Mark your calendar for upcoming virtual Brown Bag lunches

  •  October 7
  •  December 2

Brown Bag on the Brazos - October 2021

Brown Bag on the Brazos

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Q&A from Brown Bag

Recreational vehicles are welcome; we don’t have hookups for them, though. So, if you have your own generator, you can bring your own generator. Of course, those can be noisy, so we’d be happy if you had a quieter one, as would the people camping around you. You don’t need reservations. Unlike the state parks, we don’t take reservations. It’s first-come, first-served. You’re welcome to stay up to 10 days in the same spot. We don’t have pump-out facilities; but, there are recreational areas around all three of the lakes that would provide that for you. They are available; they just don’t have specific hookups and, of course, no reservations, first-come, first-served.

The Board has directed us to do a comprehensive review and revisit of our Rules and Regs for the lakes. And, it’s important to know those are applied to all three of our lakes, so Possum Kingdom, Granbury and Limestone. Staff is in the process internally of working through those. As you would imagine, it’s a pretty big undertaking. Our plan, just as we revised them back in 2014, which is the last time we had a major revision, is to provide ample opportunity for public comment on those proposed changes. When we first take them to the Board, and this is important to remember, when you first see them on the Board agenda, that will not be for final adoption. What we will do is we will present staff’s proposed changes to the Board and then take input from the Board on any additional changes they have. The Board will then direct staff to put those changes out for public comment for a period of 30 days, and that period will take place between Board meetings. So, if we are ready in November, which I don’t want to promise that we are, just watch the agenda. If we are ready to take the proposed changes to the Board in November, the Board will then hear the proposed changes, make any suggestions, and then direct us to put them out for public comment for 30 days in between the November and January Board meetings. If, for some reason, we’re not able to get them together until January, then kind of the same process: We would first take them to the Board in January, the Board would consider those revisions and tell us to put them out for public comment in between the January and April Board meetings. I just emphasize again, the first time you see those proposed changes on the Board agenda is not for them to be finally adopted. It’s for them to be out for public comment. And as always, we allow public comment at all of our Board meetings so folks can come to Board meetings and provide comments in person if that’s something you all want to do.

Most of our interactions out on the lake are informational. I would say 80% of our contacts are just to ensure the public is enjoying our lakes and lands safely. The Brazos River Authority does not collect any of the revenues from fines associated with tickets that have to be issued. So, if you do receive a ticket generally, we’ll have the contact number that’s listed on the ticket. And generally, you’ll need to contact the local Justice of the Peace or the county judge to find out how you need to proceed and follow up with that ticket.

It’s a pretty simple answer, but it can get pretty complicated. First of all, when we need water that’s permitted to the Brazos River Authority out of Lake Whitney, we can call the Corps of Engineers and ask that water be released. But the majority of the water released out of the reservoir is managed through the reservoir owner, the US Army Corps of Engineers. They may release to generate electrical power through the generators there through the turbines in the dam, or they may do it in response to a flood or water they have stored because of flooding to create more flood storage. Lake Whitney is not a Brazos River Authority-owned reservoir, so we only have limited control of the release of that water when we request the small amount of water be released.

Brown Bag on the Brazos - August 2021

Brown Bag on the Brazos

Click on image above to watch Brown Bag

Q&A from Brown Bag

Our three reservoirs are water supply reservoirs. We have no flood control storage.

Once the reservoirs are full, and it rains on already full reservoirs, we must release water and pass those inflows, in real-time, downstream by opening gates. We have to mimic nature because if we don’t, the water level will rise to a certain degree that could impact the integrity of the dams. We have to release what comes in. We have protocols and procedures and constraints related to that.

As far as the upper basin, the last three months were really dictated by the rainfall that occurred on top of PK and on top of Granbury and upstream. We had a lot of water that was sourced from upstream, and that’s why we had prolonged releases in some instances. When it’s wet, we have to release what comes in to manage the reservoir level and keep it at safe levels to avoid having issues with the dam.

As it relates to water supply, when we get to dryer conditions like we are now, we still have residual inflows, and we’re releasing more. At Possum Kingdom, we’re releasing more than our FERC minimum flow requirements associated with our water rights. Right now, it’s 75 cfs, but we’re actually releasing about 130 cfs. We have to look at downstream customer demands as far as the timing and when and how much we release water during dry conditions.

As it relates to maintaining a 200 cfs release rate from Memorial Day, the end of May, through Labor Day, we just can’t do that. If we’re in drought conditions, we can’t release water just to release water because that would severely impact the amount of (water supply) storage we have in our reservoirs, and it would jeopardize the amount of water we could provide to our customers.

Once we get into dryer conditions, we have to conserve and impound the water and then look downstream as far as to what our demands are in supplying (water) to our customers.

It’s a balancing act.

For information on how releases are made from BRA dams, go here.

The sandbars will continue to grow and move as water comes into the reservoirs. The sandbars are always changing. That on top of the fact it’s very, very, very expensive to dredge. Also, in most cases, to dredge requires approval from the US Army Corps of Engineers and getting that approval is not easy. Sometimes there are environmental concerns toward what you may be dredging or where you may be putting the dredge -- or the fish habitat or species habitat that you’re moving or destroying, as some would see it, when you move those sandbars. It becomes a really hard act to manage and really expensive to manage those sandbars.

Our reservoir offices are the part of our organization that installs those no-wake buoys. They are put into locations based on a certain set of criteria. If you have an area you think needs a no-wake buoy, you can reach out to our lake offices, and they would assess that. No-wake buoys are regulatory, and for a buoy location to be an enforceable violation, it has to meet our criteria.

For more on no-wake buoys, go here.

For those of you that don’t know, on some of our reservoirs, we permit duck blinds for duck hunting in the winter.

Basically, we have the duck blind locations based on criteria, also, that considers the safety of the public and nearby homes and infrastructure. We have as many as we feel comfortable permitting that allows us to maintain some safe duck hunting. That’s kind of how we deal with the duck blinds. You can reach out to our local reservoirs or get more information on our webpage .

We do not allow feral hog hunting on BRA proprieties. However, feral hogs do cause us problems because they always want to get behind our dams and do damage. So, we feel the pain of many landowners and farmers having to deal with feral hogs.

For information on what you can do about feral hogs, go here.

General maintenance does not require a permit. However, any changes that result in a change to the footprint of the dock will require a permit. Feel free to reach out to our reservoir operations with questions about modifying a dock or making any changes.

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

Click on image above to watch Brown Bag

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)