TSEPA: GBRA Sells Guadalupe Water Rights Amidst Basin-Wide Drought

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Texans for a Sound Energy Policy Alliance (TSEPA) today questioned the logic of the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority's (GBRA) decision to extend its water reservation agreement with Exelon while simultaneously requesting others to conserve. With the Guadalupe River Basin experiencing Stage 2 drought conditions, GBRA encouraged all users to limit their water usage. Additionally, GBRA was forced to increase the release rate from Canyon Lake into the Guadalupe River in order to meet the current water supply demands for its downstream user, the City of Victoria. At the same time, GBRA accepted $1.1 million from Exelon to reserve 75,000 acre-feet from the Guadalupe for its proposed nuclear power plant near Victoria.

The Guadalupe River stops flowing near Canyon Lake. Photo by Polly Haberkorn.

The Canyon Lake release makes it clear that in a drought, the Guadalupe River system is already strained by current demands. If Victoria needs more water now, then clearly the Guadalupe River can't support the future demands of a major water user like Exelon.

Texans for a Sound Energy Policy Alliance (TSEPA) today questioned the logic of the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority's (GBRA) decision to extend its water reservation agreement with Exelon while simultaneously requesting others to conserve.

With the Guadalupe River Basin experiencing Stage 2 drought conditions, GBRA encouraged all users to limit their water usage. Additionally, GBRA was forced to increase the release rate from Canyon Lake into the Guadalupe River in order to meet the current water supply demands for its downstream user, the City of Victoria. At the same time, GBRA accepted $1.1 million from Exelon to reserve 75,000 acre-feet from the Guadalupe for its proposed nuclear power plant near Victoria.

"By acting as a water merchant and not a conservation authority, Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority (GBRA) is mismanaging this precious resource and failing as a steward of our precious water," says Jim Blackburn, environmental attorney for TSEPA. "The Canyon Lake release makes it clear that in a drought, the Guadalupe River system is already strained by current demands. If Victoria needs more water now, then clearly the Guadalupe River can't support the future demands of a major water user like Exelon."

The extension of the agreement coincides with Exelon's decision to delay its plans to build a nuclear plant in Victoria County. The Chicago-based energy company announced last week that it will no longer seek a construction and operating license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and instead seek an early site permit. An early site permit requires "a fairly competent water supply" according to an Exelon spokesman.

TSEPA points out that to date, neither GBRA nor Exelon has made an effort to conduct studies that would analyze the potential impact of their reservation agreement. The reservation allocates over 24 billion gallons of water from the Guadalupe each year to the energy company.

As of June 30, 2009 significant portions of the Guadalupe-Blanco River Basin are in an exceptional drought. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, water levels in the Guadalupe-Blanco River Basin are at less than 5% of the average stream flow for this time of year. The U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook predicts that the current drought affecting the basin will only intensify.

"By proceeding with their plans, GBRA and Exelon appear to be turning a blind eye to the frailty of this river system exposed by the current drought," said Blackburn." Texans from the Hill Country to the Bay depend on this river--for tourism, for agriculture, for industry, and for the habitat necessary to maintain the endangered whooping cranes that winter in the San Antonio Bay. We simply cannot afford to have such a big user downstream."

TSEPA's mission is to support a Texas energy supply policy that is reasonable, sustainable, and environmentally sound. To learn more about TSEPA, visit http://www.speakupvictoria.com.

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