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Junction City Council meets on water proposals

by James Murr

The Junction Eagle,

January 18, 2011

On January 16 the City Council held a called meeting to be briefed on two proposals related to the city’s water resources. The meeting was for informational purposes only. Accordingly, no action was proposed or taken on the proposals.

The first proposal was made by Chance Warrick of Alpha Reclaim Technology (ART), LLC, in Bryan, Texas. ART is interested in purchasing treated wastewater (effluent) from the city. According to a submission from ART, the firm is a small water supply service company that purchases effluent and sells it to customers for uses that do not require high purity water. These uses include oil and gas production (e.g., for fracking), thermo electric power generation, and agricultural production.

ART stated its proposal would bring economic development through the creation of jobs and stimulation of the local economy through ART’s customers and transporters doing business in the area. The transport of water by pipeline could also be considered. The city would receive cash payments for the sale of the effluent. If ART purchased the entire amount of the city’s treated wastewater during a year, the city could receive payment in the vicinity of $70,000 to $80,000 annually. The city’s wastewater treatment plant currently discharges around 130,000 gallons daily into the Llano River pursuant to the terms of a permit from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ).

The second proposal was made by Eric Schiebe of Schiebe Consulting, LLC. It concerns water conservation planning along the Llano River between Junction and the City of Llano that could potentially be funded by the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation. The purpose of the proposal is to help minimize or avoid the water supply disruptions (e.g., the suspension of junior water rights) that occurred this past summer because of the drought.

The Schiebe proposal has three components. The first component would be to improve the understanding of the river’s baseline water flow as a way of helping to ensure that some of the water flowing through Junction will actually reach the City of Llano during times of extreme drought. The second component would be to modify the reservoir behind the city dam to hold more water back during a drought and release the water in a “pulse” sufficient to make it all the way to Llano. This could involve, for example, dredging the reservoir. The third component would explore storing water in a surface impoundment or in an aquifer to help conserve water during wet times for release during very dry conditions.

The audience reactions to the proposals were generally skeptical. Overall, the feasibility of the projects was questioned (e.g., obtaining necessary approvals for multiple permits from the TCEQ). Also, on the ART proposal, for example, concern was expressed about the decline in water that would flow downstream as a result of the project. On the Schiebe proposal, concerns were expressed about its practicality (e.g., acquiring land for impounding water), as well as the potential adverse effects of storing treated water underground. There appear to be a lot of questions that need to be answered before these proposals could be considered seriously.

The following individuals attended the meeting: Dr. Tom Arsuffi, Tyson Broad, Finley DeGrafenried (City of Llano), Ben Heard, Jerry Kirby, County Judge Andrew Murr, Bill Nieman, Emily Nieman, Jan Nieman, Alice Schmidt, Paul Shukis, Nancy Watson (Congressman Mike Conaway’s staff), and Znobia Wooten.

Present for the called meeting were Mayor Larry Maddux and Aldermen James Gamble, Michael Miller, Hoyt Moss, and Olan Raley. Aaron Bierschwale was absent. The council’s regular monthly meetings are held at 6:00 p.m. on the second Monday of each month in the City Hall Meeting Room located at 102 N. 5th Street.

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