about streamflow and downstream releases). We have offered to, and continue to be willing to meet with any landowner or group of landowners to help explain the operations of Lake Limestone and why (downstream releases) are not the cause, as well as why it does not make flooding worse downstream of the reservoir then it would be without the reservoir being there in the first place. (We’d also like to explain) why changes to the operations would not actually be solutions to the flooding problems below the Navasota River. Independent of (education), we have chosen to push that issue through the regional flood planning process because that is the venue that was created by the legislature through the passage of Senate Bill 8 last session to study and look at localized flooding and develop mitigation solutions for localized flooding. It is specifically designed to look at issues like flooding on the lower Navasota and determine where the flooding is coming from, how it’s happening, what’s causing it, and what things could be done to mitigate that. The even bigger benefit is solutions identified in the state, and regional flood planning process can be eligible for state funding to pay to mitigate flooding in the future. So that’s the reason we continue to go that route, and we will continue to champion that issue through the Lower Brazos Regional Flood Planning Group.

Brown Bag on the Brazos - April 2021

Brown Bag on the Brazos

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Q&A from Brown Bag

The Turkey Peak Reservoir is not a BRA-sponsored project. The Palo Pinto County Municipal Water District No. 1. is the owner, or sponsor, of the project. The district has provided a website with good information: http://www.turkeypeakreservoir.com. Construction is anticipated to begin in 2021. (updated 4.8.2021)

The BRA recently began an initiative to evaluate all BRA-owned properties from the southern end of the basin to north of Possum Kingdom Lake. This multi-year approach is aimed at making sure the BRA gets the full use of the properties and that they benefit our initiatives. The goal of the Property Master Plan is not to find ways to divest the properties but to prioritize and make sure the properties that we own are used to the best benefit of the BRA mission. Property management committee meetings will be held and posted here. For specific questions, email Blake Kettler. (updated 4.8.2021)

The hydroelectric facility at the Morris Sheppard Dam on Possum Kingdom Lake was designed to generate 24 megawatts of electricity. The facility was constructed and went into operation in the early 1940s. After 70 years, it was taken off-line in 2007 due to safety concerns with the plant’s penstocks and electrical malfunctions. After an extensive study to determine the economic feasibility of restoring the facility, it was discovered it wouldn’t be economical. At this time, the BRA is not seeking an opportunity to restore the facility. (updated 4.8.2021)

During the last legislative session, due to delays in the project, the legislature passed a bill that required our partner in the project, the city of Houston, to sell us their interest in the project. The price that was put on that was the amount they had in the project to date. Houston opposed that legislation, and once it was effective, the city sued the BRA and the state of Texas. That action has provided some delay to the beginning of the permitting process. The lawsuit could take a few years. However, the BRA is exploring options with our project partner to potentially at least begin the federal permitting required for that reservoir. The permitting process is expected to take five to seven years, and construction will take three to four years. Read more about the proposed reservoir here. (updated 4.8.2021)

The BRA was successful in having a provision included in the last Water Resources Development Act at the federal level that requires the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to expedite a reallocation study.

The BRA is currently navigating the administrative process with the Corps of Engineers to get the project started. We’re hoping within the next year the reallocation study begins. (updated 4.8.2021)

As part of the BRA’s System Operation Permit, there is a memorandum of understanding with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department related to dedication of water to the Texas Water Trust. One aspect regarding eflows (environmental flows) includes the BRA updating our System Operation Permit to include instream flow use as a use type before we can release water for environmental flows. The BRA continues to work with the Texas Parks and Wildlife to outline how water can be used for the benefit of environmental flows in the context of the system operations permit and the water management plan. (updated 4.8.2021)

The BRA does not release in anticipation of rainfall. Weather forecasts are just not precise enough to know when the rain is going to occur, where it’s going to occur and in what magnitude. If water was released in advance of a rainfall event, we could potentially make downstream river conditions more severe downstream and/or make flooding worse. On the flip side, if we release that water and it doesn’t rain, that’s water supply that’s potentially impacted. Also, the BRA has a PK-Granbury balancing protocol wherein we release water from PK downstream to balance impacts between PK and Granbury from a recreational standpoint. As we move into dryer conditions, you’ll see increases in the release rate from PK to manage the drawdown of those two reservoirs as a system. (updated 4.8.2021)

Restrooms were closed at all BRA Parks last March due to our Covid-19 restrictions to protect our staff from potential exposure to the virus. Instead, we provided Port-O-Johns that were replaced weekly.

The Centers for Disease Control have recently come out with new safety criteria regarding the transmission of Covid-19 that the BRA is considering. We hope to have an answer for when the restrooms will be reopened soon. We will make an announcement on our social media pages when they are reopened. (updated 4.8.2021)