Fords disappearing from Guadalupe River

Present day remnant of a Guadalupe River ford in Riverside Park.

A settlement agreement the City Council approved Tuesday gives Victoria the ability to withdraw enough water from the Guadalupe River to fill one-fourth of the Houston Astrodome.

The settlement agreement is with the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority. GBRA will reserve 241 acre feet of water during a 10-year period for Victoria. That amount will come out of the 3,000 acre feet that GBRA will divert every year from the river where it meets Interstate 35 in Comal County, which is experiencing a population boom.

Victoria had planned to go before the judge at the State Office of Administrative Hearings in April to protest that diversion.

City Councilman Tom Halepaska said that was because models and experts showed Victoria would be negatively affected and it needed to be prepared for the next drought.

The city and GBRA negotiated before going to the judge though.

“When they gave us 14 acres, we said, ‘I’m sorry, sir, but that’s a ridiculous number. We would go for 500 acre feet,’ and they said, ‘I’m sorry sir, but that’s a ridiculous number.’ It was kind of like a game of poker,” Halepaska said of the negotiations.

Public Works Director Donald Reese said the 241 acre feet over a 10-year period will make the city whole again. He said that, plus the city’s roughly 27,000 acre feet of water, groundwater wells and its aquifer storage and recovery project prepare Victoria for drought. Victoria uses about 10,000 acre feet of water per year.

Aquifer storage and recovery refers to designing a well to inject treated water from the river into an aquifer underground and pumping it out during a drought. In June, a city well designed to do this pumped out sand. Reese said that well has been repaired.

“We tested it again and it seems to be doing great, so we’re putting the final pieces of the permitted pumping equipment on it and then we will start pumping water back down until January,” he said.

After that, the city will pump water out of it for a month and collect some of that water so the Texas Water Development Board can test whether they are safe to consume, he said.

Dennis Patillo, a Victoria restaurateur, newspaper columnist and vice chairman of the GBRA, said he also thinks Victoria’s water appetite is well served by this agreement.

“I didn’t see it as a dispute. I saw it as a conversation,” he said.

Jessica Priest reports on the environment and Calhoun County for the Victoria Advocate. She may be reached at jpriest@vicad.com or 361-580-6521.

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Environment/Investigations Reporter

Jessica Priest has done a little bit of everything since moving to Victoria in 2012. She was a regular fixture in the Crossroads’ historic courthouses, but now slathers on the sunscreen to report on the environment.

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