Environment
5:40 pm
Wed October 5, 2011

White Stallion to Purchase Groundwater

A Gulf Coast landowner may sell groundwater to the builders of the proposed coal-fired power plant White Stallion in Matagorda County. The landowner has submitted an application to drill a well that would provide 1,199 acre feet of water a year to the power plant.

“From our understanding the facility that is being constructed would need far more water than that,” said Neil Hudgins, General Manager of the Coastal Plains Groundwater Conservation District. The state agency manages groundwater availability and permitting of the Gulf Coast Aquifer.

Hudgins said that the water would be used during construction for environmental and dust control. But plans to build the power plant have stalled since the Lower Colorado River Authority “postponed indefinitely” discussion and any action at an August meeting to sell water to White Stallion after the company changed the terms of the contract. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality issued draft air permits for the plant in September.

Several farmers and county residents have voiced strong opposition to White Stallion. An article from the Community Impact newspaper quoted one politician who has concerns over the plant's potential water use.

State Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, argued that with current drought conditions, no water should be released now.

“I am not opposed to building White Stallion, but I am opposed to the release of any water from the Highland Lakes that would be needed to satisfy this new contract,” he said in a letter to LCRA Chairman Timothy Timmerman.

The Coastal Plains Groundwater District will discuss the ground water application at its Friday meeting. General Manager Neil Hudgins said it’s a new situation the District has not dealt with yet. He said 95 percent of the water permit applications the District receives are for agricultural purposes.

“Selling water or any use for industrial purposes, we need a little more information,” Hudgins said. The requested 11,099 acre-feet of water is roughly what it would take to irrigate 300 acres of rice for a year.

The Coastal Plains Groundwater Conservation District is a fairly ground new regulating district. It was established by the Texas Legislature in 2001 but governing rules were not adopted until 2005. The district gave an historic label to wells that were in existence prior to 2005. But the District never addressed or wrote any rules defining what that historic user designation means.

Hudgins said when the District was created the Board and staff thought there was plenty of water available in the aquifer. Hudgins says its agricultural users tend to use less water than they request. But as prolonged drought has become a recurring phenomenon in Texas, Hudgins says it may be time for the CPGCD Board of Directors to create rules for historic users.

“We seem to be okay up to this point,” “We know there will be a higher demand on groundwater so we do understand that we do need to start focusing on our rules to make sure that we are not just turning our heads and keeping permitting out water when that availability may not be there.”