Resuming Comanche Springs flow explored

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For the last 18 months, two organizations have had one question on their mind: can Comanche Springs flow again? They think yes.

The Meadows Center and the Texas Water Trade teamed up to figure out the science, policy and economics behind a year-round spring flow.

Robert Mace, Deputy Executive Director of the Meadows Center and Sharlene Leurig, Chief Executive Officer of Texas Water Trade hosted a talk at the Large Community Hall at Rooney Park on Tuesday, Oct. 29 to show the public what they know so far and answer questions.

Comanche Springs was once one of the five largest springs in Texas but quit flowing in the 1950's due to significant groundwater pumping.

Over the last seven years, the flow has resumed seasonally, typically between late November and April.

Mace, who is a hydrogeologist, has enjoyed visiting the springs over the years, even when they were dry to check out what can be done to help.

“This project is a combination of science and economics,” he said.

The groups have been working on a feasibility assessment which is set to be done by the end of the year.

The assessment will show different options and answer the question of what to do next.

“Our intention is to feed into a next phase,” said Leurig.

The researchers recently received a a grant of $50,000 from the Convention and Visitor's Bureau to complete a study regarding the restoration of Comanche Springs.

The money will be used for scientific research, which will start with a contractor to perform laser-based mapping.

An measurement instrument will be install down stream of the Comanche Springs Pool to gauge water flow, as well as work by a hydrogeologist to better understand pumping from the Belding area in relation to flow.

“I'm really into hydro history,” said Mace.

A $100,000 grant was also received from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation.

One option being explored is paying people to reduce their groundwater pumping in their preferred management zone area, south of I-10 near Belding.

The groups have sent out letters, but if someone in the preferred area is wondering if they qualify, Mace and Leurig recommend contacting the Middle Pecos Groundwater Conservation District at (432) 336-0698.

Luerig doesn't live locally, bet her 89-year-old father grew up swimming in Comanche Springs and told her stories about what it was like.

“I value swimming holes and nature,” she said. “It's sad to think if one generation passes away, the memory is lost with them.”

The pair also mentioned Balmorhea and how many visitors flock to the area yearly which could be an economic boom for Fort Stockton if they say the springs flow.

“This could be a story of redemption,” said Mace.

Mace said that in a policy world, it is very important to look at the history of Commanche Springs as it ties to groundwater pumping and its impacts.

“It's a fascinating problem,” he said.

Over the last 18 months. Mace and Luerig have held public-interest meetings in Fort Stockton to see how citizens feel about the project.

“People seem to really embrace the idea,” said Leurig.

They recently gave the Middle Pecos Groundwater Conservation District a flow meter to gauge levels weekly.

For more information on the project visit Texaswatertrade.org.

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