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LCRA postpones water purchase request from White Stallion until August

By adriana_acosta
June 15, 2011 at 1:15 a.m.

Randy Bird, White Stallion chief operating officer, spoke to the LCRA board on Wednesday. The board decided to table the water contract request for further review.

HOW MUCH WATER IS AVAILABLE?

The Lower Colorado River Authority has 600,000 acre feet of water available in the basin - of that:

50,000 acre-feet is set aside (reserved).

464,000 acre-feet is committed to LCRA customers.

86,000 acre-feet is for sale.

White Stallion submitted an application for a firm water contract in 2008, requesting 25,400 acre-feet per year for 40 years.

Source: LCRA

AUSTIN - The Lower Colorado River Authority decided Wednesday to table a request from White Stallion Energy Center to purchase water.

The decision was made at the authority's monthly board meeting. The request will be considered again at the next board meeting Aug. 10.

Tabling White Stallion's request came after members of the public spoke against the coal plant.

White Stallion is planning to build a coal plant in Matagorda County.

Many opposed the water contract because they said it would disrupt the water needs of many living along the Colorado River.

"I ask that the board table this and give it more time," said Nate McDonald, Matagorda County Judge. "We ask that you seriously consider the implications for the entire basin."

"The board has not had enough time to look through the contract and make a call on something that is going to have a 55-year effect on the basin," he added.

But a White Stallion official said a delay in the water contract would delay the progress of the project.

"We are in a place in time where the economy in Texas is growing," said Randy Bird, chief operating officer for White Stallion. "Contractors are hungry, they want to build this."

LCRA is obligated to offer water fairly and nondiscriminatory, said Thomas Mason, LCRA general manager.

"As a legislatively created regional water supplier, if the LCRA has water available to meet a request for supply and the applicant complies with the LCRA rules, we must make that water available," Mason said.

White Stallion submitted an application for a firm water contract in 2008, requesting 25,400 acre-feet per year for 40 years.

The project site is a 1,200-acre tract, located on the east side of the Colorado River, about 10 miles south of Bay City and would cost about $3 billion.

Under the contract, White Stallion agreed to pay the LCRA $55 million within one year from the contract date. The money then would be used for improvements at the LCRA's Bay City pumping plant and possibly build a 5,000 acre-foot channel reservoir in the lower basin.

The channel would be built and operated by the LCRA and serve White Stallion, as well as other water customers.

The proposed coal plant also agreed to pay the LCRA $250,000 per year from the date its plant starts up to the end of the contract. This money would be used for future water supply projects.

Concerns over the proposed reservoir being built was brought up by board member John Dickerson, of Matagorda County.

"We must take into account that there has been no site identified for building the reservoir or if the reservoir will be built," he said.

Under the contract, LCRA is not obligated to build the reservoir.

The proposed reservoir would be designed to allow LCRA to supply water to White Stallion without having an impact on the Highland Lakes and without an impact on water available for agriculture.

This will be done by using a combination of water from the river under LCRA's downstream water rights and the ability to store water in the proposed reservoir to supply White Stallion.

At least one person spoke in favor of the water contract.

"I am here representing the small business owner; most of them are edging by their fingernails," said Owen Bludau, executive director for Matagorda County Economic Development Corporation.

Bludau said job creation in the county is needed because the unemployment rate is at 10.7 percent.

Workforce Solutions and White Stallion have received 2,000 resumes from people who need jobs to support their families, he said.

A vote yes is a vote for hope, he said.

White Stallion Energy Center will bring more than 2,000 temporary jobs during construction and will bring 200 permanent jobs with an average salary of $70,000.

Bird said he agreed with the LCRA board tabling the water contract until August.

"This will allow everyone to review the water contract and understand what it is requesting," he said.

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