Golf course gets right to irrigate with Brazos water again

By Kathryn Jones

Editor

Just in time to get the greens ready for spring duffers, Squaw Valley Golf Course has won back the right to irrigate its courses again with water from the Brazos River.

The county-owned golf venue in November lost its rights to use surface water from the Brazos after the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality suspended water diversions within the river basin.

The only users not affected by the suspension were cities, domestic users, power plants, including the Comanche Peak Nuclear Plant, and exempt livestock operations.

In a notice dated Nov. 19, 2012, the TCEQ said the suspension resulted from a “priority call” from Dow Chemical Co., a downstream user with a plant in Freeport. Dow is a first-line water rights holder, as is Luminant, operator of Comanche Peak.

County Judge Mike Ford on Monday told the Somervell County Commissioners meeting that he received a letter from the TCEQ last week saying that Dow Chemical had withdrawn its claim on water and everyone, including Squaw Valley, is back on water.

“So we’re pumping?” County Commissioner John Curtis asked.

“We’re pumping,” Ford said.

Commissioners also voted to move $10,000 from the golf course maintenance budget to cover attorney fees.

In response to a question from Curtis about whether the water issue at the golf course was over or ongoing, Ford sighed and said, “It’s probably always going to be ongoing.”

“This is attorney payment for continued services,” he added.

Commissioner James Barnard noted that “squabbles” are taking place between senior and junior water rights holders. The Brazos River Authority is the organization charged with parceling and selling water up and down the river.

“I suspect it’s going to take everybody we can get our hands to help us through this process,” Ford said. “Right now we’re in good shape.”

Commissioners last July approved buying water from the BRA  to help irrigate the county’s golf course.

The court announced plans to purchase 350-acre feet of water from the BRA at a cost of $62.50 per acre foot, or $21,875.

“The citizens voted to have these golf courses and I can’t let a multi-million dollar facility go to seed,” Ford said at the time.

The golf course also irrigates using effluent provided by the City of Glen Rose after it treats its wastewater. That water is stored in lakes on the course, but it’s not enough, particularly in a drought.

The water issue at Squaw Valley became apparent in March 2012 when a TCEQ investigator appeared at the course. In April the investigator notified the golf course that it had been taking water from Squaw Creek without a water permit since 2003.

The county hired Lloyd Gosselink, an Austin law firm, to represent it. The firm has a Water Practice Group and represents clients in permitting actions, disputes and negotiations.

Commissioners last year approved transferring $47,500 from the golf course budget to cover attorney fees and fuel. In May the county applied to TCEQ for a temporary water use permit and applied to the BRA for the 350 acre feet.

The county then received a temporary water use permit for 10 acre-feet from the TCEQ.

Ford said Monday the county got the official judgment from the TCEQ on the fine. It had to go through the TCEQ commissioners, Ford said, as was “a pretty big part of that bill” for the attorney fees.

Photo courtesy of Squaw Valley Golf Course

Photo courtesy of Squaw Valley Golf Course

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