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Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Salt problems sprinkled through Red Bluff’s meeting

Staff Writer

Red Bluff Water Power Control Board members tabled action on water releases for 2004 and on calling board elections for this spring, while discussing correcting problems with salt collection pits at Malaga Bend during this morning’s meeting.

Board members said they plan to release some water downstream from Red Bluff Lake to clean out some of the salt in the lake, but as of now don’t have enough water in the lake to allot water releases to farmers in the seven water districts downstream.

“The water is getting a little salty. We need to make a move on something,” said Red Bluff Managing Director Randal Hartman.

Red Bluff Lake was at 56,000 acre/feet at the beginning of the month, which board member Lloyd Goodrich said was “pretty bad water” due to the high levels of salt after two years of no water releases due to drought. But he also said most of the salt is at the bottom of the lake, and that “I wouldn’t pull is faster (out of the lake) than we do now. We just should have the salt trickling out.”

“We’ll wait until next month. There’s no good answer right now,” said Hartman.

Salt content in the ground was also the subject of the board’s discussion of the Malaga Bend salt alleviation project. Hartman updated the board on Sun West Salt Co., plans to modify two existing pits and build new two new pits to comply with regulations, after salt was found to be leaching into the ground at the Malaga Bend pumping site.

Water from an underground salt spring is being pumped away from the Pecos River into pits built by Sun West, which will then mine the salt after the water evaporates. However, Hartman said the original two pits did not have linings to prevent the salt water from seeping back into the ground.

“They’re supposed to be lining the pits with plastic and then putting dirt on top of it to make sure it doesn’t leak,” he said, adding that an Odessa company was up at Malaga Bend right now building two new pits with the linings. After that, the two pits into which water has been pumped since last February will be modified to install the plastic liners.

“I thought they had an engineer to tell them what to do with the pits,” Goodrich said.

“They did, but Albert (Wagner, of Sun West Salt Co.) didn’t do it. He’s doing it now,” Hartman said.

In connection with the problem, board member Dick Slack brought up a letter sent to board members by Pecos River Compact Commissioner J.W. Thrasher of Monahans.

The January 28 letter dealt both with the salt pits and with a contract for 2004 between Red Bluff and the U.S. Geological Survey on monitoring salt levels around Malaga Bend. It also sought a meeting with Red Bluff board members.

Hartman said he had talked with Thrasher about both situations prior to the date of the letter. “I have discussed it with him, and he was aware of this before he wrote the letter,” he said. “He just wants to show he’s in charge.”

“He seems to think he was appointed chief cook of the whole board, and he isn’t” said Slack, while adding, “Fore appearance sake and a few other things, I think maybe we should be a little more conciliatory.”

“I have no problem that he’s upset about the liner, because I’m upset, too,” said Goodrich. “I thought we signed off on the pits with liners.”

Hartman said the contract with Sun West involved clay lining of the pits. Goodrich said the district had tried that at Anderson Lake, in the Malaga Bend area, but had problems with leakage.

In other business, the board also discussed, but tabled action on new elections this spring, and said they weren’t sure if any action by the district was necessary.

Board members received a letter from Alan Zeman of Reeves County Water Improvement District No. 2, saying that Red Bluff erred in calling elections on its own in 2000, and that the elections should be called by the seven sub-districts, who elect representatives to serve on the board. Goodrich said the problem arose because the sub-districts are overseen within their individual counties, while Red Bluff is state supervised because it is a multi-county agency.

Red Bluff Secretary Robin Prewit said Zeman was probably right in saying the districts should call the elections, and that was how things were handled except in the 2000 election.

“Each district knows to call it,” Hartman said. “Since each district holds their election, I don’t know why we have to call it.

“I’m going to talk with Tim (Brown, Red Bluff attorney) about it. So long as we do it before the next meeting, we’ll be OK,” he added.

Hartman planned to talk with Brown about why the change was made it 2000. The board then tabled any action until the March meeting.

Board members also went over and then approved cash disbursements, receipts, accounts payable and fund balances for the month. The investment report showed the district had $344,865 in its U.S. Trust account as of the end of January. Juveniles arrested by police on pot, trespassing charges

Six juveniles were arrested for criminal trespass Saturday night, after two others had been arrested on Friday on marijuana charges, according to Juvenile Detention Center records.

According to reports, a teacher at Crocket Middle School noticed two students standing outside the school “looking suspicious” before the morning bell in the Friday incident. The teacher notified administrators, who in turn notified Pecos police.

Officers arrived on the scene at 9:10 a.m., searched both juveniles, and discovered marijuana on the students. Police found a marijuana cigarette and a lighter on the first student, and on the second student the police found a small amount of marijuana and a pack of rolling papers.

In the other incident, police were notified that a juvenile’s parents were out of town, and that the juvenile would not be staying at the residence while the parents were away. A relative noticed that a group of juveniles were at the residence uninvited, and instructed them to leave.

They did for a short time, but the relative noticed a short time later that they had returned. The relative then notified police, who arrived on the scene at 8:43 p.m. Officers arrested all six of the juveniles at the residence for criminal trespass. The offenders were then conditionally released to their parents.

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