Julie did an excellent job on the over-all article, however, the wrong amount of water being lost down the river annually was incorrect. The figure of 325,000 gallons annual water loss is only the amount of one acre foot of water. The correct figure should have been based on l,591,597.0 acre feet of water over the 60+ year time frame, since the flood in 1941-1942, as measured at the USGS check point at Girvin, Texas. This would compute to an average of around 26,500+ acre feet annually and continuing as of the year 2000. This figure does not include the water loss from 1940-1943, which was over a million acre feet in itself. By combining the two figures of water loss, the annual water loss would be an average acre feet of 52,489. One acre foot of water is 12 inches of water covering 1 acre of land.
Please print a correction notice and place it on the front page of your paper in order to dispel all of the misconceptions that will arise out of this error. The figures are to important for the people of this West Texas area for them to not completely understand what water loss is occurring in the Pecos Alluvial and the Monument-Lindrith Acquifers.
Thank you so much.
P. O. Box 222
Grandfalls, Texas 79742
The Monahans News Editorial
EFFORT TO SAVE
Ward County this week joined the growing list of governmental entities along the historic Pecos River to endorse an effort being led by Grandfalls resident Donald Howell to replace the washed out Zimmerman Dam.
We salute the commissioners, along with the Monahans Chamber of Commerce, Monahans Economic Development Corp. and other local governing bodies that have signed onto Howell's campaign to revitalize the meandering river that is so closely tied to life in this unforgiving region of the state. He has compelling evidence the water flowing down the Pecos is not river water from New Mexico--that state isn't sending any water to Texas via the Pecos--but rather a flow from underground acquifers directly into and down the Pecos to the Rio Grande.
Howell's plan for the Pecos, which forsees the rebuilding of Zimmerman Dam that washed out in a 1941 flood and a series of other dams that would hold water coming down the Pecos back in a small lake-like impoundment, should be called "visionary". He forsees a Pecos River that not only can sustain life and agriculture for an area encompassing 10 counties, 11 cities and seven irrigation districts, but a vital resource that could spark a new recreation area for this vast region of the state that so many people west of Abilene write off as "meaningless" and "desolate" or worse.
Can't see it? Maybe you lack Howell's knowledge of the history in this area. Or perhaps you just don't believe there are enough people out in this part of Texas to justify the time commitment and legwork such an effort entails.
We, on the other hand, live in this region. Our children were raised here and most of us were, too. It's not quite the same as when seen from the cabin of a Southwest Airlines jetliner at 32,000 feet as it is when you walk the streets of Monahans, Grandfalls, Pecos, Mentone, Fort Stockton, Crane and the other communities, talk to the people, share their fears and hopes and know that the water you rely on is gradually being depleted.
Can we turn it around at this point? Maybe not, but we don't know many West Texans who will throw up their hands and go down without a fight. Water is getting scarce, but the land is still here and a lot of us know how fabulous this area can be with an ample supply of groundwater.
So, we gladly join Don Howell, the Ward County Commissioners and others in this region in calling for the rebuilding of Zimmerman Dam, and for Gov. Rick Perry to do all he can to insure and conserve our natural resources for future Texans. One of those resources is the Pecos River.
Wednesday, 23 July 2003
Crane commissioners hear dam rebuilding plan
By Bob Campbell
Grandfalls water conservation activist Don Howell asked Crane County commissioners on Tuesday to join Pecos, Ward and Winkler counties and support damming the Pecos River in southeast Ward County.
The 73-year-old retired El Paso Natural Gas plant manager said replacing a dam that washed out in the early 1940s would help recharge the Pecos River Basin Alluvial Aquifer and Monument Draw Aquifer, restoring much of the river's 29,560-square-mile watershed to its once-verdant state.
County Judge Donnie Henderson said after the 9 a.m. presentation that Commissioners Lewis Overton, Domingo Escobedo and Mickey Hurst will study the proposal and take action at a future meeting. Commissioner Jack Damron was absent.
Pecos Valley rancher Tiny Earp said such a project would require a series of dams and challenged Howell's assertion that one dam would raise the meandering river by 20 to 25 feet for 40 land miles.
Assisted by his wife, Bertha, and daughter, Karen Keith of Amarillo, Howell used a video presentation to make his case, showing photographs of the depleted river and charts of the aquifers.
"Shaped as a pair of lungs," he said, the Monument Draw Aquifer lies east of its Pecos River Basin cousin and would be in danger of pollution from a nuclear waste repository planned in western Andrews County.
Howell is in the opening stage of soliciting support from local governmental entities and doesn't know how much a new dam would cost. He said state and federal funds will be sought, but local entities will be asked for however much help they can provide.
Bertha Howell said they have already appealed to commissioners in Pecos, Ward and Winkler counties, who either endorsed the plan or indicated they will do so and forward supportive resolutions.
They have also appeared before a number of water conservation district boards, chambers of commerce and other groups, she said.
Howell said the old concrete Zimmerman Dam in southeast Ward County, adjacent to southwest Crane County, served its purpose from its construction in the early 20th century until it was washed out in an early 1940s flood.
"It maintained a level in the river channel," he said. "It was wide enough for two Model Ts or two wagons and teams or horses, and it had quite a bit of traffic on it."
He said 10 counties, 11 cities, seven irrigation districts "and any number of industrial plants" take water from the aquifers, which, except for precipitation, are all that feed the river.
Howell managed three El Paso plants in the Hobbs, N.M., area prior to his retirement
Sunday, 27 July 2003
The issues behind the Andrews waste site
By Ruth Friedberg
A state agency is in the process of writing rules for a private company to operate a low-level radioactive waste disposal facility.
Environmentalists are still trying to stop the site from being permitted citing concerns about water table contamination, transportation and security.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality should be ready to take proposals from companies by next June, said agency spokeswoman Adria Dawidczik.
People can comment on the rules until they are brought before TCEQ commissioners on Aug. 6, she said. Area residents can keep up with things on the TCEQ Web site.
Once a proposal is decided on, about a year from now, a hearing will be held providing another chance for people to comment.
Open for business
Waste Control Specialists already operates a low-level radioactive storage facility in western Andrews County and wants to operate a disposal facility as well.
Tim Barney, senior vice president with Envirocare in Salt Lake City, Utah, said his company will decide in the next few months whether it wants to apply for a license to operate a waste facility in Texas as well. Barney said the company sold a site to Waste Control Specialists and had an option on another site near Monahans which it let expire.
Envirocare currently operates a low-level radioactive waste site about 80 miles west of Salt Lake City.
Kent Hance, chairman of the Waste Control board, said licensing would take three to four years.
Texas lawmakers passed legislation this past session enabling a private entity to get a license to dispose of low-level radioactive waste, Hance said.
Hance was in town last week to talk about the status of efforts to get the license and offer information about it. He said the process of getting the license is "very thorough."
Hance said the company is applying for one permit for two landfills that would operate side by side. One site would be for material from the U.S. Department of Energy and the other would be material from Texas, Vermont and Maine under the interstate Waste Compact.
Waste Compact material would be mostly medical waste such as boots, rubber gloves and suits. Some of the waste would come from nuclear plants. Federal waste would be dirt.
Low-level radioactive waste can be transported by dump truck (with a covering) or by railroad, said Mike Woodward, an attorney for Waste Control Specialists.
Waste Control plans to dig an initial concrete-lined hole 1,500 feet square and 75 feet deep. Right below the surface is 800 feet of clay. Hance said there are also monitor wells around the site and sump pumps that pump the water into a holding well when it rains.
The pit would hold 6 million cubic yards of waste. Only 600,000 cubic yards of waste will have high levels of radioactivity.
Hance said Waste Controls would file an application in January, and TCEQ will start processing them in July. Hance said both sites would open at the same time probably in 2007.
"It'll be up to the agency. We'll have to prove we can do it in a manner that's safe to the public," Hance said.
He said there are 1,550 sites producing radioactive material and 63 storage sites in Texas.
Waste Control's storage facility has been operating for six or seven years on a permit from the U.S. Department of Energy. It employs 72 people, Hance said.
If it got the disposal facility, that number would rise to 150 to 200 employees, Hance said.
Andrews City Manager Glen Hackler said the community got together eight or 10 years ago to get this type of industry to the area to help diversify the economy. "Community support has been very good," he said, adding that a number of delegations have gone to Austin to pursue legislation enabling the site.
Hackler said people saw it as a chance to add higher-paying jobs to the economy. Lloyd Eisenrich, president of the private, nonprofit Andrews Industrial Foundation, said the median per capital income in Andrews was about $36,000 a year in the 2000 census.
Community leaders approached Hance when he was a U.S. Congressman to get a radioactive storage facility in Andrews County, Eisenrich said.
This was back in the early 1980s when diversification became a big issue and oil prices were falling, Eisenrich said.
Susan Jablonski, low-level radioactive waste specialist for TCEQ, said there is a lot of public interest in radioactive waste disposal. "We're trying to involve as many stakeholders as possible," she said.
Fran Sage, conservation chair of the Big Bend Regional Sierra Club, said environmentalists are concerned about the state giving up a radioactive waste license and letting a private company have it, thereby giving up a certain degree of control.
Ken Kramer, state director of the Sierra Club in Austin, said Waste Control wants the cheapest type of disposal. "Basically what they're going to be doing is throwing the stuff in the ground and burying it," Kramer said. "They'll profit from it and leave the state of Texas and the taxpayers holding the bag."
Hance refuted that claim. He said Waste Control has to put up bonds and financial assurance. "We have financial assurance from the first day to take care of closing," he said.
Kramer said the Sierra Club would prefer an aboveground facility where waste could be removed and rendered harmless as technology changes over the years and centuries.
"The Sierra Club is against anything nuclear. The key is this is going to be decided by science, not by the emotions of people who know nothing about it or choose to ignore the facts," Hance said.
Hance said an aboveground facility would make it easier for someone to steal material and would be more subject to tornadoes.
Kramer acknowledges that the Sierra Club has a tough fight to defeat the facility, but he said the last 20-plus years have shown "it's not easy" to get one of these sites approved.
Environmentalists have said the site is over the Ogallala water aquifer, but Hance said Waste Controls has drilled more than 100 testing wells and the Andrews Industrial Foundation, a nonprofit corporation, hired Texas Tech Water Resources Center to do a study. Hance said the study showed the site is not over the aquifer. He added that liquids would not be put in the landfill.
Karen Keith, Webmaster for Friends of Ward County, said her grassroots group is afraid the radioactive material could leak into the Pecos alluvial aquifer. She added that the site is actually five miles outside of Eunice, N.M., at the edge of Andrews County. If leakage occurred, she said, it could pollute the Pecos River into the Rio Grande.
Sage adds that this is not just a local matter.
"This is not just whether one town in the state of Texas wants this. It's an issue for the whole state," Sage said.
Sunday July 20, 2003
Man on mission
By Julie Breaux
GRANDFALLS Don Howell stands near the end of a slab of broken concrete that once formed part of the Zimmerman Dam and admits he can't seem to shake the memory of the dam, and he's obsessed with the Pecos River running beneath it.
"My wife, Bertha, says it's haunted me ever since she's known me, and that's over 50 years," said Howell, a lifelong resident of this community of about 390 souls some 30 miles south of Monahans, in far southeast Ward County.
What Howell can't let go of is the millions of gallons of surface and groundwater the Pecos River has drained from Ward and Pecos counties as it meanders southwest to the Rio Grande at Langtry.
Since the dam washed out more than 60 years ago, Howell estimates this once-thriving agricultural region has lost 325,000 gallons every year.
A replacement dam would staunch the flow, which in turn would raise the river's level and replenish tapped out groundwater from the two aquifers flanking the Pecos in West Texas, said Howell, a Grandfalls City Councilman, chairman of the Ward County Republican Party and a beekeeper to boot.
Ector County stands to benefit as well from stabilized groundwater because the western portion overlays those two aquifers, Howell said.
"It would be a whole lot better with more sweet water running in that river," Howell said.
'A beautiful valley'
At 70, Howell remembers when the Pecos River Valley was rife with fruit trees, vegetables, grain and cotton.
"It was a very productive and beautiful valley," Howell said.
Tiny Earp, a second-generation Pecos Valley rancher, remembers it that way, too.
"They just had an abundance of water and, by golly, they had palm trees growing, Earp said. "They thought it'd be larger than the Imperial Valley in California."
But increased irrigation farming along the Pecos in New Mexico and West Texas and a drought that shows no sign of easing have prompted Howell to sound the alarm.
"If we don't do something to stop the loss down the river and retain some of the watershed, eventually, if we stay in drought conditions like we have been, we will have not water in West Texas."
Doing something means replacing the Zimmerman Dam with one that would slow the river's flow, not stop it, Howell said.
brush, rock & bedrock
Permanent settlers of the Pecos Valley began building dams of brush and rock in the 1870s, according to an account in "Pecos County History."
After the Texas Legislature in 1875 passed an act encouraging the construction of an irrigation system along the Pecos in West Texas, investors and townsite developers bankrolled three irrigation projects in Ward and Pecos counties.
In 1909, migrant laborers began building the Zimmerman Reservoir on the Pecos; 13 years later the dam was completed. Stored water flowed to farmers via a main canal carved out of bedrock, according to the book.
In the 1920s and '30s, farmers in the Pecos Valley were blessed by abundant rains, Earp said. But beginning in the fall of 1941, the rains came and didn't stop until the spring of '42. Floodwater covered the valley. When the water receded, the Zimmerman Dam was gone.
The two irrigation districts affected by the washout agreed to share the nearby Imperial Reservoir, Howell said. The Zimmerman lakebed dried up and today is dotted with pumpjacks.
Earp said the irrigation districts actually abandoned the reservoir because it was too shallow and wide.
"It was abandoned because it was so inefficient," Earp said. "It had such a tremendous loss of water, they couldn't afford to keep it. That's the reason they went to the one they're using now."
Howell agreed the Imperial Reservoir is more efficient but said he doesn't want to replace the Zimmerman Dam for irrigation. He wants to build a dam to slow, not stop, the flow of the river as it meanders through West Texas.
Visions of grandeur?
By slowing the Pecos in West Texas, the precipitation that falls within the 29,000-square-mile Pecos River Watershed would be preserved, Howell said.
Without a dam, "any rainwater we catch falls on in and goes down the river," Howell said. "That's the purpose of the dam."
As an added bonus, Howell said the weight of water collected behind the dam would "push back" water into the overused aquifers, which rely solely on rainfall for their recharge.
The payoff could be the rebirth of the Pecos Valley, he said.
"Maybe I have visions of grandeur," he said. "But there are a lot of things that could happen if we got it full. We could capitalize on the fact that we have enough surface water. Plus the fact that we might get a certain amount of (groundwater) recharge over a certain amount of time."
A recharge would help stabilize groundwater supplies in the 10-county Pecos River Valley, including part of Ector County, Howell said. And higher river levels would lure more boaters and anglers to the region than the low-running river attracts now.
sharing a dream
In the past two years, Howell has been sharing what he admits may be just a pipe dream with the members of 16 city councils, commissioners courts, economic development corporations, chambers of commerce and water improvement districts in West Texas. He has received resolutions in support of replacing the dam in Ward County from all 16 and is seeking eight more.
Howell has received commitments of more than $2,000 in cash and in-kind donations from governmental and private agencies.
Howell says he plans to use the money and any extra funds he receives in state or federal grants to conduct environmental and archeological studies of the area around the Zimmerman Reservoir and Dam.
The agencies that would or could be involved in the project are numerous, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the United States Department of Agriculture's Bureau of Reclamation or the USDA's Natural Resource Conservation Service, said Matt Bourgeois, chief of emergency management for the Albuquerque, N.M., district of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The corps typically oversees the engineering and construction of flood-control projects on navigable rivers and inland waterways, while the Bureau of Reclamation is in charge of water-supply projects, he said.
Recently, Howell hand-delivered two years of research on the dam and river to Ray Cisneros, a coordinator with the Pecos Valley Resource Conservation and Development Area in Monahans.
Formed in 1993, the PVRCD provides rural residents and organizations with technical and financial assistance in matters of resource conservation and development, Cisneros said.
Cisneros said he's been trying to guide Howell through the steps he needs to take to push the dam project forward.
"Certainly, if it gets to the point where they're going to construct it, we certainly might then try to find some foundations or grant monies," Cisneros said. "But he's a long way from getting to that point. He needs to get his ducks in a row."
Even if his efforts to rebuild a dam in Ward County fail, Howell said he would find solace in the fact that he's raised people's awareness about the plight of the Pecos and the dwindling water supplies in West Texas' river valley.
In the past two years since he bought a computer to document the loss of river flow, Howell said he's learned that very few people living in the Pecos Valley have ever heard of the Zimmerman Reservoir and Dam.
"What I'm doing is making the whole public aware," he said. "The whole countryside will understand that their potable water is slowly dissipating, getting away from them. And when we lose it, we're going to be in bad shape."
pictures provides by Dr. Charles R. Hart