By Brian Besch
The Trinity River Authority (TRA) held a celebration Friday in honor of project manager Mark Waters, who is retiring after 32 years. Waters oversees the entire operation of five departments at the Lake Livingston Project.
His time at TRA began in November of 1989, with a degree in wildlife and biology management, and minor in parks administration from Texas Tech University. He got involved with the youth camp Lake Tomahawk during the summers of 1981-89, which is licensed through the State of Texas. He performed water sampling and testing for the lake, using the lab at TRA and making acquaintances.
Waters also served as an eighth-grade earth science teacher at Livingston ISD. His wife taught physical education at Timber Creek Elementary for 35 years.
The hydroelectric project has been one of the largest during Waters’ time at TRA. The five-year stretch over 2015-20 was the wettest in Polk County since the dam was constructed, causing delays in the project.
“Finally, everything is in now and it is operational and producing electricity,” Waters said. “Now, as it has worked out, we are in a dryer cycle and we have one gate operational because there is not enough flow. It is at a third of its capacity right now, because we don’t have the flow that normally this time of year we do.”
He was also involved in the rehab project around 2000, where gates to the dam were reconditioned with new sealers, painting and steel. The electrical components of the spillway were updated with a control room, where the gates could be raised and lowered from indoors. In 2005, Hurricane Rita hit, taking half of the rock from the face of the dam – an $8 million project funded by FEMA.
There is currently another rehab underway, where the gates will be reconditioned and recoated after 22 years. The old paint contained lead, needing removal and containment.
There are plans to travel in retirement. Waters said his son is a pilot with Southwest Airlines, making travel easier. Friends are trying to pressure him into purchasing a recreational vehicle to travel along in a group.
“I don’t know if we will do that or not, but I am looking forward to a change,” Waters said. “We have a three-day weekend coming up and everybody is happy and feeling good. My friends that have already retired tell me that every night is like Friday night and every day is like a Saturday when you are retired. I’m ready for that.”