Members of the Swinney Switch, Lagarto and Mathis volunteer fire departments kept watch on the fire Thursday through Saturday.
Believed to have been started by fireworks, the blaze ignited trees and debris in the middle of the dry lake bed, which may have been a blessing in disguise. The fire may have rid the lake of much vegetation which sapped its valuable resource.
“It was a big, big section. You could see it from U.S. Highway 59. It looked like the whole country was on fire,” Fire Chief Lonnie Messer of the SSVFD said.
Then, the lead story in Thursday’s Corpus Christi Caller-Times noted that area lake levels were hovering just above 40 percent capacity. Corpus Christi officials were preparing to implement mandatory restrictions, including no yard watering between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. (The city of Beeville enacted tighter water use restrictions about seven months ago.)
Of course, motorists driving along U.S. 59 west of this city for years now have lamented the loss of treated lake water from leaks in the 30-year-old pipeline from Swinney Switch to Beeville. Although the city has a program to repair the leaks on a monthly budgeted basis, it seems there are always a few streams and cattails beside the road.
“They’re extremely embarrassing,” Jim Crumrine, BWSD board president, said in a story published in the Bee-Picayune six months ago. “It can’t be ignored any more.”
He estimated that leaks could be costing the city $700 a day and up to $20,000 a month.
As the money has started to come in from bond sales which were approved to improve the water system, Crumrine said, a study will be requested from Urban Engineering. Several water projects could be implemented to greatly improve the flow of water to the city, including replacing the aging pipeline or supplementing with groundwater wells. Beeville could be facing a big bond issue election, probably by 2014.
Regardless, this city, if it’s going to continue to grow, will need a reliable source of water. Fortunately, even without additional rainfall, Choke Canyon, the much larger and deeper lake, still has a 2 1/2-year supply of water for this region, Crumrine said.
It seems the ones most impacted by the drought are those property owners along what once was a lake near Mathis, who in addition to depressing views now must put up with occasional fires where there should be water.
– Chip Latcham