Drought claims lake
Local landowner can't see how Exelon could sustain dry times

By Tara Bozick
Victoria Advocate
August 10, 2008

Thousands of dead, scaly bodies line the water's edge.

Fins stick up in the air as catfish lay lifeless on their sides. Hundreds of buzzards circle overhead. The dry, cracked bed of grayish brown earth around Linn Lake shows the 20 to 30 feet where the water once stood.

"Look at the fish all the way around there," John L. Gibbs said. "Sad, sad, sad," the 73-year-old from Wood Hi continued, shaking his head.

Gibbs can't see how the proposed Exelon nuclear plant on land near his, about 12 miles south of Victoria, can sustain the dry times.

"This is what happens when you run out of water," he said. "It makes you wonder, is it going to get to the bays and estuaries?"

Exelon's operations could withstand a drought of two years because of the 6,000-acre lake it would build for cooling and storage, community outreach manager Bill Harris said. The company contracted 75,000 acre-feet per year with the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority, but would only use about 50,000 acre-feet per year.

About 20,000 acre-feet per year would still get downstream, Harris said.

Victoria is in the extreme drought category right now, said meteorologist Roger Gass with the National Weather Service in Corpus Christi. The area is 10.19 inches below the normal for the year, seeing only a hundredth of an inch of rain so far in August.

July saw 2.21 inches of rain, which almost reaches the month's average of 2.9 inches.

Gibbs bought the land around the lake, about four miles east of U.S. Highway 77 in southern Victoria County, 18 years ago. He and his family leased it since 1970, where they would hunt and fish.

The lake normally covers 200 acres, but the lack of rain and low river flows cut off access from the Guadalupe River into the bayou that feeds the lake through its southern tip, Gibbs said.

His son John D. Gibbs, a 53-year-old from Mission Valley, came to see the severity of the situation on Thursday. As he walked onto the lake bottom, which normally holds a foot and a half of water, the wind shifted and an overbearing stench of decaying fish went up their noses.

"This is rotten. It's really nasty," the younger Gibbs said. "Kinda sad, ain't it?"

The son remembered the beauty of the sunsets on the lake. Now he sees fish still struggling to stay alive in the water. The catfish come to the surface for oxygen, he said, as the water is now too warm and shallow.

As fishermen, their hearts ache to see 30- to 40-pound catfish dead on the shore.

The elder Gibbs told everyone fishing in Linn Lake to send those kind of breeders back to keep the population healthy.

"The land is either too wet or too dry," the younger Gibbs said, adding that it either floods over the hills or looks like this.

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