U: Property owners association fighting Comanche Peak expansion

Greg Harman

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When folks gather to oppose the expansion of the South Texas Project nuclear complex in San Antonio, they run the risk of being called “communists,” as happened recently in the comments section of one local news site.

While the San Antonio protestors do include a smattering of “seasoned” activists generally not on friendly terms with the Party of Reagan, the majority of those carrying signs and speaking up at public meetings (as the more experienced activists would happily attest) are novices to such public demonstrations.

In North Texas, a fast-growing anti-nuclear effort is gathering steam without an ounce of concern its mostly middle- to upper-class Anglo members could be tarred with the “leftist” brush.

The Lake Granbury Waterfront Owners Association didn't form to fight Comanche Peak, but rather to stave off perceived unjust property-tax appraisals â?? appraisals that were being leveled concurrently with the worst drought since the 1950s.

For waterfront property owners whose home values are tied in no small way to the health of the water body they're built upon (above, right), it was the wrong time to lower the boom.

About the same time, Luminant Power announced it wanted to double the size of its two-reactor facility at Comanche Peak in Somervell County. The additional 3,400 megawatts of power, however, would run at a cost of about 55 million gallons of water a day.

Lake Granbury is unique among Texas lakes in that its water level has been near constant for years. Although the Brazos River Authority is busily distributing flyers to remind area residents that “Lake Granbury is a water supply reservoir and lake levels will fluctuate on a regular basis,” those who live here haven't lived with much by way of fluctuation in the past. That's one reason the docks weren't built as floating docks, but fixed.

I spent an afternoon with Randy Brock, steering committee member for the group. He explained how Luminant would pull 3.7 billion gallons out of the Brazos River every year above Lake Granbury and redeposit between one-third and one-forth of that back into the river below the lake. About 61,000 acre-feet of river water would be lost to evaporation each year.

Already down more than four feet from the drought, Granbury Lake would drop another foot-and-a-half from an expanded Comanche Peak, Brock said.

“We've got to be realistic about the needs of the city,” Association member Bretta Conaway tells me, as we chat at Granbury's Five-Star Sports Bar. “That means we're going to have to choose between water quality and water quantity and economic development.”

A study by Trungale Engineering & Science suggests the full impact of Luminant's water draw would not be as insignificant as the Brazas River Authority has suggested.

“The consumptive water use needed to expand the Comanche Peak project will result `in` substantial increases in the frequency, duration, and severity of failing to meet target environmental flow needs. Rather than result in a small impact as the applicant contends, increase diversions have the potential to have significant, negative impacts on the ecological health of the Brazos River.”

San Antonio faces a different water equation as it approaches a vote on whether to participate in the planned expansion of the South Texas Project nuclear complex outside Bay City. STP sits at the bottom of the Colorado River with a massive reservoir the water of which the facility is able to use repeatedly, reducing pumping from the river.


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