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BDA makes last ditch effort for water sale
by Gary Kent
Aug 14, 2013 | 1205 views | 0 0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
BEEVILLE — Members of the Citizens Committee studying the water issue voted in quick succession to approve a recommendation by a five-member subcommittee and then to disband the committee.

Meeting Thursday night at the Event Center at 111 E. Bowie St., the committee had been in session almost two hours when the votes came.

The subcommittee recommendations will be passed on to the City Council for its consideration on which might be the best way to address a dwindling surface water supply as the Coastal Bend struggles through a third consecutive year of drought.

However, the full committee listened to another proposal from the Bee Development Authority before making its decision.

The first recommendation was to go with a proposal for a reverse osmosis plant offered by NorrisLeal Engineering Water of Austin.

The second was to rehabilitate the existing city wells that formerly pumped water from the Evangeline Aquifer.

The third of its three recommendations called for the council to consider the Chase Field well alternative.

The subcommittee said that legal questions must be answered concerning the BDA right to sell and transport water but the one serious concern was bringing the cost of raw water down to 20-25 cents per 1,000 gallons.

In a last-minute proposal brought to the committee Thursday, the BDA and its consulting engineer, Homero Castillo of Alpha Engineering in Kingsville, came close to doing just that.

BDA Executive Director Joe B. Montez presented the committee with a proposal that reduced its original offer to sell the city water at a rate of $0.62 per 1,000 gallons by half, to $0.31 per 1,000.

Montez sweetened the offer even more, saying that Castillo had suggested that three wells be drilled on Chase Field Industrial and Airport Complex property at a depth of 600 feet each to increase the originally estimated flow of water to the city from 1 million gallons a day to 3 mgd.

The proposal suggested that the city finance the entire capital improvement costs of just under $4,400,000 at an interest rate of about 3.9 percent. But Montez also suggested that the city might be able to obtain a low-interest loan from the Texas Water Development Board at an interest rate of 2.88 percent.

That interest rate would mean that the city could have to pay $318,875 a year on the loan for a total of $6,377,528 over a 20-year period. The cost of purchasing raw water from the BDA would be $339,450, Montez said.

The BDA director also provided figures showing that the city could save $261,191 on its utility budget by reducing the amount of water purchased from the City of Corpus Christi from 4 mgd to only 1 mgd.

Also, taking advantage of the BDA’s offer would have no effect on the monthly water bills or ad valorem taxes for city residents.

Montez ran down a list of facilities the city would need to install to complete a water delivery system at Chase Field.

That would include a six-inch pipe between the wells, a booster pump house and security fence, the installation of electrical service to the equipment, a 900-gallon per minute pump and motor, pump controls, a 200,000-gallon ground storage tank, a 5,000-gallon hydropneumatic pressure tank, a service meter and vault, site piping, valves and fittings and other items.

The total estimated cost of the project would be a little less than the $4.4 million price tag.

One potential problem was that Montez said the BDA would have to obtain a rule amendment from the Bee County Groundwater Conservation District that would allow the BDA to increase its daily allowable production rate from 1.3 mgd to 3.0 mgd.

Also, the BDA and the city would have to execute a inter-local agreement to provide for management by the city of the Chase Field water system.

The city also would have to administer and operate the waster production facility and maintain all infrastructure improvements.

“Hopefully the committee will give this a good looking at,” Montez said.

Committee member Tom Healey immediately questioned the BDA’s ability to obtain the BCGCD’s amendment to allow it to pump more than its allowed 1.3 mgd from the Evangeline aquifer below Chase Field.

“That board is made up of farmers and ranchers,” Healey said. He doubted that anyone in agriculture would want to give up the right to more water.

“I assume that if the BDA does not get an amendment that you’ll withdraw the offer?” Healey asked.

Montez said the authority probably would have no choice but to withdraw the offer if that were the case.

Board member Kenneth Elsbury wanted to know is there was any guarantee that the aquifer would tolerate the removal of that amount of water.

Board member Jessy T. Garza said that if the city were to agree to the Chase Field offer, the city would be taking all the risk in the event the system failed to provide the water demanded. “Maybe it works for a year or two,” Garza said. “And the risk is entirely on this community.”

“There’s risk in anything you do,” Montez answered.

He then provided more cost-cutting figures for the committee to consider, saying that the city would stand to save $5.2 million in total savings over the 20 years if it accepts the agreement.

“Your numbers are exactly correct, Joe,” Garza responded, “but your methodology is all wrong.”

“I have no problem buying 1 mgd from Chase Field,” said committee member Jim Crumrine. But he rejected the idea of purchasing 3 mgd from the authority. He said that would be putting all the city’s eggs in one basket. “I have a big problem with that.”

Crumrine, speaking as the president of the Beeville Water Supply District’s board, said that is Beeville’s current problem: Buying all its water from the City of Corpus Christi.

Committee members argued the different possibilities, with the arguments becoming heated at several points. Committee chairman John Galloway ordered the arguments to stop a couple of times.

Mayor David Carabajal then told the committee that he had found some reports on the suspended solids and chloride levels present in some of the city’s wells. The reports had been prepared by a testing lab in Corpus Christi and delivered to City Engineer Phil Pacheco in 1995.

He suggested that the committee study those reports before making a decision.

Several committee members said they wanted to look at the reports.

However, Healey made a motion to adopt the report from the subcommittee and submit it to the City Council and Tonja Rice seconded the motion. A majority of the members voted in favor of the motion.

Then as committee members started to discuss whether to meet again, committee member Garry Cude made a motion to disband the committee and member Rice seconded that motion. It passed with opposition.

Gary Kent is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 120, or at reporter@mySouTex.com.
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