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Highland Village to protest BLM gas leases for Lewisville Lake

Local News, Notes and Events
Posted by WhosPlayin on 2016/2/10 6:40:00 (2852 reads)

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Highland Village City Manager Mike Leavitt informs the council about BLM plans to lease the area on the map (shown in red) for gas drilling. (Photo by Steve Southwell)


The Highland Village City Council passed a unanimous resolution Monday night to draft a letter of protest against the proposed gas leases for Lewisville Lake. Under the resolution, the mayor and city manager are authorized to file the protest with the Bureau of Land Management, which as we reported last month, is planning to auction gas drilling rights for a section of the Hickory Creek arm of the lake.

That affected property belongs to the Corps of Engineers, but falls mostly within Hickory Creek and a small section within the Highland Village city limits.

About 40 residents packed the council chambers, and nine people spoke in opposition to the BLM action, with two sending in emails that Mayor Charlotte Wilcox read aloud. The residents all urged the council to quickly file a protest with BLM as the deadline of Feb. 18.

The residents shared a variety of concerns with the council, but most all of them were worried mostly about two things: water contamination, and dam safety. Highland Village resident and geologist Gerald Bartz showed the council maps of the lake, where he said three long geological features known as lineaments converged around the area of Lewisville Dam. He said that fracking under one of the lineaments could provide the lubrication to cause movement that would damage the dam.

City manager Mike Leavitt and Mayor Wilcox both said that the city had only found out about the BLM leasing decision by reading media reports, and that the BLM had not contacted them. Leavitt said that he had been in contact with Congressman Michael Burgess’ office to try to understand the process that caused the nomination of the land for leasing.

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Highland Village resident and geologist Gerald Bartz shows Mayor Charlotte Wilcox geographic maps of Lewisville Lake and North Texas during a break. (Photo by Steve Southwell)
Members of the council first heard from Leavitt in workshop session before the council meeting. Leavitt used that time to describe how it came about, and what city staff had done so far. He gave the council their options, which were to do nothing, support the lease, or protest it.

In open session, after the members of the public spoke, the councilmembers shared their opinions.

Councilman Fred Busche was ready to have the city get busy on the protest, and made the motion which city attorney Laughlin drafted at the dais. Councilman John McGee said he felt ignorant on the issue, and hated to go in opposition to the leasing when he hadn’t heard both sides of it yet. He said he would be in favor of a delay to get the facts, but wasn’t ready to vote for the motion. Councilman Mike Lombardo seemed less convinced of the problems, and made note of the many existing gas wells in the area surrounding that arm of the lake. He questioned whether there might already be gas wells under parts of the lake.

Railroad Commission maps show no horizontal wells crossing under the lake, though there is one that crosses under Hickory Creek upstream from the lake.

Councilman William Meek supported the resolution. “Believe me, I’m scared,” he said. “I wish we’d go ahead and adopt the proposal to oppose. I will back it 100%.” Mayor Pro Tem Michelle Schwolert said that she didn’t know much about the issue, but that having heard the residents, she was going to support the protest.

Mayor Wilcox supported the protest. She explained that Highland Village was the first council to take it up because of where their meeting fell on the calendar, but that other cities are aware. "We’re the first, because we’re the first to meet," she said.

“It is my desire that we go forward and submit an official protest from the city because of the water supply,” Wilcox said.

When the initial vote was taken, it was 6-0 in favor of the resolution, with McGee abstaining. After some discussion of the semantic difference between a protest and opposition, McGee agreed that he could live with it, and changed his to a yes vote, making it 7-0.

The Lewisville Texan Journal has more to add to this story, but we wanted to get it out quickly Tuesday night. Please check back for updates.

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