REGION H WATER PLANNING GROUP MEETING
NOVEMBER 3, 1999
CITY HALL, CONROE, TEXAS
MEMBERS PRESENT: James Adams, Chairman, Frederick A. Perrenot, Roosevelt Alexander, John Bartos, Robert Bruner, Commissioner Jack Harris, Carolyn Johnson, Councilman Tom Manison, James Morrison, Tom Ray, Ernest Rebuck, Jack Searcy, Jr., Michael Sullivan, William Teer, Steve Tyler, Danny Vance, C. Harold Wallace.
PRESIDING: James Adams
Substitutes: Jimmie Schindewolf for Judge Robert Eckels, Rebecca Rentz for Judge Mark Evans, Guy Jackson for David Jenkins, and Skip Thomas for James Murray. Also present were Woody Woodrow, non-voting member from Region H, and Leon Young, non-voting member from Region I.
APPROVE MINUTES OF OCTOBER 6, 1999 MEETING:
Motioned to accept by Danny Vance. Seconded by Tom Ray.
RESIGNATION/APPOINTMENT FOR REPLACEMENT OF FREDERICK A. PERRENOT:
Motioned by Carolyn Johnson to accept resignation. Seconded by Danny Vance. Motion carried.
Motioned by Tom Ray to accept Gary N. Oradat to fill the vacancy created by the Perrenot resignation. Seconded by Danny Vance. Motion carried.
In accordance with the Bylaws regarding an officer vacancy, the Chair appointed Gary N. Oradat to serve as secretary until the successor to the secretary takes office in the January, 2000 election of officers.
Chairman Adams appointed a nominating committee consisting of Commissioner Jack Harris as Chairman, Marvin Marcell, and Michael Sullivan to consider nominations for officers and the Executive Committee for the year 2000.
CONSULTANT PRESENTATION WITH UPDATE ON WATER SUPPLY DEMANDS:
Mark Lowery: Vote on demand numbers not possible because The Water Development Board needs total obligations of each major water provider, not just the obligations in this region. A formal request for those numbers from each of the other regions has been prepared for Chairman Adams’ signature. Systems in upper and lower case are the ones the Water Development Board has not assigned an alpha number.
The 1996 water usage numbers have been changed from total usage to reflect the amount that was supplied by the major water providers. The table looks at current contract amounts and supplies, not demand, and applies to first tier transactions. The purpose of this table is to establish the total obligation. In 2020 contracts begin to end. The demand of water is going to increase. When there is no contract beyond that point, there is nothing shown in that column.
The Navigation District has water permits of its own and is not on this table but on Table V, as well as agriculture, mining, and manufacturing.
It was suggested that contract amounts, expiration dates, and other important information needs to be on the table showing that after a certain year water under that contract becomes available for other usage. If it automatically renews, show it; if not, leave it off. If renewal is anticipated, it needs to be indicated someway. The other question was renewal at a greater or lesser or same amount. That could change the demand in the out years depending on whether the facility is going to change or new processes are to be added. A footnote will be suggested by the five major water providers at the next meeting.
This table meets the minimum requirement and will be more meaningful over the next 10 or 20 years. It may be more useful to stop the table at 2020 because that is the current state of the contracts.
There are two issues. One is perception; the other is technical, and what is going to happen to this data in the subsequent steps of the process. Brown & Root is looking at who water will be provided to and is going to make the assumption that water will continue to be provided at subsequent dates. That contract amount will be paired to demand projections for those specific entities. If those entities are displayed in Table II, that is where demand projections are. The methodology used will honor your current contracts in the future and escalate the demands as the demands grow for a specific entity.
John Sifert presented Table IV, concerns on groundwater availability in Fort Bend County, which is an increase from 75,000 acre feet per year up to 91,500. Pumpage in the county is 75,000 to 80,000 acre-feet per year. Designations: 01 groundwater, 00 surface water, county name and county number, region, river basin, aquifer name and number, availability in acre-feet.
PRESENTATION BY GALVESTON BAY FRESHWATER INFLOWS GROUP:
Galveston Bay is an estuary of national significance because of the balance of freshwater and saltwater that makes it highly productive ecologically, for navigation, commercial, and recreation, and receives waste treatment for 4 million people. It is productive of seafood, oysters, finfish, shrimp, contributing $3.5 billion per year to the state’s economy.
The 1987 Texas Water Plan established the environmental and planning criteria adopted by the state agencies. The 1995 Galveston Bay Plan named freshwater inflows as a high priority problem for the Galveston Bay system. In late 1996, the Galveston Bay Foundation and the City of Houston, in an effort to resolve issues associated with the Wallisville Saltwater Barrier Project, determined to see if something could be done regarding freshwater inflows in Galveston Bay. The mission was to reach a consensus process to develop a scientific-based management plan and implementation strategies to provide freshwater inflows to maintain an ecologically sound environment in the Galveston Bay. The state’s four major agencies dealing with water endorsed the effort and encouraged the Galveston Bay Freshwater Inflows Group to coordinate with the Galveston Bay Estuary program to begin the Senate Bill 1 process and to provide recommendations. GBFIG represented three major segments: state resource agencies; local environmental, conservation, or user groups; and the folks who own the water rights.
Texas has lost 30,000 acres of wetlands since 1952. Wetlands benefit the bay by providing habitat for shrimp, crab, and finfish. The concern is that dredging the Ship Channel will allow saltwater from the Gulf to spill out into the bay and upper reaches and change the salinity, which will affect oyster production.
The Galveston Bay Plan determined 10 to 15 percent freshwater inflows on optimization models. MaxH is the amount of freshwater the bay needs to achieve a sustainable high level of harvest productivity in acre feet, that is, pounds of commercial harvest compared to inflow numbers in acre feet. MinQ is the smallest amount of water that meets all the management criteria. The state agencies believe that the MaxH requires 5.2 million acre feet of water as inflows per year. In the naturalized flow condition case, 5.9 million acre-feet theoretically exists during the median case. This is in a full development case. If you met all of the permitted water rights, the median flow is 4.4 million acre feet 50 percent of the time.
Parks and Wildlife looked at the data on different commercial harvest species (white and brown shrimp) and some other species (blue crab, Gulf menhaden, finfish, Atlantic croaker, bay anchovy) collected since the ‘70s and selected hydrographic parameters and different seasonal patterns.
Commercial fisheries report their harvest on a monthly basis. The modified harvest number and the resultant in each of these target classes is 8.4 million pounds under the current diversion case. Harvest data compared to a million acre feet inflow numbers, MinQ is 4.1, MaxH 5.2 million acre feet. In the full development case during the median condition you do not get the 5.2 million acre feet. The 5.2 value is equivalent to 11 million pounds of fish produced annually. The state agencies wanted 11.1 million pounds. You cannot get there naturally. You have to build a dam. The reason is the real flows are so much higher you have to truncate the flows down to this value in these months to get whatever the monthly amount of fish is for those months. So, we used a 5.2 million acre foot annual flow value based on historical record of monthly distribution of flow, the average flow that physically occurred on a 46 year period by month. We input that set of parameters in the same equation and got maximum fishery productivity of 8.7 million pounds of fish. The difference between the 11 and 8.5 million pounds of fish is the distribution of the flow. The MaxH distribution suggests that to get the maximum productivity of fish, you need a flow value of about 150,000 acre feet in January and February. The full development case would suggest that the flow value is around 700,000 acre feet. The naturalized flow condition in January and February is in excess of 800,000 acre feet. It is actually a negative to have more flow in these months. To get maximum productivity in May and June you need MaxH flows of around 1.3 million acre feet.
In building a hydrologic model, naturalized flow conditions were considered. A naturalized condition is a hydrologic term and means how much water is flowing if you extract everything that man ever created, like dams and reservoirs and diversions. Take that out and result it back to nature. That is what naturalized condition flows represent.
Full development is a condition that represents full appropriation of all the permitted water rights in the Galveston Bay area focusing on these inflows in Galveston Bay and then the resulting inflows in the full development case. The 1999 flow conditions are based on diversions that are occurring today.
What is presented was projected average monthly inflows for eight months starting January which exceeds the bays and estuaries state agency monthly target inflows. The projected average monthly flows in the full development case exceeds the monthly target flows in 8 out of the 12 months of the year, indicating there is no problem that needs to be fixed. May, June, December, and March, under the full development condition case, the flows are 12 percent lower than the bays and estuaries monthly target inflows. There may be problems in those months that need to be addressed. In the full development case, the projected average monthly inflows exceed all the MinQ monthly targets except in the month of December. There is also a spatial redistribution of Galveston Bay inflows that is projected to occur that is significant based on future diversions of the Trinity River inflows into Galveston Bay of about 20 percent.
What is happening is there is a project called the Coastal Water Authority which moves huge volumes of surface water from the Trinity River into the San Jacinto water shed whose current capacity is 1.1 billion gallons. The model suggests that this 20 percent redistribution of flow is significant in the future.
The question is what the actual impact of diversions on the fisheries harvest and how accurate are the fishery harvest values. If the figures are understated and misleading, that is important to know.
Freshwater inflows are the primary determinant in the fisheries harvest, and there is a relationship between freshwater inflows and fisheries harvest. There is a question as to whether the data gives a direct correlation between inflows and fisheries harvest.
GBFIG is developing a freshwater inflows strategy plan to present in 2 to 3 months based on The Water Development Board numbers for 50 years from 1941 through 1990. Ten of the years not represented by data are wet years and would drive up the inflows.
Page 3 of the report on the freshwater inflow recommendation model developed is the difference between MinQ and MaxH. The minimum it takes to sustain the productivity of the bay and that level to achieve the maximum productivity is a difference of 26 percent inflow; but the production of the bay is only 9 percent as a result of that. For an additional 25 percent inflow into the bay, you get 9 percent productivity. The term is equivalency.
The model is attempting to represent the watersheds which flow into the Bay. These include the Trinity River Basin; San Jacinto River Basin; and three coastal basins consisting of the Neches/Trinity and Cedar Bayou water shed, the San Jacinto/Brazos and the Trinity/San Jacinto. The green represents the major reservoirs at Lake Conroe, Houston, Livingston, Anahuac.
The seasonal comparison in April and June relates to productivity in the bay. Salinity is important because parasites enjoy high salinity levels and this negatively affects oyster production and size. Oyster reefs need freshwater. White shrimp are not moving out of the marshes in the basins because of lack of freshwater to start the migratory path. Blue crab harvest peak density season is between March and August and matches closely with MaxH.
The system is not directly related to drought and the lack of freshwater, but is a delayed response to the ecosystem. The total annual flow is less important than the seasonal pattern flow, and the complexity goes beyond that. It is not about when the flows come in but where it goes. The amount of freshwater inflows that go down the San Jacinto water shed are important in keeping the bay healthy. All of the return flows from the San Jacinto Basin go down the Ship Channel to the bay. As this 50 years goes on, the return flows are going to be more and more. The numbers here are greater than the total reservoir capacity in both the San Jacinto and the Trinity Rivers. Those return flows may provide sufficient Q to supply the bay with sufficient freshwater to produce the nutrients you need in the bay.
The Wallisville Reservoir is going to redirect the flow of the river from the River Channel, if the gates and locks are closed, laterally to the west and then down through Lost Lake, Old River, and Long Vine. This might change the way freshwater comes into the upper reaches of the bay. Wallisville is a saltwater barrier that is going to protect the intake pumps of the Navigation District and the other freshwater systems. Doctor Ward and Doctor Armstrong, with the University of Texas, looked at the potential affect of the flow of nutrients and salinity as a result of the saltwater barrier and collectively concluded that it was minimal as a result of the Wallisville operation.
The question is asked why Luce Bayou is listed as an environmentally significant stream when it is permitted for a diversion from the Trinity over to Lake Houston. The response is that it meets some of the guidelines. Luce Bayou is in great shape and has a lot of aquatic value. The future surface water supply for the entire northern reaches of Harris County relies on that project. The question is whether it should be designated as a unique site. Mr. Woodrow stated that it was just a recommendation and was not mandatory. Some regions decided to add streams that were not identified. A copy of the significant stream document is presented.
The Water Development Board, TNRCC and Parks and Wildlife, have developed the water management strategies that will guide their permit decisions if there are any water permits issued within 200 miles of the coast.
A meeting was held October 22, 1999, with the Water Development Board, the Corps of Engineers from four regions that affect Texas, the Bureau of Reclamations, EPA, Regional Administrator of District 6, and Fish and Wildlife Services. The TNRCC was briefed later. These agencies suggested that we point out the projects that have a major impact on endangered species and their habitat, and archaeological sites. All of these can be mitigated, but it creates time and resource problems.
These agencies will have three meetings in different parts of the state with various regional planning groups and get reactions to these water management strategies, then submit something in writing to the groups involved. The Water Development Board is making a review available from the federal agencies.
Glenda Callaway suggested the preferred dates for public meetings of the Galveston Bay Freshwater Inflows Group: February 28 and 29, 1999, and March 1, and 2, 2000. Ms. Callaway is in the process of determining the location of these meetings.
Mr. Adams said the January Region H Planning Group's meeting will be held at the San Jacinto River Authority office at the dam on Lake Conroe.
The water symposium in Nacogdoches is scheduled for November 16 and 17, focusing on Region I.
December 1, 1999
City Hall, 6th Floor