Brushy Creek Regional Utility AuthorityFrequently Asked Questions
Q: What is the Brushy Creek Regional Utility Authority (BCRUA), when was it formed, and why?
A: The cities of Round Rock, Leander, and Cedar Park have created the BCRUA, a local governing authority, to meet their responsibilities to provide solutions to the growing demand for water as their populations grow. Instead of pursuing options individually, the cities determined in the fall of 2005 that a partnership–a regional utility authority–would provide a more cost-effective solution. Cedar Park and Leander currently obtain their water from Lake Travis pursuant to contracts with the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA). Cedar Park owns and operates a 26 million gallon per day (mgd) water treatment plant on Lake Travis. The LCRA provides treated water to Leander. The City of Leander’s plant is being expanded from 6 mgd to 12 mgd, and Round Rock’s plant provides 48 mgd. Planning projections indicate that all three cities will need additional water within the next three to seven years.
Q: How is the Utility Authority planning to address future water needs?
A: All three cities have purchased rights to water in Lake Travis from the LCRA. To access that water, the Utility Authority is planning the necessary intake structures and pipelines for a new water treatment plant that will be located in Cedar Park. The water treatment plant will have an initial capacity of 30 mgd and an ultimate capacity of 106 mgd. The project will be completed in phases.
Q: Why can’t the three cities partner with the City of Austin in its new intake structure to be built near the Oasis for Water Treatment Plant 4 (WTP 4)?
A: The BCRUA had seriously considered such a partnership. While it is true there could be an initial cost savings in sharing an intake structure, the cost of transporting the water from that site to the new treatment plant in Cedar Park is prohibitive and not a responsible use of taxpayer dollars. Preliminary estimates indicate the additional expense could be in excess of $200 million. Environmental concerns are another major obstacle since the pipeline would need to cross the protected habitat of the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve to serve the existing Cedar Park and Leander plants. A portion of this route has already been studied extensively and ruled out. Other factors negating a partnership include differing project schedules, traffic disruptions, and other impacts to residents and businesses.
Q: Why can’t the cities get additional water from other sources, like aquifers?
A: The City of Round Rock currently obtains its water supply from groundwater from the Edwards Aquifer and from contracts with the Brazos River Authority (BRA) for water from Lake Georgetown and Stillhouse Hollow Reservoir. Round Rock investigated additional water supply options in 2005. The alternative water sources included Lake Travis, additional water from BRA reservoirs, and three private groundwater proposals. Several combinations of options were investigated. The three most economical options were to draw water from Lake Travis in partnership with the City of Cedar Park. These three options resulted in annual costs that ranged from $48 million to $78 million less than the least expensive groundwater proposal. Furthermore, BRA is unable to supply enough water to meet all of Round Rock’s future needs, mandating the need for a supplemental source. This study resulted in the city’s current plan to pursue Lake Travis as a new water source.The State of Texas has been looking into ways to manage water resources for many years. Senate Bill 1, passed during the 75th Texas Legislative Session in 1997, authorized the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) to divide the state into 16 regional water-planning areas. The Brazos G Regional Water Planning Group (Brazos G) is one of the regional planning groups established by the TWDB to develop a regional water plan.The most recent water plan for Region G (January 2006) includes a detailed discussion of a supplemental water supply for Cedar Park, Leander, and Round Rock. Lake Travis is included as a planned supply for all three cities. The plan included a review of water supply sources available to the area. These were development of the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer in Burleson and Lee Counties (the Simsboro aquifer is part of this aquifer), additional water from the BRA’s reservoirs, and development of additional supply from Lake Travis.Groundwater development was considered for Round Rock and was again found to be less economical than Lake Travis water. Groundwater development was not included for Cedar Park and Leander since the long distance from available groundwater sources makes such an option infeasible. Groundwater is also less certain since the regulations for surface water are currently in place and well established, but the formation of new groundwater districts could have unexpected impacts on cities’ plans to meet future water demands. Additionally, water speculators have secured rights to large tracts of land and are actively marketing water. The long-term reliability of the well field serving this system has been questioned.The Brazos G plan did not identify additional water supplies from existing BRA reservoirs that would be available to Williamson County; although, a conjunctive use project (i.e., utilizing both groundwater and surface water) for Lake Granger was identified as a future water supply for the region starting in year 2050.Outside of the regional planning process, the BRA and US Army Corps of Engineers investigated reallocating a portion of the flood storage volume in several Corps of Engineers’ reservoirs, which might allow an increase in the firm yield of the reservoirs. This has not been approved by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and would also require federal reauthorization of the affected projects, so assuming that this water is truly available is speculative.
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Q: Won’t this project drain Lake Travis?
A: We understand that Lake Travis is an important and valued recreational resource. However, we must keep in mind that the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) created the lake decades ago, with the assistance of then Congressman Lyndon Johnson, to end disastrous flooding and provide a reliable source of water and electricity to residents throughout the lower Colorado River basin. This project will not drain Lake Travis. The Lower Colorado River Authority, holder of Lake Travis municipal and irrigation water rights, is required to conserve and supply water according to a water management plan developed by water supply experts and approved by the state of Texas. The rights to Lake Travis water to be used by the BCRUA are included in the LCRA’s projections of needs and water availability.
The LCRA holds water rights to the combined firm yield of Lakes Buchanan and Travis which is equal to 489 billion gallons of water a year. The LCRA apportions use of that water to its customers through contracts. Both reservoirs were constructed to serve as water supply reservoirs for Central Texas residents. Cedar Park, Leander, and Round Rock are planning to use a fraction of the water-about 13 percent when the project is completed-that LCRA makes available. The water rights permit, issued by the TCEQ, subject to TCEQ rules and regulations, has been thoroughly adjudicated. In addition, the TCEQ requires that the LCRA maintain a Water Management Plan for the Highland Lakes that ensures their operation during a drought in a manner that meets the terms of its water rights permit. The plan governs operation of Lakes Travis and Buchanan and is reviewed regularly to keep pace with growing water demands and improved information. LCRA, not the cities, is responsible for management of the Highland Lakes in accordance with their Water Management Plan and TCEQ water rights permit. Additional information on the Water Management Plan and updates can be found on the LCRA’s website (http://www.lcra.org/water/supply/wpm.html).
Phase 1 Questions:
Q: What will happen during the first phase of the project?
A: Phase 1 construction will include a temporary, floating raw water intake structure at Cedar Park’s plant on the Sandy Creek arm of Lake Travis, a new raw water pipeline proposed within the Trails End Road right of way, a new treatment plant, and a treated water pipeline. The proposed site of the plant is northwest of the intersection of Lime Creek Road and FM 1431 on the west side of Cedar Park. Also in Phase 1, a new, treated water transmission pipeline is planned across the north side of Cedar Park with delivery facilities for Cedar Park, Leander, and Round Rock. Cost is estimated at $160 million.
Q: When will construction begin on Trails End Road and how long will it take?
A: Construction is expected to begin in summer 2009 and be completed in 2011. The work will be done in sections so that the entire length of Trails End Road is not affected all at once. Work involving heavy machinery will take approximately 18 months. The total construction time including site preparation, final testing, inspections, and cleanup is estimated at 24 months.
Q: How will the pipeline be installed in Trails End Road?
A: The 78-inch (6 ½ foot) pipeline will be tunneled under the Sandy Creek Arm of Lake Travis to the south end of the right-of-way of Trails End Road. Open cut and cover methods will be used within the right-of-way of Trails End Road to its intersection with RM 1431. This will typically require excavation of a trench with a width of approximately 10 feet and a depth of 14 feet. After the pipe is installed, the trench will be filled and the ground will be compacted back to its original elevation.
Q: Can all the work be contained within the Trails End Road right-of-way?
A: No. The right of way is 80 feet wide and the contractor will generally be allowed to use only half of it, or 40 feet. In order to construct the pipeline in a cost-effective manner, the contractor will generally need a total width of about 70 feet for temporary storage of pipe materials, equipment working room, etc. Consequently, an additional 30-foot wide temporary construction easement will generally be required from property owners on the side of the road where the pipe is being constructed.
Q: What route, exactly, will the pipeline take? We’re concerned about the pipeline going through the middle of our properties.
A: The pipeline will generally be located between the edge of road and the property line within the right-of-way and will be on different sides of the road at different locations depending on the location of existing underground utilities, overhead power lines, and nearby structures.
Q: Why does it cross from the west side to the east side?
A: To minimize conflicts with overhead power lines, existing vegetation, and other surface obstructions.
Q: How will the construction affect the flow of traffic on Trails End Road? Will a temporary lane be constructed? A particular concern is ensuring emergency vehicles have access.
A: Two lanes will be open most of the time, except when pipeline construction crosses from one side of Trails End Road to the other. During such time, one lane will be closed at a time and traffic will be controlled using a flagman to temporarily stop traffic in one direction at a time. Such lane closures will be scheduled during non-peak travel times.
Q: How will the construction impact access to my driveway?
A: The contractor will be required to maintain access to driveways at all times. The only exception is when pipe needs to be installed directly in front of a driveway. In such a case, a resident’s driveway will be shut down for a short period of time (estimated at two to four hours). You will be contacted well in advance of the need to close your driveway to coordinate a convenient time that does not create an undue hardship.
Q: What will you do to ensure travel is safe during construction? Trails End Road has a lot of curves.
A: Safety measures such as barricades, proper signage, and speed limits will be in place as approved by Travis County and other pertinent jurisdictional entities. In addition, barriers will be installed between the construction and the roadway to protect the construction workers and vehicles traveling on Trails End Road.
Q: What impact will the construction have on drainage? We’ve experienced drainage problems as a result of the LCRA pipeline project.
A: The contractor will be required to maintain adequate drainage during the entire construction period. This may require installation of temporary culverts, grading of ditches, etc. Following construction, all roadside ditches, culverts and other drainage structures will be restored to their original condition or better.
Q: What about impacts to our septic tank and drain field?
A: The exact locations of drain fields will be determined prior to construction. Construction areas will be limited so as not to impact existing drain fields.
Q: What provisions will be made in the design to prevent groundwater from just migrating down through the large trench line? That would alter the natural flow of water and could result in damage to existing vegetation. What about contamination to our wells?
A: The direct impact to groundwater should be limited since the trench is only about 14-feet deep in most places. Also, because the pipeline is being constructed near the existing road, the amount of storm water crossing the trench will be very limited. As a result, the alteration of natural flow of storm water will be very minor and will not have an impact on existing vegetation.
Q: Will construction damage the foundation of my home?
A: Construction will be limited to the 70-foot working area. Blasting will not be used as a means of excavation for this pipeline project.
Q: Will my fence or mailbox need to be removed? A: In some cases, it may be necessary to temporarily remove existing fences to allow construction. In such cases, the contractor will be required to install a temporary fence. The original fence will be replaced to its original condition or better following construction. If a mailbox needs to be removed, it will be relocated to a nearby convenient location so it can remain in use. After construction, the mailbox will be replaced to its original location in its original condition or better.
Q: Will trees need to be removed within the 30-foot wide temporary construction easement?
A: Yes. However, it is the intent of the BCRUA to protect and preserve all hardwood trees greater than 12-inches in diameter within the temporary easement area.
Q: How will the area be restored following construction?
A: Areas adjacent to the limits of construction will be photographed before any construction begins. If existing structures, etc. are damaged during construction, they will be repaired or replaced to original condition or better. Ground cover and structures disturbed by construction will also be restored to original condition or better. For example, all sodded areas will be re-sodded following construction, and all driveway culverts removed during construction will be reconstructed, etc. After all construction has been completed, Trails End Road will be repaved along its entire length.
Q: Will there be any visible signs of the pipeline?
A: At certain locations along the pipeline, manholes will be visible at the ground surface. Air release valves will be located inside these manholes and are required for proper operation of the pipeline.
Q: Can I connect to the line once it is completed?
A: No. This will be a raw water pipeline, which will be used to transfer untreated water from Lake Travis directly to the new BCRUA Regional Water Treatment Plant for treatment. It will not carry drinking water.
Treatment Plant Questions:
Q: What is a water treatment plant?
A: A water treatment plant is a facility that takes raw water from a lake or other source, treats it to safe drinking water standards, and sends it for distribution to homes and businesses. (A water treatment plant does not process wastewater).
Q: How big is the treatment plant site?
A: The treatment plant site as currently planned is approximately 39 acres. This includes landscape buffers around the site’s property line.
Q: Why did you choose this site?
A: The treatment plant site is located on property that is zoned light industrial and/or shown as light industrial on the City of Cedar Park’s land use plan. This site is large, flat and not affected by the 100-year floodplain. Needed roads and utilities are already in place. Access to the property is along FM 1431 rather than neighborhood streets. And, the site is convenient to distribution lines and a planned new water intake line. Therefore, the site minimizes possible construction impacts while at the same time reduces some construction costs. In addition, the site is advantageous for environmental reasons. It is out of the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve and does not have endangered species. The proposed site does not contain surface water features, wetlands or historical features.
Q: What buildings and other facilities will be constructed on the site?
A: There will be a water treatment process structure, ground storage tank, disinfection facilities, residuals handling facilities, pump station, and an elevated storage tank.
Q: What type of fencing or other containment will be constructed around the site?
A: As required by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) for security purposes, there will be an intruder-resistant fence around the site. The project team is also contemplating an 8 ft precast concrete privacy fence adjacent to the property line which will meet applicable city codes.
Q: Are there any neighborhoods close by?
A: The site is located near the Gann Ranch neighborhoods and the Indian Springs neighborhood.
Q: How close will the nearest residence be to a plant building or other type of facility?
A: In Phase 1, the nearest residence will be 500 feet away from the nearest treatment structure. When the site is completely built out, the nearest residence will be 280 feet away from the nearest treatment structure.
Q: Will residents be able to see buildings and structures on the site?
A: The site as proposed provides as much as 12 ft. landscape buffers between the developed site and property lines of the single-family developments. Residents in some houses at the southwest corner of the Preserve at Gann Ranch will be able to see over the Gann Ranch detention pond into the proposed site and may be able to view some structures. The elevated storage tank likely will be visible above the trees that will remain in the landscape buffer.
Q: Are there other similar water treatment plants in Central Texas (i.e., plants in relative proximity to residences)?
A: Two examples are owned by the City of Austin. Residences in West Lake Hills border the Ullrich Water Treatment Plant. The plant was constructed in 1969 and has a capacity of 167 million gallons per day (mgd). Neighbors on three sides surround the Davis Water Treatment Plant, a 118 mgd plant located on West 35th Street and built in 1954. Because of Austin’s hilly terrain, both water treatment plants have neighbors who view the plants from above. Property values have continued to rise in both of these highly desirable neighborhoods.
Q: Will there be bad odors coming from the plant?
A: No, because there are no odors associated with a water treatment plant.
Q: Will chlorine be used at the facility?
A: Yes. In drinking water treatment, chlorine is primarily used as a disinfectant and microbiological control in the distribution system. Since the use of chlorine began in the early 1900s, waterborne diseases such as cholera and typhoid fever have been virtually eliminated in the United States, making chlorination one of the most important processes in water treatment.
Q: What chlorine safety measures will be in place?
A: The type of chlorine that will be used at the plant is a liquid chlorine similar to household bleach. The liquid chlorine will be stored in tanks on site and the tanks will have a secondary containment system that will prevent any potential leaks from leaving the storage facilities.
Q: What about the transportation of chlorine? Isn’t that dangerous?
A: In using the liquid form of chlorine bleach, transportation concerns are minimized.
Q: Once the plant is completed, will there be a lot of noise from its operation?
A: There will not be much noise generated in the operation of the Regional Water Treatment Plant. The loudest noise will be from the typical backup horns used on delivery trucks at the facility.
Q: Will there be a lot of traffic in and out of the plant?
A: Traffic will access the site via FM 1431 and Hur Industrial Boulevard. Apart from routine deliveries during normal business hours, there will not be much traffic in and out of the plant site. There will only be three to six personnel on the site at any given time.
Q: What about bright lights?
A: The Regional Water Treatment Plant will normally not have any more light than a residential development. The design of the exterior lighting system will include shielded fixtures to minimize nuisance lighting.
Q: What agency oversees the operation and safety of a water treatment plant?
A: The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ).
Q: When will construction of the plant begin and how long will it take?
A: Construction is expected to start in summer of 2009 and be completed by fall 2011.
Q: Will blasting be necessary for construction?
A: No, blasting will not be allowed on the construction site.
Q: What about other noise and dust from the machinery?
A: During construction there will be noise from excavation equipment, cranes, concrete trucks, etc. Most of the construction activity will take place more than 100 feet away from the property line. The construction specifications dictate that dust will be controlled.
Q: Will traffic be impacted during construction?
A: Access to neighborhood streets will not be impacted. All traffic to the site will use FM 1431 and Hur Industrial Boulevard.
Q: Will I have opportunities to hear more and offer input?
A: Yes, we will provide opportunities for you to discuss the project with key project team members during the important site design phase and, again, prior to the start of construction. We welcome and appreciate constructive suggestions, no matter what the source. Should you have immediate questions, do not hesitate to call the project hotline at (512) 684-3200.
Phase 2A Questions:
Q: What happens in the next phase of the project?
A: Phase 2A of the project involves the construction of a new, fixed, deep-water intake structure in Lake Travis and a raw water pipeline to the new plant. Cedar Park’s and Leander’s existing floating intakes are located on the Sandy Creek arm of Lake Travis. If the drought had continued this year, the current floating intakes would have been grounded.
Q: When will the permanent intake structure be completed?
A: The permanent deep-water intake structure is planned for completion in 2013. It will have an ultimate capacity of 142 mgd. Phase 2B of the project which involves expansion of the treatment plant is expected to be needed in 2016.
Q: Why will the intake facility be larger than the new treatment plant?
A: In addition to supplying raw water to the new regional plant, the facility will supply water to the two existing plants owned by Cedar Park and LCRA/Leander during critical drought periods.
Q: Where might the proposed permanent intake structure be located, and why was that location chosen?
A: There has been no final decision made on a site. However, a study of seven alternative sites for the intake, results of which were presented to the BCRUA Board in May 2008, deemed a site at Bernard Road in the Village of Volente as the best choice based on a variety of studied criteria. The study and location map can be found in the Documents section of the BCRUA website, specifically in the Deep Water Intake Study.
Q: What might the structure look like and will it negatively impact the neighborhood with excessive lighting, noise, and other disruption?
A: A final decision on the type of intake structure has not been made. The project team is considering building structures similar to ones at the Canyon Reservoir and the Stillhouse Hollow Reservoir. Photographs are included in the Documents section of the website. Whatever the ultimate design may be, a top priority of the project team is to minimize impacts to nearby residents. The goal is for the structure to be aesthetically pleasing and acceptable to the neighborhood.
Q: What about noise and lights?
A: If a structure is built similar to the one at the Canyon Reservoir, engineers expect noise to be minimal, somewhat like a residential air conditioner, because machinery will be housed within the building and the pump itself will be submersed. Light shields are planned to reduce unnecessary illumination. The Stillhouse Hollow Reservoir structure design is known as a tower intake, which has a tall platform built in the lake with the pumps suspended below it. A bridge connects the platform to shore and has the raw water pipeline and power conduits suspended beneath. The platform usually has walls to enclose the equipment.
Q: Will blasting be required for construction?
A: If the structure is built onshore, engineers believe blasting may be needed for construction of underground shafts. However, no blasting will be required for general construction.
Q: What effect might an intake structure on shore have on nearby wells?
A: The proposed intake structure is expected to have no adverse impact on wells. It is possible the raw water pipeline could have impacts depending on depth and proximity to wells. Any potential impacts will be fully researched and mitigation will be implemented, if necessary.
Q: What about safety?
A: Because the structure is for raw water intake and not treatment, the transportation of potentially hazardous chemicals to and from the facility will not be required. Small vehicles will have access to the facility for routine maintenance.
Q: What will the project cost?
A: Phase 1 is expected to cost about $183 million. The deep-water intake and associated pipeline included in Phase 2A are estimated at $100 million. The ultimate cost of the regional project is estimated at about $354 million dollars.
Q: Will citizens be given an opportunity to provide input on the project?
A: The Brushy Creek Regional Utility Authority is committed to ongoing communications to discuss project alternatives, the pros and cons of alternative solutions, and the key issues in choosing one alternative over another. We also commit to openly discussing project impacts, including how we’re going to address problems our project may create. We have also established a blog on this site for people to ask questions and provide input to the project team.
For more information, please call (512) 218-3234.