By Emily Banks Wooten
Chad Holton, manager of the Trinity River Authority’s Lake Livingston Project, was the guest speaker for the quarterly membership luncheon of the Livingston-Polk County Chamber of Commerce Tuesday at Cho-Yeh Camp & Conference Center.
“I really feel blessed working for TRA. It’s like a family. Working at the dam has its benefits. I looked out the window this morning and saw four bald eagles eating a fish,” Holton said.
“The Trinity River Basin is the largest watershed that’s entirely in the State of Texas. It is nearly 18,000 square miles and there are 24 reservoirs that are in the watershed,” Holton said, adding, “Pretty much half the State of Texas relies on the reservoir for water.
“Lake Livingston is funded by the City of Houston and TRA. Back in the 50s there was a drought and the City of Houston realized they needed more surface water. It was completed in 1971 and at the time of completion there were 83,000 surface acres, 450 miles of shoreline and 1,750,000 acre-feet. It is operated by TRA and the City of Houston pays 70% of the operating cost,” Holton said.
“The dam is capable of pushing 350,000 cubic feet per second (CFS). The most we’ve ever let out of the dam was 110,600 CFS and that was on Aug. 28, 2017 following Hurricane Harvey and the lake level was 133.64 feet above mean sea level (MSL). We try to keep the reservoir at 131.00 feet above MSL,” Holton said.
“Lake Livingston is a water conservation reservoir for the safe storage of water, providing daily water to 2 million Southeast Texans, with no flood control or storage capabilities. We manage the outflow in order to service river flows,” he said.
“As for our other responsibilities, we have a permit department that monitors all septic systems along the shoreline, and water quality, we operate five sewer treatment plants and perform routine monitoring,” Holton said.
“In 2015 we started construction of the hydropower project which has three eight-megawatt turbines. It took seven years to complete before coming onboard but it does not affect the lake level,” Holton said.
“The past three years we’ve been working on gate rehabilitation, repainting, replacing the seals and bringing the gates up to today’s standards. This is the second time it’s been repainted. You have to install stop logs to be able to paint both sides of the gates. There’s sandblasting but we have a containment system so all that stuff that’s blown off doesn’t contaminate the air. We’re adding structural support. We’ve done six and have six left to do. We hope to be done by summer of 2025,” Holton said.