Sunday, April 13, 2014

South Pool Sailable for Now

No pumps yet at the South Pool.  The water level keeps rising slightly.  I windsurfed  the South Pool today.  I rode a F2 130 liter shortboard and a 6.0 square meter North sail.  It was the right rig in the gusts.  I had a few runs that were about the fastest I've traversed the lake (parallel to the north shore).  Fortunately, I had company on the water. 

A convertible wetsuit and a pair of old Okespor booties kept me comfortable.  Despite our colder than normal winter our shallow lake is turning warmer quickly.

There are a few skinny, thorny mesquites growing in the shallow water.  There's the usual broken glass, familiar to anyone who recreates at either the North or South Pool at Twin Buttes. 

Waterfowl were out in force and I saw many fish jumping.  It was a great day to be outside and on the water.  It's not clear which method the city plans to use to pump the South Pool.  It'll either be the last two year's setup, three pumps with piping to the Equalization Channel or one pipe with three pumps over the dam to the South Concho River bed. 

It's time to sail the South Pool, before the pumps reduce it again to a shallow mud hole.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Water Advisory Board Meets Infrequently

Former City Councilman Paul Alexander spoke during public comment at San Angelo's City Council meeting on April 1st.  He shared his longtime interest in water and his desire to impact local water supplies while on City Council.  He parlayed that into an appointment on the city's Water Advisory Board.

The Water Advisory Board is yet to meet since Alexander's appointment.  I searched the city's old website numerous times on the Water Advisory Board only to find it rarely met. The purpose the few times it met seemed to be to rubber stamp a decision by former Water Chief Will Wilde.  One of those was the selection of Carollo Engineering for the Hickory Project.

The board met once under new Water Chief Ricky Dickson to approve the bid for the well field expansion.  That was July 29, 2013.

The city's new website shows no agendas under the Water Advisory Board archive.

The new website is disadvantaged as older documents must be manually loaded. 

The web has an article from 2003 and a brackish water use study from 2008.  Jim Turner at ConchoInfo raised Alexander's question a year ago.  Several weeks after his piece the Water Advisory Board met.

Piecing together the recent picture reveals the Water Advisory Board met in:

July 2013
August 2012
January 2011

The city's YouTube site has a video from 2013 where UCRA consultant Stephen Brown predicted fall rains, such that Dickson would need a boat.  Unfortunately, that didn't happen.

Oddly UCRA's Stephen Brown said they had something to bring back to the Water Advisory Board in a few weeks or a few months.  That didn't happen either.  The UCRA presented the Red Arroyo Project to City Council, not the Water Advisory Board.

The board with San Angelo's most important charge should be more than an annual rubber stamp.  

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Pumps to Return to South Pool

Tuesday, April 1st is deja vu time as San Angelo's City Council considers reinstalling Gajeske's pump system to move water from the South Pool at Twin Buttes Reservoir.  The city can pump to the North Pool via the equalization channel or over the dam to the old South Concho River bed which leads directly to Lake Nasworthy.  The three pumps can move 75 acre feet a day with gravity flow through the EQ channel, but only 25 acre feet a day if they go over the dam.

The city council background packet implies the pumping would go South Pool to North, taking only one month to move the South Pool's about 2,700 acre feet (current roughly 2,900 acre feet less the 200 acre feet that pumps can't get).  Then the pumps would be moved to the North Pool to pump that body, currently at about 1,900 acre feet ( and not pumpable using the city's last pumping arrangement).

Dead storage for the North Pool is elevation 1885 feet.  It currently sits at 1882.4 feet. 

This makes moving the water through the Equalization Channel a two stage pumping operation.  Stage one they've done several times, thus city officials have some idea as to the potential impact.  Due to seepage and evaporation losses the combined pools would be about 3,900 acre feet (that's without runoff rains).

The city successfully pumped the North Pool down to 1882 foot elevation, but not lower. After draining the South Pool it will be interesting to see where the City locates the intake piping to tap the remaining water  in the North Pool. They may need a lot of piping.

Of the current 4,900 acre feet, the city will be lucky to get 2,000 acre feet for its municipal water supply when all is said and done.  Lord knows, we need it and more.

Update 3-31-14:  Myself and another windsurfer had fun at the South Pool yesterday.  I was on a 4.5 square meter sail and a 110 liter board.  It was great in the gusts and a bit of work in the lulls.  I was worried about the water temperature, but was find with a warm shirt and convertible wetsuit.  The water was up slightly at 1921.25 feet elevation.   The next month and a half may be prime sailing time, i.e. pre-pumping. 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

City's Twin Buttes Water Rights Under Legal Challenge

Law360 reported:

Houston (February 19, 2014, 4:32 PM ET) -- A conservation group asked the Texas Supreme Court Tuesday to invalidate the city of San Angelo’s municipal water permit, arguing that state regulators should have more closely scrutinized the impact the permit would have on the environment and downstream users.

In a petition for review filed with the high court, the Concho River Basin Water Conservancy Association said that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality should not have approved an amendment of the city’s existing water permit without first determining whether the change would unduly strain water supplies or adversely affect the rights of other water rights holders.

“Without requiring the proper [analysis], the commission amended the city’s water rights, stripping away existing special conditions designed to protect other water rights and the on-stream environment,” the petition said.

Concho — a nonprofit group formed to protect water rights tied to a tributary of the Colorado River — says that TCEQ should have considered how amending the city’s permit would impact the basin and others who rely on the water source under the Texas Water Code and state administrative law.

Because the city was not required by TCEQ to satisfy the so-called “no injury rule,” the permit amendment was improperly approved, Concho says. The Seventh District Court of Appeals also erred when it misinterpreted the high court’s decision in City of Marshall v. City of Uncertain and held that the TCEQ only needed to consider the public welfare, groundwater effects and consistency with state water plans before amending the permit, according to Concho.

“This error amplifies the commission's error in failing to acknowledge that its witness only provided an unsubstantiated and conclusory expert opinion that there were no adverse impacts caused by [the permit amendment] and did not perform the required no injury analysis,” the petition said.

And Concho says that the TCEQ should have compared the city’s original permit conditions with those of the amendment to conduct the appropriate analysis under the no injury rule. Instead, TCEQ took the “novel” position that a comparison was unnecessary because the amendment only operated to delete an outdated provision authorizing the city to store and release storm water, according to Concho.

TCEQ successfully argued to the lower appeals court that the state’s Water Rights Adjudication Act eliminated the distinction between “storm and flood flow” and “normal flow” of a river and that the city’s water permit amendment did nothing more than clarify its existing rights.

But Concho says that there is no case law to support TCEQ’s argument and notes that the Water Code and TCEQ’s own regulations still refer to the difference between storm flow and normal flow.

“It is incorrect that the Adjudication Act ‘did away’ with the normal-flood flow distinction for all purposes,” the petition said. “The appeals court failed to reach this issue and petitioner requests the court to grant this petition to address this issue, which is critical to the water law jurisprudence of the state.”

Concho contested San Angelo’s permit when the amendment was up for debate at the TCEQ, and sued in state court after the agency found the permit amendment would result in no adverse impact on other water rights.

The dispute revolves around water rights the city secured dating back to a 1960 permit that allowed the city to construct the Twin Buttes dam and reservoir and several subsequent amendments to the permit governing the amount of water San Angelo could draw down.

An attorney for San Angelo declined to comment Wednesday.  San Angelo is represented by Jason T. Hill, Martin Rochelle, Tom C. Massey and Timothy L. Brown of Lloyd Gosselink Rochelle & Townsend PC.

Concho is represented by Glenn Jarvis of the Law Offices Of Glenn Jarvis and Mary K. Sahs of Sahs & Associates PC.

The case is Concho River Basin Water Conservancy Association v. Texas Commission on Environmental Quality et al., case number 14-0028, in the Texas Supreme Court.

--Additional reporting by Jess Davis. Editing by Emily Kokoll

Twin Buttes Pumping to Return

Vendors have until March 12 to submit bids for pumping water from Twin Buttes.  Bid documents request a pump system capable of moving water from both the North and South Pools. 

No matter which route the city uses pumped water will need to cross long stretches of dry land.  Once again they'll be huge losses to seepage, thirsty vegetation and evaporation.

An addendum to the bid proposal stated the City plans to pump the South Pool down to elevation 1911 feet above sea level.  I don't think the city got that low last year when they used Option 3 and all three Gajeske pumps sucked air. 

The proposal seeks short term rental proposals to pump Twin Buttes water, likely in time for the May boat races.  As of now only the South Pool has water to give.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

South Pool Water Needed for Nasworthy Steamboat?

The stakes keep rising for water in the South Pool at Twin Buttes.  San Angelo City Council will consider approving the lease of land near the Nature Center for a steamboat on Lake Nasworthy.

18.  Consideration of approving a proposal for the operation of a public cruise paddle wheel steamboat at Mary E. Lee Park (Lake Nasworthy) and authorizing staff to negotiate an agreement between the City of San Angelo and Concho River Queen Cruises, LLC.

Here's what the background packet says on the proposal:

To: Mayor and Councilmembers

From: Carl White, Parks & Recreation Director

Subject: Agenda Item for February 18, 2014, Council Meeting

Contact: Carl White, Parks & Recreation Director, 325-234-1724

Caption: Regular Item
Consideration of approving a proposal for the operation of a public cruise paddle wheel steamboat at Mary E. Lee Park (Lake Nasworthy) and authorizing staff to negotiate an agreement between the City of San Angelo and Concho River Queen Cruises, LLC.

Summary: Concho River Queen Cruises, LLC (CRQC) wishes to enter into agreement with the City of San Angelo to operate an “Excursion Tour Boat and Private Charter Operation” on public property at Lake Nasworthy (specifically, Mary E. Lee Park). Goals of CRQC are to:

1) provide a unique recreational activity;
2) showcase the lake’s origins, ecological uniqueness, environmental importance and economic impact to the Concho River Valley; and
3) add to the water-based activities on the lake.
CRQC proposed 2 site options at Mary E. Lee Park as shown in the presentation.  CRQC would incur all costs for the operation including boat, dock, fuel, accessible walkway, signage, staffing, utilities, etc.
Proposed Hours and Days of Operation:

• Private Charters*: 7 days/week, 365 days/year, 10am -11pm
• Excursion Tours*:
• High Season Months: April thru September
• Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, 10am to 30 minutes past sunset
• Sundays, 10am-6pm
• Low Season Months: October thru mid-December & March**
• Saturdays, 10am to 30 minutes past sunset
• Sundays, 12 Noon-6pm
• *Days/Times of Operation – subject to change
• **closed for Excursions, Jan. & Feb. for repairs and maintenance as needed.
Proposed Operational Overview:
• CRQC purposes to offer the following Services and/or Products:
• Aprox. 50 Minute Scenic Sightseeing Tours of Lake Nasworthy
• Maximum 20 Passengers / 3 Crew
• Tour narrative
• Private Charter Cruises (Dinners, Anniversaries, Groups, etc.)
• Parties of 2 to 12 people / 3-4 Crew
• Sale of assorted “Non-alcoholic” Beverages & Snack Concessions
• Sale of Misc. Personal Wear Souvenirs
Basic Terms:
• 5-year lease (or license) with a 5-year extension option.
• Annual fixed payment:
Year 1 = $500
Year 2 = $750
Year 3 = $1,000
Year 4 = $1,250
Year 5 = $1,500
(These rates are half that of Mr. Nickell’s “Concho Cruises’” operation.)
• Annual percentage payment of gross receipts of 1.5% (“Concho Cruises” rate is 6%). There would also be a clause in the agreement for a pro-rated fee based on the inability to operate due to low lake water levels, similar to the clause in the “Concho Cruise’s’”.
• 90-day termination notice.
• All other “boiler plate” terms.
Opportunity exists to collaborate with the Nature Center on excursions, mutual promotion as well as other opportunities.

History: There is no history on this item. The City currently has an agreement with Mr. Wayne Nickell (Concho Cruises) for the operation of a cruise boat concession at Mary E. Lee Park. Terms of an agreement with CRQC are proposed to be similar in nature to Mr. Nickell’s agreement. CRQC and Concho Cruises operations are similar in that they are both excursion operations but dissimilar since Concho Cruises is limited to operating on the west side of the lake due to the size of the boat.
Financial Impact: The City incurs no expense with this proposal. A flat and percentage based annual fee
to be paid to the City is proposed.
Related Vision Item (if applicable):  N/A
Other Information/
Recommendation:  The Parks and Recreation Advisory Board considered and recommended approval at their meeting on January 23, 2014.
Attachments: PowerPoint Presentation
Presentation: PowerPoint
Publication: N/A
Reviewed by Director:  Rick Weise, Assistant City Manager, February 4, 2014
Approved by Legal: N/A

San Angelo Live reported:

Should Mack Fox get his way, the Concho River Queen steamboat will soon be docked near the Nature Center and available excursions and charter.  

Fox, a steamboat aficionado has been tracking the status of a little side wheel paddle-steamer for years, and now wants to lease a small tract of land on Lake Nasworthy to give wildlife excursions and/or private charter.

The steamboat, originally known as the “Tule Princess” is currently berthed in Bay City, MI. According to Fox, the boat was built in 1983 and is 38 feet long and 14 feet wide, with a 22 horsepower single-cylinder engine. Steam-powered, the engine would run on burner oil, recycled from used motor oil.
A website on paddlewheelers had this long ago entry:

On Oct 16, 2006, at 8:45 PM, Mack H Fox wrote:

Hey fellow Steamboater, hope you can help me. I am trying to locate the current whereabouts of a boat built back around 1985. Her name is TULE PRINCESS, designer/builder - David Sarlin (now deceased, I think). I am interested in the vessel and would very much like to locate her. I sincerely hope she was not broken up following his death. If you know or have any information, please contact me: 

Thanks for your help! Mack H. Fox

On Oct 18, 2006, at 4:15 PM, Mack Fox wrote:

Thanks Nori, save yourself the time, I appreciate it, several boaters have already contacted me and TULE is in Bay City, MI and I have a name of who to call. I knew it would only be a matter of time. There is power in numbers. Thanks for all your help and consideration. Hope to be announcing something to the community very soon.


Seven years and four months later, there may be news.  It's likely bad news for those using the South Pool for recreation.  I expect pressure to pump to increase dramatically in the near future.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Lake Water Temperature Near Freezing

The Standard Times reported:

With his 5-year-old daughter under one arm, Brian Weitz swam in 34-degree water to the dock where volunteers stood with towels.

Nearly 300 people plunged into Lake Nasworthy Saturday for Goodfellow Air Force Base’s 12th annual Polar Bear Swim.

Although the water left many swimmers gasping when they finished, air temperatures reached the low 70s.

“This is the warmest day we’ve had for a polar bear plunge in a long time,” Gilbert said.
It's also the coldest water in a long time.  Many winters in the last twenty years the water dropped to the low to mid 40's.  Mild winters saw water temperatures in the 50's. At least that's been my experience with winter windsurfing on San Angelo's lakes.  This is the winter to sit out.