The city of Graham has passed a resolution formally opposing the release of water from Possum Kingdom Lake down the Brazos River to Lake Granbury for “balancing” purposes, marking another step in a battle for water between the two lakes.
Related to similar resolutions passed by the PK Lake Association and Young County Commissioner’s Court, this action is the latest in a series of concerted political steps taken by both communities in attempts to control the economic viability of its respective lake.
Graham’s resolution, passed at the June 19 city council meeting, is based on a report from the PK Lake Association in May regarding the release of water from PK Lake to raise the level of Lake Granbury. This report, referred to as the “White Paper,” outlines the PK Lake Association’s opinion that the Brazos River Authority is mismanaging the two lakes.
The BRA established a protocol in 2008 that created a drawdown ratio between PK Lake and Lake Granbury of 1-to-1, or, for every foot Lake Granbury drops, water is released from PK Lake until it has also dropped one foot. The BRA’s purpose for the ratio, as outlined in the White Paper, is to balance economic impact on the two lakes during periods of drought. In 2011, that ratio was increased from 1-to-1 to 1-to-1.75.
“No known justification was provided at that time or since as to the necessity of ‘balancing’ the lakes,” the report notes. “It appeared as though the need for some kind of balance was simply to allay the protests of Lake Granbury residents who were accustomed to relatively constant levels due to the operation of the hydroelectric plant below PK.”
In January, a coalition representing Lake Granbury released its own report requesting the BRA double the drawdown ratio, up to 1-to-3.5. The resolution passed by Young County commissioners last month formally opposed an increase in this ratio, while the latest resolutions by the city of Graham and the PK Lake Association opposed releasing water from PK Lake for balancing purposes and seeks to have the ratio abolished.
Matt Phillips, government and customer relations manager with the BRA, explained that the ratio will not be increased without agreement from both sides.
“If we were to make changes to the drawdown ratio, which we are not at this time recommending, but if we were we would only do so if there were a full stakeholder process that involved representatives from Possum Kingdom and Granbury and there was agreement,” Phillips said.
Some water, explained Phillips, has to be released from PK Lake to maintain the health and viability of the Brazos River. The BRA disagrees with the White Paper’s assertion that it is mismanaging the water system and sees no way that the drawdown ratio would ever be entirely abolished.
“No, we are never going to fully stop having some sort of release,” Phillips said. “In terms of the drawdown ratio, before we even adopted the Halff Study, we were already operating on a 1-to-1 ratio, we were already doing some balancing, so I do not expect that we would ever stop doing that. I don’t see any sort of abolishment of the drawdown protocol.”
There is also a stipulation in place that limits the ratio at 1-to-1 when PK Lake is below an elevation of 992 feet above mean sea level which it has been below for over a year, Phillips said.
Hood County Judge Darrell Cockerham said he feels like the BRA is playing the two lake communities against each other and the real issue is with the BRA’s management of the entire water system.
“I think there is too much emphasis on selling the water down the river as far as a revenue generator to support the BRA versus management of a vital resource for the state of Texas,” Cockerham said. “I’m not a hydrologist. I just know our lake is low, Possum Kingdom is low, so it appears to me that if both of them are low, and are way down … that it is a management issue and not a drawdown issue.”
Cockerham said he wishes the communities could work together.
“This is one thing to preserve both our lakes,” he said.