The Brazos River Authority Board of Directors at its quarterly meeting Oct. 28 elected a new assistant presiding officer and board secretary.
The board unanimously chose Jeffrey Scott Tallas, of Sugar Land, to serve the two-year term of assistant presiding officer and W. Ford Taylor III, of Waco, to serve the two-year term of secretary. The duo replaces R. LeRoy Bell, of Tuscola, who formerly served as assistant presiding officer, and Salvatore A. Zaccagnino, of Caldwell, who previously served as secretary.
Board members cannot serve more than two consecutive terms, but can serve limitless nonconsecutive terms, said Riley Woods, BRA senior staff attorney. The BRA governing board consists of 21 members appointed by the governor and subject to confirmation by the Texas Senate and serve a six-year staggered term.
Projects and training
Two of the three BRA-owned and operated dams are due for state-required five-year inspections. The Board approved professional services agreements with Stantec Consulting Services, Inc. to perform work at the Lake Granbury DeCordova Bend Dam for $247,300 and the Lake Limestone Sterling C. Robertson Dam for $248,565. Two companies bid for the project.
Five-year inspections are required by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. The BRA always selects an outside engineering firm to conduct the inspection, said Brad Brunett, BRA Central and Lower Basin Regional Manager. BRA employees, however, perform documented daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual inspections of each of the dams. Ensuring the dams’ safety is a team effort and a daily focus year-round. The inspections’ activities include onsite work, records review, and measurements to ensure the dam has not moved, Brunett said.
The BRA will also be able to enter into an interlocal agreement with the Texas A&M Engineering and Extension Service after the board gave the program its support. TEEX offers customized training and services through hands-on instructional facilities for agencies in College Station or at customer-specified locations worldwide. The up to $500,000 interlocal agreement will provide BRA employees training and services, including, emergency preparation, disaster response and rescue, critical license certification, leadership infrastructure and facility protection, cybersecurity, safety training and compliance assessment assistance, peace officer development, water and wastewater certification, and EPA compliance assistance.
Dissolved Oxygen study
A recent fish kill prompted new measures to limit the extent of future fish kills. In July 2019, a fish kill was observed below the Lake Granbury DeCordova Bend Dam. The incident was due to low dissolved oxygen levels associated with the closing of spillway gates following extended gate releases. Dissolved oxygen levels were depleted as there was an extremely high concentration of fish congregated in the river immediately below the dam. Fish, like all other complex life forms, need oxygen to survive. They obtain oxygen in the form of oxygen gas dissolved in the water.
Michael McClendon, Upper Basin Regional Manager, said the BRA is also initiating a three-year dissolved oxygen study in the Lake Granbury stilling basin and pool immediately below the stilling basin. The study will track and record dissolved oxygen concentration and water temperature at different intervals. The data will then be correlated to season, ambient conditions, and release conditions to identify which release strategies, if any, are successful at maintaining dissolved oxygen concentrations in the stilling basin and during what conditions those strategies should be used.
“We need to understand what those dissolved oxygen concentrations are before installing anything,” McClendon said.
Meanwhile, McClendon said, staff will attempt to make graduated and incrementally reduced releases after a flood event as opposed to a more rapid reduction of flows which may allow fish to vacate the stilling basin and travel downstream to a larger pool or reach within the river system.
In addition to the dissolved oxygen study, the BRA will engage an engineer to re-design the low flow gates for full operational capacity, McClendon said. After design completion, the BRA will go out for bids for construction. The BRA is optimistic that regaining this flexibility will assist and limit future occurrences.
The BRA will continue to assess opportunities and partner with agencies to improve conditions in the Brazos River basin. As an example, the BRA provides water from its reservoirs to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s fish hatchery below Possum Kingdom Lake to supplement and restore populations of fish throughout the basin. The BRA is committed to exploring all opportunities for responsible and efficient uses of its water resources to maintain the aquatic and riparian ecosystem of the basin while providing water supply for beneficial use.
Presiding Officer Cynthia A. Flores, of Round Rock, said she appreciated the work staff had done evaluating options after a community member expressed concern about the fish kill at the last board meeting.
Also at the quarterly meeting, the Board:
- approved up to 80,755 acre-feet of interruptible water be made available for calendar year 2020. Interruptible water is water available for contract for a specific period, usually a year-to-year basis. This water is available based on the amount of water in reservoir storage and subject to restricted use during water shortages.
- authorized staff to annually execute an irrevocable Standby Letter of Credit in favor of the city of Sugar Land. The BRA entered into a contract to operate the city’s wastewater treatment plants and reclaimed water facility in October 2018. The conditions of the contract require the provision of a letter of credit from the BRA to the city in an amount equal to the annual budget. In 1975, the city contracted with the BRA to operate its municipal wastewater treatment plant and expanded the contract to include a second plant in the mid-2000s.
- authorized BRA General Manager/CEO David Collinsworth to negotiate and execute an amendment to the 1972 water supply contract between the BRA and the Upper Leon River Municipal Water District. The amendment will provide for the transition of the non-system rate water to the BRA system rate over the course of 10 years.
- authorized Mr. Collinsworth to enter into contracts for purchases of laboratory services in amounts exceeding the $500,000 limitation established in the BRA’s policies manual, to the extent that the contracts and annual expenditures are within the approved annual budgetary expenditures authorized for this item by the Board of Directors.
- authorized Mr. Collinsworth to execute an interlocal agreement with the Department of Information Resources to facilitate the management of purchasing IT and related IT materials, equipment and services for the BRA with increased savings and time management of procurements.
- authorized the continued relationship with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas for insurance for BRA employees.
- authorized the BRA to dispose of surplus personal property, and
- approved revisions to the BRA Human Resources Policy Manual.
The next board meeting will be Jan. 27. To see a full list of board actions, go here.
The Board meets quarterly on the last Monday of January, April, July and October.