County Judge George Briant reported progress this week on efforts to perform a reclamation project at drought-depleted Lake Marvin.
The lake near Canadian is operated by the USDA Forest Service. Once a popular recreational area—and the centerpiece in Canadian’s Annual Fall Foliage Festival—Lake Marvin has been depleted by three years of drought, and its recharge affected by several beaver dams that block the springs that feed it.
At the urging of commissioners, Judge Briant said he had contacted the Panhandle’s pre-eminent and perhaps only surviving dragline operator, Raymond Henry, to discuss what needs to be done at the local lake. Henry has done a lot of work for Boone Pickens on water projects at his Roberts County Ranch, and “understands how those things work,” Briant said.
Realizing that the first obstacle, would be dealing with the federal government, Briant said he contacted Forest Service officials in Oklahoma and found them receptive to the idea of the reclamation project. They were surprised, though, at the scale of project Hemphill County officials envisioned, and concerned about the environmental issues that might represent obstacles to the project.
“As we all know,” Briant said, “they have to jump through some hoops.”
Henry recommended that the county clean up the lake with draglines and trackhoes, rather than by dredging. Judge Briant said some of the trees around the lake have been compromised by flooding in areas where beaver dams have backed the water up, and might need to be removed.
As it now stands, he said, county officials plan to meet again with Henry to discuss the plan in more detail, and the Forest Service will probably send out an environmental team to look at the proposed project. “It may take more time than we thought,” Briant said, “but I’m pleased that the commissioners are interested. They have tested the waters and gotten positive feedback from the public on the idea.”
The court also showed renewed interest this week in establishing a County Energy Reinvestment Zone (CETRZ), after a cursory examination of the program last month raised more questions than it answered. Judge Briant posed those questions to Allison, Bass & Associates, an Austin-based law firm. Among the answers he brought back to the table:
- According to TxDOT estimates, Hemphill County is eligible for a minimum of $1.9 million in funding, which is available to help with road improvements in areas impacted by the energy sector. Actual award grants may vary. Grants will be distributed to each county according to a set formula, with 20 percent based on weight tolerance permits, 20 percent on oil and gas production taxes, 50 percent on well completions and 10 percent on volume of oil and gas waste injections.
- Location of the zone does not dictate which roads are eligible for improvements. Once the zone is established, any road in the county can be improved using the funds, 80 percent of which are provided by the state and 20 percent by the county.
- There can be anywhere from 3 to 5 representatives on the advisory board overseeing expenditure of CETRZ funds. One of those members must represent the oil and gas industry, and two should be chosen to represent the public.
- The county can apply for the maximum in funding, and can scale back the project if the money awarded is less than requested.
- TxDOT’s oversight of the road projects amounts to an inspection to determine if each job is completed. Compaction tests and other quality controls are not required.
With clarification of those issues, commissioners agreed that the money available for road improvements might well justify creation of a CETRZ, and that the county’s 20 percent share of funding would be a good investment.
“We probably feel a little better about this now,” said Judge Briant. “This opens it up for everybody to be involved.”
The online application process for CTERZ funding extends from Friday, February 7-14