Tuesday, February 27, 2024

After four-year delay, city moves on East sewer plant

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The city of Granbury is moving forward with plans involving the East Wastewater Treatment Plant that was delayed for four years due to opposition and resulted in a citywide development moratorium that reportedly affected about $250 million in economic development.

The battle also cost the city millions through legal fees and higher construction costs. The increased construction estimates are due to issues related to COVID-19 and former “package deal” agreements involving improvements to the existing plant no longer being in effect.

Following a lengthy closed session at its regular meeting Tuesday night, May 2, the council voted unanimously to authorize City Manager Chris Coffman to advertise for bids for the East WWTP.

No mention was made during that vote, or in a statement released by the city the following morning, about the challenge filed in federal court in Austin last December pertaining to the facility’s permit.

Technically, the city is not involved in that court challenge. It was filed by opponents Granbury Fresh, Victoria Calder, Stacy and James Rist, and Bennett’s Camping Center & RV Ranch against the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, which issued the permit. But at its regular meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 7, the City Council voted unanimously to hire a lawyer to act as an “intervener” and to represent the city’s interests in the continuing battle over the facility planned for 3121 Old Granbury Road.

A three-paragraph statement released Wednesday morning, May 3, by Granbury Communications Director Jeff Newpher stated that the May 2 vote by the council “allows forward progress on the much-needed facility and is the latest step in a process that began in 2016.”

In accordance with TCEQ rules, the city began planning for a second WWTP in 2016 after its current plant on Water’s Edge Drive reached 75% capacity for three consecutive months.

In 2019, the city submitted a permit application and the TCEQ administratively approved the city’s permit and construction plans.

However, the commission extended the public comment period after significant public opposition to the planned location arose. At that site, up to two million gallons of treated domestic wastewater per day will be discharged into a tributary of Rucker Creek, which feeds into Lake Granbury.

The permitting process was further delayed when, in September 2021, TCEQ commissioners sent the matter to the State Office of Administrative Hearings for a contested case hearing.

In March 2022, two administrative law judges heard three days of testimony, with both sides presenting data and testimony from expert witnesses. Three months later, in June, the judges recommended that the TCEQ issue the permit. Commissioners voted unanimously to do so on Oct. 5, and the order granting the permit was signed later that month.

On Nov. 18, the group of opponents, referred to as “protestants,” filed a Motion for Rehearing. The following month, they filed an appeal to the TCEQ’s decision to issue the permit in federal court in Austin.

During the months since the permit was issued and opponents took steps to reverse it, the city did not move forward with the WWTP — not until its meeting on May 2.

No details were given at the meeting or in the statement released the next day regarding when the city might break ground on the plant or when the development moratorium might be lifted.