SWCD holds public scope meeting over dam rehab project

Parker County Soil and Water Conservation District board member Larry King stands in front of one of several presentations available at a scope meeting Monday to discuss the options for a rehabilitation project of Dam No. 33, located near Annetta.

The Parker County Soil and Water Conservation District hosted a public scope meeting this week detailing plans for a dam rehabilitation project in east Parker County.

The purpose of the meeting, which was co-sponsored by the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Parker County Commissioners Court, was to provide information on the dam rehab program, a timeline of the activities and various alternatives to be evaluated for rehab of the structure.

Clear Fork Dam No. 33, located about a mile southwest of Annetta on Hale Branch Road, provides flood protection from the Trinity River to county residents and the adjacent downstream flood plain.

"This was built in 1956 as a 'low hazard' dam," PCSWD Office Manager Wanda Carter said. "But now you've gotten to a point where people are building around it and housing additions, which makes it a high hazard because so many people are now downstream and around it."

Hazard classifications are not tied to a dam’s structural integrity in any way. Rather, the classifications are meant to quantify how much damage might occur downstream if a dam were to fail.

“Low hazard” structures have the potential to cause damage to agricultural land, farm buildings and rural roads. Structures classified as “significant hazard” have the potential to damage minor roads and utilities. “High hazard” structures have the potential to cause significant damage to urban structures, main highways and utilities as well as potential to cause loss of life.

Federal funding has been received to assist local sponsors in developing a plan to bring Dam No. 33 up to current safety regulations and design standards — a federal grant will take care of 65 percent of the cost and another grant from the state water board would pay 33 percent, leaving the cost to the county and local district 2 percent.

PCSWD members, NRCS staff and consultants from various other entities were on hand Monday to seek input and answer any questions from the public. Alternatives considered include: no action, dam removal, structural rehabilitation and nonstructural measures.

Studies on environmental and cultural resources are expected to take place in the fall, followed by a development of alternative plans, according to the project schedule. A draft plan followed by a public meeting is expected to take place in the spring of 2021, with a final plan set for the summer. The earliest construction start date would be spring 2023.

The dam is one of 34 flood control structures in Parker County. The reservoirs work like a spread out, mini version of big lakes along the Brazos River, effectively draining more than 80 square miles of the Trinity Watershed.

The Parker County Soil and Water Conservation District owns the easements necessary to operate and maintain these reservoirs, and has been around since 1941.

"A lot of people don't even realize that we exist," PCSWCD board member Larry King said.

Parker County SWCD does not have taxing authority and still functions as a grassroots volunteer group made up of agricultural landowners from different parts of the county who own land in the zone they represent and are actively engaged in farming or ranching.

For more information, visit parkercountyswcd.org or call 817-594-4672, ext. 3.

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