Rosenberg backs away from commercial wells for alternate water needs
By Betsy Dolan
The City of Rosenberg has scrapped its controversial plan to drill 10 commercial wells in Austin and Waller counties because new data showed an increased likelihood of subsidence, or land sinking.
Rosenberg and Richmond had been part of Electro Purification LLC’s well permit application with the Bluebonnet Groundwater Conversation District. The permit requested permission to drill the wells and truck millions of gallons of water to Rosenberg and Richmond as a way to meet the state mandated groundwater reduction requirements by 2016. The cities were hoping to find an alternative water source to building an expensive surface water treatment plant.
According to City Engineer, Charles Kalkomey, the city did receive a detailed review of the hydro-geological and geotechnical data for the proposed well field that did suggest some subsidence in Fort Bend County could occur as a result of the project. Subsidence can lead to an increased threat of flooding.
“Although this subsidence is significantly less than that predicted in the FBSD’s (Fort Bend Subsidence District) earlier report, we have said from the beginning of this project that if it was found to cause subsidence in Fort Bend County we would not continue to pursue it”, Kalkomey said.
The City Council’s action on January 7, effectively ends its partnership with Electro Purification. The City of Richmond will discuss the issue at their next meeting January 21.
The plan was controversial from the start and stoked concerns about subsidence and the quality and sustainability of the water supply in Austin and Waller counties. Austin County Precinct 1 Commissioner Reese Turner told the Sealy News that the FBSD’s initial report showed parts of the three counties could subside up to four feet and place communities including Sealy, Bellville and Wallis into the 100-year flood plane.
“That could have a devastating affect on the future of these communities,” Turner said.
Rosenberg Mayor Vincent Morales said the city will continue to look for alternate water sources while continuing to be protective of natural resources and taxpayer dollars. But he expressed frustration at the “bureaucratic hurdles” imposed on the cities by the FBSD in the form of tightened regulations over what constitutes acceptable alternative water sources. Last month, the two cities sued the FBSD over the issue.
“The issue at hand is not a ‘you should have to because we did’ situation. It is a matter of having the foresight to forge a unified vision for our collective future that allows Fort Bend County to maintain a measure of independence in terms of water supply”, Morales said.
Richmond and Rosenberg and other municipalities are under a mandate by the FBSD to reduce subsidence, which means finding alternatives to pumping groundwater in the district. All large water users in Texas must convert 30% of groundwater usage to an alternate source by 2016, and 60% to an alternate source by 2025.
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