(Orange, Texas)

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October 9, 2012

Gravel pits could help LCRA with water supply


GARWOOD, Texas —

By comparison, lakes Travis and Buchanan currently hold 884,000 acre-feet of water.

Under the reservoir plan, the LCRA would divert some of that rainfall through its canals to the reservoirs, which could refill several times during the year.

The gravel pit pilot project has cost about $150,000 thus far. The chief cost is the $17,000-a-month rental costs of a trio of diesel pumps that can shoot 16,000 gallons of water a minute from the reservoir back into the canal system.

Lehrer Interests, the company that has long owned the land and is also intimately involved in Garwood's rice operations, is providing the old gravel pits for free.

"Let's try and do something with these gravel pits we've got," said Ralph Savino, Lehrer's chief executive officer.

For generations, miners have dragged up the thinly buried rock, which was beaten up and deposited by millennia of river action. Over several decades, deposits of silt appear to have more or less sealed the gravel pits being used in the LCRA project.

Like giant puddles, they carried a depth of 5 to 15 feet of water at any given time — enough to be home to bass, catfish and alligators.

Now flooded, they're as deep as 50 feet, said Mike Shoppa, LCRA's manager of irrigation operations.

Since April, LCRA has steered 5,500 acre-feet of water into the gravel pits and pumped out 3,000 acre-feet.

Jensen said the pilot project could turn into a "permanent endeavor."

"It's a cost-effective way to impound water," Jensen said.

Savino hopes the LCRA expands the project to other gravel pits. He estimated that about 1,800 acres of depleted gravel pits are near canals in the Garwood area. Mining on one 640 acre-tract will finish up in the next seven months or so, he said.

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