Lavaca-Navidad River Authority to study dam, reservoir feasibility

LNRA Board member Paul Littlefield looks over a section of the Lavaca River south of Edna near County Road 312. An LNRA environmental study of the river and its potential to serve water needs in the area will be looked at.

EDNA - Many Jackson County residents fear a new study by the Lavaca-Navidad River Authority will spell the end of life as they know it.

"The day y'all have to take those places I hope y'all give enough money for funerals, too," said Timmy Jacob at a Wednesday river authority meeting.

Jacob's family has owned property in Jackson County for generations and he fears losing his land if a dam is built to meet increased water demand in the area.

The construction of Palmetto Bend Reservoir - Stage II project is one of two options the river authority authorized to examine in a feasibility study in January. The goal is to learn what kind of a reservoir - a dam-created reservoir or an off-site reservoir - would be economically and environmentally feasible, and still benefit the county and river authority customers.

The study is proposed to cost about $310,000 and take about three months to complete. One proposal from the 2008 Texas Water Development Board Reservoir Site Protection Study positions the on-site reservoir just southeast of Edna, but no location is yet final.

Formosa Plastics indicated that by 2015 it will need an additional 10,000 acre-feet of water, said Patrick Brzozowski, the river authority's general manager. Formosa is the river authority's biggest customer. Its need, combined with the push of a 2007 senate bill urging the river authority to develop water for the region, makes the situation more pressing.

"It's time to look at it," Brzozowski said. "They've asked for water. We don't have any additional supplies."

Increased water demand from customers and pressure from the state to develop water by 2015 spurred the need for a new supply, he said.

"It's ironic that these two things occur at the same time," Brzozowski said.

Many residents, however, worry that building a reservoir could drain the county of needed water.

"I'm still hung up on the fact that there's bound to be other options to keep it in the county," said Michael Blackwell, who also owns property near the river. "How can the county benefit enough to justify it?"

Dr. Mac Lee, an Edna-based dentist, feels so passionate about the subject he created a Facebook group that now boasts more than 1,000 fans who urge others to oppose damming the river.

"Do you think it is ethical and morally correct for a publicity-traded, privately-owned corporation or a municipality just to be able to take our water just because they want it?" he said.

It is not yet known who will fund the study. According to river authority policy, funding for the study could come from a customer, the river authority or by a joint agreement.

Brzozowski insists the river authority has the best interests of the county in mind.

"The dilemma is how do we go about developing water for the region, for our area, and still derive the benefit here in Jackson County," he said. "That's the questions we ask ourselves everyday."

Residents remain concerned that continuing the study by default suggests that dam will be built. Paul Littlefield, president of the river authority board of directors, disagrees.

"Knowledge is power," he said, referencing the study. "I am against building another larger reservoir mostly because of the cost and the amount of water we might get from it might not be enough to pay for it."

The river authority's board of directors listened Wednesday to comments on a range of issues from the engineering group Freese and Nichols. Those issues will be studied for both the Palmetto Bend Reservoir Stage II and the off-site reservoir.

The study will answer questions about:

The possibility of developing recreational areas near the water supply.

Environmental impacts.

Features and benefits of each.

Some benefits to building the off-site reservoir include the potential it could be built in less time. That plan, however, might not offer the same ability to develop as a recreational site on the river.

The engineer also mentioned the need for detailed topographical work to learn if enough water exists to do an on-channel project or if the soil could hold the water.

Although details remain hazy, Brzozowski and board members agreed neither project is final until after the study is funded and completed.

The board meets again on April 21 to discuss potential means for funding the study.