Volente and Brushy Creek Regional Utility Authority discuss deep-water intake project during Saturday town hall


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The Village of Volente and the Brushy Creek Regional Utility Authority held a town hall Saturday at the Volente Fire Department to discuss the proposed regional deep-water intake project.

History of the deep-water intake project

In April, Cedar Park City Council approved an agreement to authorize the BCRUA to expand and add to a joint water facility at Lake Travis, which provides water to Cedar Park, Leander and Round Rock, as part of a pending agreement with Austin-based engineers Walker Partners LLC. Leander and Round Rock city councils also approved the agreement.

The project will create a system to pump water from Lake Travis to a water treatment plant in Leander, and the water will flow through tunnels underground in Volente.

Cedar Park, Leander and Round Rock first met in 2005 to develop a three-phase regional water system that would deliver water to the cities for the next 50 years, and in 2007 the three cities formed the Brushy Creek Regional Utility Authority. Most of the water system’s first phase is complete, and continued expansion plans for deep-water intake facilities are expected to help address increasing demand for water, according to a plan outlined on the authority’s website.

The village of Volente and BCRUA signed a memorandum of understanding in 2012, agreeing to work together on the project, said Aaron Archer, the project manager from Walker Partners, at Saturday’s meeting. A pump station for the deep-water-intake project was originally slated for a location near residents in Volente, but the agreement moved the future pump station to an area next to the existing Cedar Park water treatment plant in Sandy Creek Park, Leander.

Project details

At the June 10 meeting, Aaron Archer, the project manager from Walker Partners LLC, talked about the BCRUA’s upcoming steps for the deep-water intake project. He said two separate deep lake taps will be installed in Lake Travis, each with two screens at different elevations to draw in water.

One of the four screens will be used at a time, drawing water from the elevation with the best water quality, BCRUA General Manager Tom Gallier said. The tap can provide for a maximum capacity of 140 million gallons of water every day. Gallier said he expects the deep-water intake system to reach full capacity in 20-30 years.

Even if the BCRUA was taking its maximum daily capacity, water will enter the screen at a velocity of no more than a half-foot per second, Gallier said.

“There’s no risk of impingement—that means getting trapped in the screen,” Archer told Volente residents during his town hall presentation.

Water will be pumped through a 9,000-foot-long intake tunnel with an 8-foot diameter, 100-350 feet below ground. In order to construct the tunnel, the BCRUA needs to acquire approximately 20 underground easements in Volente, Archer said. Wells cannot be constructed within the easement, but Gallier and Archer said that will be the only restriction.

The tunnel will be constructed by a tunnel boring machine. Two temporary drop shafts 12 inches in diameter will be installed to deliver concrete to the tunnel below, with 12 concrete deliveries each day for six to 10 weeks, Archer said.

A maintenance building is scheduled to be constructed near Bernard Street and Terrell Street in Volente to control invasive mussels, which could disturb the intake system, Archer said. A future Bernard Street extension will provide access to the facility. To control the mussels, the BCRUA will use two liquid chemicals: sodium permanganate and sodium hypo chlorite, or liquid bleach. The chemicals will be kept inside the building with safety precautions in place, Archer said.

Upcoming action

Introduction letters and right of entry requests are going to be sent to individuals who own property along the planned underground line this month, Archer said.

Acquiring easement is “probably the single biggest effort in this next work phase,” he said.

After meeting with property owners, the BCRUA will survey their land and then begin the process of appraisal and negotiation to attain easements. Surveying is scheduled to take place from late July through the end of 2017.

In July and August of this year, the BCRUA will be monitoring well construction. The authority is updating a groundwater study completed in 2016. The study surveys well locations for a well inventory, monitors water level and quality and develops strategies to reduce water table impacts during and after construction. Groundwater well sampling is planned for July 2017 to summer 2018.

The deep-water intake project probably breaks ground in 2021 or 2022, Tom Gallier said. Archer said it would take around five years to complete.

Volente Mayor Ken Beck said that the village is negotiating an inter-local agreement between the BCRUA and the village of Volente. The village will work with outside engineers and lawyers to craft the legal documents, Beck said, specifying what both parties want out of the relationship.

Citizen feedback

After Archer’s presentation, there was a question-and-answer session for Volente residents.

Concerns were raised about chemical delivery to the maintenance building and the effect of potentially large delivery trucks on the road. Archer said that details of such chemical deliveries have not been determined at the current stage of the project.

Residents asked about how BCRUA would minimize issues in neighborhoods near construction sites and if there would be any penalty to the contractors if their construction violated Volente’s requirements. Archer said these specifics would likely be included in any inter-local agreement, and Beck said Volente’s elected officials would consider citizen concerns while negotiating the agreement.

Several attendees asked about the benefits of the project to village residents. Beck said those benefits would be determined in the inter-local agreement, but the deal could potentially include Volente access to treated water. However, installing a system to deliver the water to residents’ homes could cost the village approximately $8 million, he said.

“Engineering presentations are wonderful but when the actual action starts happening […] that’s when reality hits, that’s when the tri-cities should be four cities,” Volente resident John Schlotzhauer said in reference to the partnership between Cedar Park, Leander and Round Rock. “Those of us that are actually in the work zone are a little unfavorable to this kind of project, which they have no control over.”

Schlotzhauer and other citizens said Volente should have a larger role in BCRUA’s decisions. Gallier said that he thought BCRUA has succeeded in involving Volente in recent years.

“I think we stumbled at the beginning [of the project in 2007] because we didn’t realize there were other communities that would be affected,” Gallier said earlier in the meeting.

Joyce Beck, the mayor’s wife, said that trust-building between the builders and the village is a “critical aspect” of the project.

“Volente has a voice,” she said. “We need to be involved in the decision-making related to the project. Our whole community is affected by it.”