Update: Historic water agreement approved between Ballinger and Abilene

Celinda Hawkins Managing Editor Runnels County Register
Lake Fort Phantom, Abilene.

Issue: Additional water sources for the City of Ballinger.

Community impact: Providing four new sources of water for Ballinger for the next 80 years.

BALLINGER - The struggle to acquire a viable water supply for the City of Ballinger is officially over, after city officials landed and approved an agreement with the City of Abilene which will provide water for the next eight decades for the city.

On Monday the Ballinger City Council approved approve a water supply agreement with the City of Abilene that provide a much needed water supplies for the next 80 years and allow for the city to move forward with project and to promote economic development.

The new agreement was brokered by Ballinger City Manager Bryan Grimes and Abilene City Manager Robert Hanna and was wholeheartedly supported by the Ballinger City Council.

The resolution as approved and adopted by Abilene City Council on Thursday, Oct. 26, approves a water supply and infrastructure partnership between the two cities. Under this plan, Ballinger will have the ability to receive water from multiple sources, including Abilene’s Lake Fort Phantom, Hubbard Creek Lake in Breckenridge and Possum Kingdom Lake in Palo PInto County as well as Lake O.H. Ivie and Lake Ballinger and Old Lake Ballinger.

Serious discussion on the approved plan, began almost a year ago, when Hanna approached Grimes with a plan to supply water to Ballinger.

“Hanna proposed a plan that would get the City of Ballinger twice as much water for half the price,” Grimes explained. “I want to give Robert Hanna all the credit in the world. He was an honest broker on the other side of the table and he recognized the value of doing this for Abilene and the value to Ballinger and he treated us like a partner and not a customer.”

Grimes also thanked Mayor Sam Mallory, Councilnan Phillip Arp, Mayor Pro-Tem Darlene Kelly and Randy Everett and added that he is “happy for the citizens here that we can point to a time in the future and that we’ve got water and that is the springboard for economic development and growth.”

Hanna said the agreement was a win-win for the City of Ballinger and Abilene.

“We believe it can serve as a model for other communities in Texas on how to work together for the public benefit,” Hanna said.

The agreement was born out of the aggressive search for water by Ballinger officials, who were considering the purchase of 1,250 acre feet of water rights from Lake Fort Phantom in Abilene. The

The memories of the city almost running out of water over the past 12 years are fresh on the minds of residents in Ballinger. In 2006, the city was days away from a complete water outage when a pipeline from Lake O.H. Ivie was connected and a contract with the Colorado Municipal Water District was put in place. One of the clauses in the original contract, dated in 2006, gives Ballinger an out, and says that the Lake Ivie water is a temporary supply and Ballinger is encouraged to find another source of water. The contract was dated 2006.

Currently, the City of Ballinger receives 500 acre feet of water, on Lake O.H. Ivie, from the Colorado River Municipal Water District (CRMWD) via a water supply contract with Millersview-Doole Water Supply Corporation (MDWSC) at a cost of $1.46 per 1,000 gallons.

“The supply agreement does not provide enough water to meet the demand for the nearly 2,000 water connections in the City of Ballinger Water System, Grimes explained. “This lack of supply, combined with consistent drought conditions, has put a tremendous financial burden on the City of Ballinger, which has been passed to Ballinger’s water customers. Today, the only source of water available to the City of Ballinger is Lake O.H. Ivie.”

Grimes said the plan is to get Ballinger out of the CRMWD contract as soon as possible, which he predicts will be about six months. Once the water starts coming from Abilene, the cost for Lake Ivie water coming from Abilene, will go down to .79 cents per 1,000.

However, John Grant, manager of CRMWD, said that the agreement that is currently in place is with the Millersview Doole Water Supply Corporation.

"We have not heard from anyone there," Grant said,

In January, the city was approved for a $3 million grant from the Texas Water Development Board, which will be used for the design and development portion of the Abilene project.

In March of 2016, the city applied for a $30 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to purchase 1,250 acre feet of water from Lake Fort Phantom through the City of Clyde and for a 75-mile pipeline to transport the water to Ballinger. This plan has officially been scrapped.

The new plan will not require the construction of 75 miles of pipeline and now Ballinger will pay 100 percent of the planning, acquisition, and design of a water line connecting Abilene’s Grimes Water Treatment Plant and the Hargesheimer Water Treatment Plant in Abilene.

Ballinger currently has $2 million in grant funding from the TWDB which will be used to pay Jacob and Martin Engineering to design and develop the project. The city has secured a low interest loan for about $1 million for the remainder of the cost.

This will allow the city to be connected to Lake Fort Phantom, Hubbard Creek Lake and Possum Kingdom Lake.

“It will take two years to make the project ‘shovel ready,’” Grimes said. “We will only be paying for the capacity of the pip we use.”

Councilman Philip Arp said the plan could not have been done without Grimes’ efforts. When Grimes was hired almost four years ago, one of his job requirements was to find additional sources of water for the city.

“None of this would have been possible without Bryan - he was instrumental in this,” Arp said. “We accomplished what we wanted and we got a source of water that wasn’t Ivie or our lakes. Everything came together and we did the right thing for the citizens of Ballinger and we haven’t saddled ourselves with significant debt. I hope we can overcome a lot of the mistrust that we feel in cities and states so that we can have these partnerships where communities can come together - this is a great example of this. It will be awesome for us all.”