What's on TAP

Ensuring Gaudalupe River Flows from the Hill Country to the Coast Updates from The Aransas Project – MAY 10,2010

The Whooping Crane Conservation Association has reprinted three editorials forwarded to us from The Aransas Project.The Aransas Project is striving to assure that the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge and associates estuaries receive adequate water supplies from inland watersheds. As you know, if you have read articles on this web page over the past several years, whooping cranes require suitable habitats to survive. Water is a key element. But adequate water is not assured, and certainly not without a fight. There are numerous people on our planet who do not give a dam about whooping cranes or any other endangered species. As the human population continues to increase such problems will increase.Our Association has worked for many years to protect whooping cranes and their habitats. But it is now crunch time and we must do more. To gain more insight, read the following two editorials and the letter to the editor. If this baffles you, scan down to the next article or click on the following links for background information.

The Big Whoop by Morgan Smith – The Texas Tribune

Victoria Advocate Editorials Dismiss Aransas County Concerns About Freshwater
Two recent editorials appearing in the Victoria Advocate, one by the Advocate editorial board and one by the Victoria Economic Development Corporation (VEDC)highlight the disregard for Aransas County when making decisions involving large-scale water allocations from the Guadalupe River (see editorials below).

Both opinion pieces authored in Victoria County include repeated references to water in the Guadalupe River as our water.? While acknowledging the good folks of Aransas County? who also need this water, VEDCs Mr. Fowler urges, there are very few projects that will allow us to trade a portion of our water resource for such value.? The Victoria Advocate editorial board chimes in, Let keep our water here.?

We have already seen that the Guadalupe River cannot sustain existing water commitments during periods of low-flow and deliver sufficient freshwater inflows to sustain our bays and estuaries. Yet the Victoria Advocate and Mr. Fowler urge Victoria County to snap up this water for a proposed Exelon nuclear power plant before someone else does, for a plant that may never be built. This approach presents a false choice of one community vs. another that will harm both Victoria and Aransas County in the long run.

The shortsightedness urged by the Advocate and Mr. Fowler stands in stark contrast to the letter to the editor that ran the same day by Dr. Ron Outen, Regional Director of The Aransas Project (see below). In his letter, Dr. Outen urged Victoria and its mayor, Will Armstrong, to make these important water decisions based on sound science and proper resource management. Outen explains that, TAP’s position is that the river should be managed top to bottom for the benefit of all of Texas, including coastal communities.?
Read These Editorials and Comment on the Advocate Website (www.victoriaadvocate.com).

Read the complete editorials at the links below. If you feel so moved, we encourage you to leave a comment on any of the three pieces voicing that this water is a precious resource to be balanced and distributed basin-wide for the good of all who depend on it:

VEDC Editorial (letter cut and pasted below)
Victoria Advocate Editorial Board (letter cut and pasted below)
TAP’s Dr. Ron Outen, Letter to Editor (letter cut and pasted below)
Let’s keep our resources here

By the Advocate Editorial Board
Originally published April 19, 2010

Plain and simple: If we don’t allow Exelon accessibility to 75,000-acre feet of water, somebody else will take it because of the H2O’s marketability. That somebody else will likely be some large municipality.

These are not new water rights, according to Jerry James, director of Victoria’s environmental services and alternate member of the Region L’s board. James said the water rights were permitted in the late 1940s to the Guadalupe Blanco River Authority and to the Dow Chemical Co. And that makes those “senior” water rights. In other words, GBRA and DOW have first dibs on that water.

GBRA and DOW are merely leasing those rights to Exelon should the nuclear power company build here in Victoria County.

“The termination date of the reservation agreement is Dec. 31, 2013,” said Bill West, GBRA general manager.

Exelon, should it decide to construct its nuclear power plant in Victoria County, will have a huge impact on our area’s economy. The column by Victoria Economic Development Corporation president Dale Fowler on today’s Viewpoints page outlines that economic impact. We cannot afford to lose the chance for this power plant in our county.

Concerns that there isn’t enough water have come from neighboring Aransas County, groups and organizations and individuals. We think the Guadalupe Blanco River Authority wouldn’t promise this amount of water if we didn’t have it. And Exelon officials have said if there isn’t enough water, they won’t build.

“Exelon has done extensive studies to assure itself that the 75,000-acre feet of water out of the Guadalupe River, along with its proposed off-channel reservoir, will provide its project the necessary dependable water supply,” West said.

No doubt, if Exelon doesn’t exercise its option to use the reserved water, somebody else will.

“GBRA’s water rights authorize the water to be used for municipal, industrial and agricultural purposes throughout GBRA’s 10-county statutory district,” West added.

James speculated that if Exelon did not use the water, “it could go to San Antonio – anywhere it’s marketable.”

Let’s keep our water here. Let’s keep it for Exelon, which in turn will provide the biggest boost to our economy in several decades.

This editorial reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate’s editorial board.


Water for economy is good tradeoff

Originally published April 19, 2010 a

In September of 2006, I met Exelon representatives for the first time, and in December of 2007, Exelon announced that Victoria would be the site of their next nuclear electric generation station.

I remember a crowded room of public officials and local business people and the high degree of enthusiasm that filled the air. Exelon was proposing to build a multi-billion dollar facility that would eventually employee at least 700 to 800 people with salaries averaging $70,000 per year. These new jobs would translate into increased business in almost every other sector of the local economy and our unemployment rate at that time was at 3.4 percent.

Fast forward three years and Exelon still has a strong interest in Victoria County being home to a nuclear power station. Exelon’s interest is evidenced by their recent filing for an Early Site Permit from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

In spite of Exelon’s interest, there have been changes – changes primarily due to the down turn in the national economy in general and the electricity market in Texas.

Our goal as a community is to help facilitate Exelon’s high interest level in our location because regardless of the time frame, next year or 10 years, we will benefit from their proposed project in South Victoria County.

One way this project is being facilitated is through Guadalupe Blanco River Authority’s willingness to reserve up to 75,000- acre feet of water for this eventual project and for the Region L Planning Group to maintain this project in their long-range plan.

Last week, I attended two public meetings in Victoria, the Region L Water Planning Group and the NRC public information meeting. At each of these meetings, there were a few folks who threw stones at the idea of holding water for this project or even allowing this project access to the water at all.

There were the good folks from Aransas County who expressed concerns for their economy should the river not flow enough and there were people from the big city who suggested that there may not be enough water for other prospective companies should Exelon come to the region.

The fact is that we continue to market this area to prospective industry, and GBRA assures us that their agreement with Exelon gives them flexibility should another suitor company come calling that needed water before Exelon makes a commitment to build.

Local leaders will help drive this decision should it be necessary. However, there are very few projects that will allow us to trade a portion of our water resource for such value.

Additionally, it is important for all to understand that Exelon has gone to great engineering lengths and great expense to design a water cooling system that will minimize their need to withdraw water from the river during times of low flow. The proposed cooling lake of almost 4,900 acres will be 20 feet deep. This lake will allow Exelon to sustain operations while taking little or no water from the river for an extended period time. The normal consumptive water use is estimated to be only 2.6 percent of the
daily river flow based on a 60-year average. The engineering studies that have been done so far all indicate adequate water supply for this project and Exelon assures us that they will not build a plant should adequate water not exist.

All of this concern over how we as a community and GBRA use our available water resource assumes that we will always have the ability to make that decision.

As we see the next census unfold, I believe Texas will emerge as one of the fastest growing states in the nation and the metro areas will certainly be where the major growth is and will continue to take place. These major metropolitan areas have the legislative clout to get the water they need,
taking water and jobs.

The only way we are assured any long-term value for the water that now flows past our region is to dedicate it for such a project as Exelon would propose.

We do have to decide if the new jobs and increasing pay roll is worth the trade for a resource that big cities can take. Fast forward three years and our unemployment rate is 8.2 percent.

You tell me, do we need the jobs?

Dale Fowler is a resident of Victoria and the president of the Victoria
Economic Development Corporation.


Working on sound H2O management

Originally published April 16, 2010

Editor, the Advocate:

The April 1 article, “Local residents comment at Edwards Aquifer Recovery planning meeting,” reported comments by Mayor Armstrong concerning a “.big burden with the whooping cranes.” Armstrong reportedly told Edwards Aquifer Recovery Implementation Program (EARIP) officials, “[m]y challenge to you is to use scientific information to make your decisions not the very, very wealthy lawyers that are going to get a whole lot wealthier over this.”

As a scientist and the regional director for The Aransas Project (TAP), I find these comments to be off the mark.

In Aransas County, we treasure the bays, the wildlife, fishing and the cranes. These are not a “burden”; they are the basis of a regional tourism economy. Fishermen and birders worldwide seek out these bays.

Freshwater inflows are essential for healthy bays, and the bays nourished by the Guadalupe support some of the most productive fisheries and birding areas along the Texas Coast.

I agree that these decisions should be based on sound science. Science tells us that without adequate freshwater, the entire bay ecosystem is harmed, including the whooping cranes. Historic data shows a correlation between Guadalupe River flows and crane mortality. We lost 23 whoopers due to low flows during winter 2008-09, and commercial and sports fisheries collapsed as well, all because of high salinity in the bays.

Science, as well as common sense, tells us the Guadalupe is already over-allocated and the situation is going to get worse without responsible management. TAP’s position is that the river should be managed “top to bottom” for the benefit of all of Texas, including coastal communities.

Unfortunately, EARIP’s scope includes neither the Whooping Crane nor river flows downstream to the Coast. Even if EARIP secures aquifer spring flows to protect species downstream, EARIP can’t ensure that any of this water will actually reach the coastal bays that depend on the Guadalupe.

Surely, in Victoria County, any reasonable discussion about water allocation would include the basinwide impact of GBRA selling 24 billion gallons of water annually from the Guadalupe to Exelon for its proposed nuclear plant. This proposed project demonstrates the need for decisions based on sound science and proper resource management.

I invite Mayor Armstrong to come down to Rockport and get acquainted with us. TAP is about putting fundamental fairness and sound science into water management. It’s also about protecting a regional economy and the most recognizable endangered species in North America.

Dr. Ron Outen, Rockport