The Brown County Water Improvement District No. 1 has decided to spend up to $15,000 to add contours to an existing survey map of property around Lake Brownwood - part of a cooperative local effort triggered by a FEMA project expected to result in flood plain level designations in the county.

The district’s board of directors also voted Tuesday to accept a request from Morrison Hydrology Engineers of Hillsboro for use of the district’s survey map by Dallas Aerial Surveys, but with a strict confidentiality clause.

Halff Associates of Austin is currently in the first year of an expected three-year contract with FEMA, and previous studies are being examined and existing maps digitized. Preliminary findings have suggested that a flood plain level as much as five to nine feet above the current lake floodwater easement may result. The easement is 10 feet above the lake’s spillway of 1,425 feet above sea level.

Water district general manager Dennis Spinks told the board that he has met with officials from the City of Brownwood and Brown County about developing data that can be used to scientifically argue against a level that high. Establishing a valid flood plain elevation will help protect property owners financially, but a level that is higher than justified could restrict development.

Spinks said Brown County Judge Ray West is planning to propose including $30,000 in the new county budget for part of the work, based on the proposal by Ron Morrison. The City of Brownwood is also considering retaining Morrison as a consultant, the board was told.

Spinks said Halff Associates had proposed a $200,000-plus study of the Pecan Bayou and upstream areas that essentially covers the same scope of work. West had previously expressed to county commissioners the irony of Halff offering to perform a study for local officials that they hope would contradict the conclusions Halff is generating for FEMA.

“The idea of this is to put enough doubt in FEMA’s mind that the studies available are not useful for setting a flood plain,” Spinks told the board.

A key element of the FEMA project appears to be a Freese and Nichols Engineers study from the late 1970s that was performed for the district as it prepared to make dam improvements to further guard against any possible breach by unpredecented flooding.

The work for the water district would add contours on the map, which now goes to 1,436 feet above sea level, to 1,444 feet above sea level - information Spinks said the district would need anyway should the flood plain level be set higher. However, Spinks said Morrison believes the district’s easement level of 1,435 - if not lower - can be defended as a flood plain level.

Water district officials were told that Ron Morrison is the brother of Freese and Nichols vice president Mike Morrison, who has worked closely with the district on the current treatment plant improvements and construction as well as other projects.

In other business, the water district board:

• Approved and signed separate water sales contracts between the district and the City of Early, and between the district and the Zephyr Water Supply Corp. A construction agreement between the district, City of Early and Zephyr Water Supply was also signed. Zephyr WSC has previously purchased treated water from Early, but under the agreements Early will discontinue buying untreated water from the district and treat it at its own plant. Early will buy treated water from the district after a new pipeline is built. In recognition of the new customer the district has acquired, the water district board recessed for about 10 minutes for a reception with Zephyr Water directors.

• Approved a $125,000 amendment to the 2007-2008 budget to account for a doubling of the price of chemicals used to treat water, as well as increases in fuel and utilities.

• Approved the purchase of track hoe for $130,750 and trailer for $21,950 for the district’s maintenance department, items needed to construct the pipeline that will serve Early and Zephyr WSC with treated water.