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Health & Science

Battle Over Coal-Fired Plant in Matagorda County Continues

A battle over water rights continues in Matagorda County. A proposed coal plant would take more than eight billion gallons of fresh water every year from the lower Colorado River. But environmentalists say there just isn't enough water to support the plan. KUHF Health Science and Technology Reporter Carrie Feibel has more.



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The White Stallion Coal Plant would be built just south of Bay City, about 100 miles from Houston.

So far, the developers don’t have any of the permits they need.

One that will be critical is a contract with the Lower Colorado River Authority, or LCRA, to draw the water needed to generate electrical power.

Clara Tuma is a spokeswoman for the Authority:

“LCRA has water available to meet White Stallion’s request. LCRA has about 86,000 acre feet of water that is not already allocated. And of that, White Stallion is requesting up to 24,400 acre a year.”

On Wednesday, the LCRA will consider voting on a contract for the water.

The White Stallion developers would pay $55 million up front, plus yearly water fees.

But the Sierra Club wants the board to vote against the contract. Eva Hernandez is with the group. She says a coal plant is a poor use for dwindling river flow.

“The bottom line here is that we all know burning coal for electricity is just obsolete, it causes too much pollution and frankly uses too much water. Instead we need to look at ways to preserve our precious water resource for truly vital human needs, especially right now in this time of extreme drought.”

In Matagorda County, the river water is shared among ranchers, rice farmers, and the South Texas Project, a nuclear plant.

Shellfish and other wildlife in the coastal bays also need infusions of freshwater to survive.

Dr. Lauren Ross is an engineer that conducted a water supply study for the Sierra Club. She says the LCRA’s water computations don’t consider the harsh effects of droughts – both present and future.

“No matter how they juggle water rights throughout the Colorado River there’s only a certain amount of water that’s there. The forecast for climate change suggests that the amount of water that’s there is certainly going to be less.”

Tuma says, however, that the LCRA plans to build a new reservoir along the lower part of the river, and that will help supply the coal plant and the rest of Matagorda County.

The authority board members may or may not vote on the actual contract Wednesday, but Tuma says it will certainly be discussed.

From the KUHF Health Science and Technology Desk, I’m Carrie Feibel.