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.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Fracking West Texas Dry

Governor Rick Perry issued a disaster proclamation January 14, 2014 due to drought in 121 Texas counties.  The Concho Valley is well represented in Perry's decree.

A new report finds that hydraulic fracturing is posing a growing risk to water supplies in several regions around the country. Only, instead of groundwater contamination that so often makes the headlines, it is from the massive consumption of fresh water in water-parched areas like Texas, Colorado, and California. Hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) requires millions of gallons of water to frack single well, and in places that are suffering epic droughts, fracking is increasingly competing for access to water with other uses. 

The report, “Hydraulic Fracturing and Water Stress,” comes from Ceres, a network of investors, companies, and public interest groups that pushes investor money towards sustainable practices. Ceres finds that about three-quarters of all the 39,294 wells hydraulically fractured between January 2011 and May 2013 (the time period they studied) have occurred in water scarce areas, and more than half in areas suffering from drought.

Nowhere is the nexus of fracking and water starker than in the Eagle Ford Shale in south Texas, which produces over 1.2 million barrels of oil and 6 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day. The Eagle Ford suffers from the biggest water challenges out of any shale play in the United States. It has the highest water consumption out of any other shale formation in the country right now. Over 90% of the water used in the affected counties comes from groundwater, as opposed to surface water, contributing to the depletion of aquifers. 

The report finds that, “Texas is ground zero for water sourcing risks due to intense shale energy production in recent years.” And the problem of water use is compounded by the fact that Texas has been suffering from several years of meager rainfall. As Ceres notes, “over two-thirds of Texas continues to experience drought conditions, key groundwater aquifers are under stress and the state’s population is growing.”

Agriculture and the consumption of water in cities remain the largest sources of water consumption, much more than fracking, but drilling for oil and gas often occur in small communities in dry areas, and thus have an outsized influence over the consumption pattern of water. Competing interests, such as cattle ranching, farming, other industry, and residential use, are finding water more and more a cherished commodity to come by. There are 29 communities in Texas with a presence of oil and gas drilling that are in danger of running out of water within days.

Ceres also looked at individual companies with the most exposure to water sourcing risk. For example, Anadarko Petroleum (NYSE: APC) leads the pack with more than 70% of its wells located in high water stress areas. Anadarko used over six billion gallons of water over the study period. Chesapeake Energy (NYSE: CHK) was the biggest user of water out of all the operators measured in the report, but with much of its drilling operations focused in the relatively wet Marcellus Shale, its risk exposure wasn’t as bad as Anadarko’s. The report offers a warning to investors: should these companies be cut off from access to water due to inadequate water supply or water restrictions by local governments, their operations – and therefore their profitability – could be put at risk.

The Ceres report provides a series of recommendations which include recycling of water used during fracking (a practice already becoming more commonplace among drillers); using wastewater or brackish water; disclosing more information, not only on water use from the company perspective, but also on water availability and requirements for the basin as a whole; and tougher regulations governing the use of water in dry regions. 

The competition between water use for fracking and other uses is not new, particularly in dry areas, but with oil and gas production in Texas expected to double over the next five years, the issue will only grow in its importance.

San Angelo made The Guardian last August for our water woesThe Guardian reported:

Local aquifer levels in the Eagle Ford formation have dropped by up to 300ft over the last few years.

The Wolfcamp and Cline Shales are in even more water blighted areas than Eagle Ford.  I'm going to need wheels for my windsurfers. 

Saturday, February 1, 2014

West Texas Water Partnership Plans for Tremendous Economic Growth

The City of San Angelo is a one third partner with Midland and Abilene in the West Texas Water Partnership.   The topic arose three years ago in a City Council meeting:

Mayor Alvin New noted negotiations look promising between Midland, Abilene, and San Angelo for a regional water supply.

Just days ago San Angelo Mayor Duane Morrison talked about the importance of the project.  His fellow mayors weighed in:

“The people know that an abundant water supply is key to our prosperity and our quality of life,” Abilene Mayor Norm Archibald said. Midland Mayor Jerry Morales added, “This undertaking has the potential to yield tremendous economic growth for our region.”
Oddly, the Water Partnership mentions San Angelo's reclaimed water, currently used for irrigation, and the Hickory pipeline project.   San Angelo City Council will consider authorizing staff to negotiate a contract with Alan Plummer Associates for reclaimed water alternatives. 

The study will explore nonpotable and potable reuse, offer a summary of state regulations and identify potential projects.

“We don’t have any specific projects in mind,” Krueger said. The study’s purpose is to look at some options for the city.

Funny, I recall Carollo Engineering's Hutch Musallam offering to explore the city's reclaimed water and possible uses.  Why was that task not accomplished?

Alan Plummer Associates was one of five firms that sent in qualifications to the city, Krueger said. The firm submitted qualifications as part of a team of other consultants, Krueger said, with which the city would be negotiating.

Out of the five, the city selected three to interview and has narrowed it down to Alan Plummer based on the qualifications, as state law requires.
Who rides in with Alan Plummer, i.e. the other members of the team of consultants?  Is it Carollo Engineering, Wilde Engineering, Stephen Brown or other firms/consultants?  Will they be named at Tuesday's council meeting?

The West Texas Partnership claims it is dedicated to transparency and public input.  Let's hope its individual members behave in a similar fashion.

Does the timing of the WTWP have anything to do with the West Texas oil boom – specifically in Midland? 
The significant recent, fast-paced growth experienced in the Midland area underscores the need for proactive long-range water planning. Coming together now to pursue future regional supplies will ensure that West Texas can continue to be an important economic engine for the State.
Fracking requires massive water use, most of which is bound up underground and taken out of the water cycle.  Oilfield trucks destroy our roads.  Drillers demand for water is the tipping point for our local water nightmare.

Bonus Tips for the Water Partnership webmaster.  One, please finish this sentence under FAQ:
How will the WTWP pay for any water projects?  Each city in the WTWP will retain local control in deciding how to generate the funding necessary for new water projects. By pooling financial resources and developing projects for the cities’ cumulative population base of more....

Two, December 2013 daily water use for the City of Midland was not 11,536,000 acre feet as stated.  I believe the correct metric is gallons.

Update 2-8-14:  City Council approved negotiations with Alan Plummer on the reclaimed water study.   The Standard Times stated the reclaimed water irrigation deal Wilde sealed requires parties give a year's notice before backing out. 

Alan Plummer Associate's partners on this study include Enprotec/Hibbs-Todd and LBG-Guyton Associates.  If a Wilde were to work on the project it would have to be a secondary subcontractor role.  That is one level deeper than Blake Wilde's work on the Hickory pipeline.  As of now it appears no Wilde's will be on the reclaimed water team.