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Living in Peace
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The agency that operates the power grid for much of the state asked Texans to conserve energy use several times last week as the grid was beset with high demand and low wind-power generation, according to the Austin American- Statesman. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas has asked electric users to reduce energy use as the state continues to face a tenacious heat wave. Demand on the grid operated by ERCOT has record levels 10 times this summer. The system has held up to the strain to this point. Any outages across the state have been local and caused by other reasons other than demand on the grid, such as downed power lines or blown transformers. ERCOT is calling on large electric customers to voluntarily cut consumption during peak periods and is working with out- of- state power operators to secure additional power generation capacity. In addition, two “virtual power plants” are now able to provide power to the grid, according to the Public Utility Commission of Texas. According to the PUC, “The pilot project tests how consumer- owned, small energy devices, such as battery energy storage systems, backup generators, and controllable Electric Vehicle (EV) chargers, can be virtually aggregated and participate as a resource in the wholesale electricity market, strengthening grid reliability.” The two pilot projects underway involve Tesla customers who have electric storage systems in their homes and have agreed to sell their surplus power in the ERCOT market.

WILDFIRE DANGER REMAINS HIGH IN TEXAS The Texas A& M Forest Service continues to respond to requests for assistance on wildfires across the state as dry weather continues. Currently there are four active fires, the largest being the Shearwood Creek Fire in Jasper County. As of Sunday it had burned 3,000 acres and was 70% contained. As of Sunday 208 counties had burn bans in place. Meanwhile, a helicopter delivering water to the 150-acre Barth Fire in Caldwell County almost collided with a drone being flown by someone not with the agency. It came within feet of the helicopter. “Pilots have no way to detect a drone or know there is one present in the airspace until they see it,” said Jared Karns with the forest service. “Suppression aircraft can respond to wildfires quickly, increasing the likelihood that a new ignition remains a small, manageable wildfire. Utilizing aircraft greatly enhances the state’s firefighting efforts, but they have to be able to fly in a safe environment.” Under Federal Aviation Administration rules, all aircraft, including drones, are prohibited from flying over wildfire areas. More than 1,350 wildfires have occurred in the state in July and August to date.

TPWD TRYING TO BUY PROPERTY CONTAINING STATE PARK The commissioners overseeing Texas Parks and Wildlife Department voted unanimously last week to negotiate acquiring the roughly 500 acres that contains Lake Colorado City State Park in Mitchell County. The state has been leasing it from Vistra Corp. for more than 50 years. Earlier this year, the energy company sold a piece of property that contained Fairfield State Park to a developer, forcing the park’s closure. “This makes all the sense in the world,” outgoing commission chairman Arch “Beaver” Alpin III said about the purchase, according to The Dallas Morning News. “I believe we’ve had a meeting of the minds on being able to do it. This will allow us to secure one of our parks for the long term and be able to own it.” The park is located off Interstate 20 about halfway between Sweetwater and Big Spring and offers opportunities for water recreation and outdoor activities for nearly 30,000 visitors annually.

JUDGE REJECTS 'INVASION' DEFENSE IN BUOY SUIT A federal judge in Austin rejected the state’s assertion that it has the right to install buoys in the Rio Grande because of a “migrant invasion,” The News reported. “We are here for purposes of determining whether this is a barrier to navigation, whether this is a navigable waterway,” U.S. District Judge David A. Ezra said. The U.S. Justice Department has sued the state over the buoys, saying their placement ignored the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899, which established that the federal government controls navigable waterways. The state’s defense claims the Rio Grande is not navigable in the section where the buoys were installed, near Eagle Pass.

WWI NAVAL SHIPWRECK FOUND IN NECHES RIVER The Texas Historical Commission has confirmed a shipwreck found in the Neches River dates to World War I. The wooden-hulled vessel was one of nearly 40 built in Beaumont by the U. S. Shipping Board Emergency Fleet Corporation and abandoned when the war ended. Many of the 40 vessels were unfinished and often converted to barges or sold for scrap. Designed as steamships, they were nearly 282 feet long. Many were eventually abandoned in the Neches and Sabine rivers near Orange in the 1920s. THC said the shipwreck sites are protected under state and federal laws. The latest one became visible as a result of low water levels in the Neches due to drought and the summer heat.

Gary Borders is a veteran award- winning Texas journalist.

He published a number of community newspapers in Texas during a 30- year span, including in Longview, Fort Stockton, Nacogdoches and Cedar Park.

Email: gborders@ texaspress. com.