By Libby Cluett
PALO PINTO COUNTY – It will be a long time before customers start sipping Turkey Peak water, but Mineral Wells City Manager Lance Howerton said, “Everything’s been put into motion.”
This includes the Palo Pinto County Municipal Water District No. 1 “authorizing the submission of water rights permits and a boost from the recent announcement of $8 million in state funds.
At their January meeting, the Texas Water Development Board approved funds for project “planning, permitting and preliminary engineering.” Through the 2007 State Water Plan, the TWDB has encouraged water development, like the Turkey Peak reservoir, in order to meet growing future demands.
The TWDB’s pledged $8 million to the PPCWSD would be broken down as follows:
• A grant of $2.4 million because many of the district’s customers qualify for the Economically Distressed Areas Program.
• A no-interest loan of $2.4 million, also from the Economically Distressed Areas Program.
• A low-interest loan of $3.2 million from the Water Infrastructure Fund to finance development costs of a water supply project.
Through Lake Palo Pinto the PPCMWD supplies drinking water to Mineral Wells and several other districts in Palo Pinto and western Parker counties. The lake was created by damming Palo Pinto Creek in 1964 with a 96-foot-high earthfill dam, but since the 1980s, the district has looked into ways to increase water storage with deeper reservoirs.
With an average depth of 13 feet, Lake Palo Pinto is considered shallow and experiences increased sedimentation. It also has a relatively high evaporation rate. When it was first impounded, the lake’s capacity was estimated at 28,800 acre feet. A 1985 survey measured Lake Palo Pinto’s capacity at 27,650 acre feet and a 2007 TWDB survey measured the lake’s volume at 26,480 acre feet.
Because of Lake Palo Pinto’s increased sedimentation, combined with a growing regional population, TWDB states, “Projected water demands will exceed the reservoir’s water supply by 2019.”
What is Turkey Peak?
The new reservoir project gets its name because the planned earthfill dam would abut Turkey Peak, which lies roughly 3-and-a-half miles downstream from Lake Palo Pinto dam.
The planned reservoir area forms a canyon etched by Palo Pinto Creek. This would result in a deeper reservoir than its upstream sister, Lake Palo Pinto, which would maintain an average depth of 35 feet. Turkey Peak Reservoir would add another 26,000-acre feet, which PPCMWD Board Secretary Scott Blasor said “roughly doubles the size of our storage [with] a deeper lake.”
The new reservoir would flood State Highway 4, which also lies in the creek basin. Plans are to reroute Highway 4 traffic onto an improved Ward Mountain Road and to build a bridge to maintain the connection between North Lakeview and South Lakeview roads, according to Blasor and Howerton.
Both Lake Palo Pinto and Turkey Creek Reservoir would be maintained at the same 867-foot level, yet would remain two distinct reservoirs with different names.
Before any property owners are approached and earth is purchased, turned or water is dammed, PPCWSD must have permits in place. The TWDB’s $8 million will help this process progress forward.
In addition, the PPCWSD recently signed a water supply contract with Brazos Electric Power Cooperative, which operates a plant on the northern part of Lake Palo Pinto. The contract would allow BEPC to purchase additional water for steam-electric power generation from the Turkey Peak project. According to Blasor, it extends to 2020 and “they have options after that,” he added.
The next steps forward include working toward obtaining permits from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and Corps of Engineers. Howerton and Blasor said the permitting would take three to four years and is contingent upon several state entities looking at and approving the proposal, which Howerton illustrated was 8-inches thick. He said these include comments on hydrology, water availability, archeology and cultural, environment and endangered species.
The state agencies must be “satisfied there are no endangered species or cultural issues [and that] you’ve mitigated all that you’ve had to mitigate,” said Howerton.
State funds to help prepare ground for new off-channel water supply reservoirState funds to help prepare ground for new off-channel water supply reservoir
By Libby Cluett
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