WHEN A DROUGHT BECAME A FLOOD
2018 could be called a year with a split personality. It was exceptionally dry with a mere 2.05 inches of rain falling in the first four months. May saw just over three inches but the lingering drought didn’t appear to be letting up as June, July and the first two weeks of August returned to the hot and dry cycle that Eldoradoans expect. All of that changed over a 10-week period, beginning in mid-August, when more than 30 inches fell.

The deluge filled the playa lakes atop the Eldorado Divide and sent floodwaters pouring down the Dry Devil’s River to the south and the draws that feed the San Saba River to the east.

Motorists were rescued from the rain-swollen San Saba at Fort McKavett on two different occasions and local resident Curtis Griffin was rescued from a flooded draw after water swept his pickup off the roadway near his home on CR 316.

Here in Eldorado, some low lying homes were flooded in the area behind the fire department and the playa lake at the south end of the airport completely swamped U.S. 190. The highway remained closed for three weeks although several vehicles ignored the warning signs and drowned out in the water. One prominent instance involved a Google Earth “street view” car whose driver ignored warning signs and drove into the lake. Photos of that incident quickly went viral and the story made headlines around the world.

Neighboring communities weren’t as lucky. Twenty miles to the south, Sonora suffered a devastating flood on September 21st. There was no loss of life in Sonora, thanks in large part to a series of flood control dams above the town. Approximately 200 homes were damaged, and dozens were destroyed. Recovery efforts continue there to this day.

Four people died in a flood that swept down the South Llano River and through an RV campground at Junction on October 8th. The area received rainfall totals of more than 10 inches in mere hours beginning late on October 7th. Rescue efforts were hampered by heavy rains that continued on and off for three days.

One woman was found bruised and battered after clinging to debris as it carried her more than 25 miles downstream.
The body of one victim was found more than 80 miles away in Kingsland where the Llano River joins the Colorado River. The 80-mile distance is measured directly on a map while the actual course of the river made the distance much, much farther.

FAST MOVING WILDFIRE
A wildfire scorched more than 1,200 acres of ranch land northeast of Eldorado. The blaze began January 24, 2018 when a fence builder sparked a fire on a fence line between the Tisdale Ranch and the Rooster McConaughey Ranch. Before it was over fire crews from surrounding counties came to help the Eldorado Volunteer Fire Department, along with units of the Texas Forest Service.

2 NEW COMMISSIONERS ELECTED
Schleicher County voters chose two new county commissioners as they picked Chris Meador to succeed Matt Brown and Steve Nelson to succeed Lynn Meador. Chris Meador won in the Republican Primary on March 6th while Steve Nelson claimed his seat on the county commission on May 22nd with a win over Houston Henderson in the Republican Primary Runoff.

ELDORADO MAN CHARGED IN LEVELLAND MURDER
Brent Canyon Faull, 19, of Levelland and formerly of Eldorado was charged in the April 8, 2018 shooting death of Matthew Ryan Sanchez in Levelland. Matthew Paul Cruz, 20, of Levelland, was also charged with the crime. Sanchez, Faull and Cruz were roommates at a home on the 100 block of Hickory Street in Levelland. Fall and Cruz remain in custody in the Hockely County Jail. They are each charged with murder and each are being held in lieu of $505,000 bail.

FREEDOM SHORT-LIVED FOR ESCAPED PRISONER
Matthew Albert-Duane Sparks, 29, of Austin, escaped from police custody on May 17, 2018, after being detained by Schleicher County Deputy Jose Osornio during a traffic stop near Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church. A two-day manhunt employing tracking dogs, air craft and law enforcement officers on horseback failed to locate Sparks. He was apprehended a few days later in Midland after being arrested for public intoxication.

KEENE CLEARED IN MANSLAUGHTER CASE
Michael Gary Keene, 23 of San Angelo, was found not guilty by a Schleicher County Jury in the June 15, 2015 death of Gisele Jarmon of San Angelo. He was charged with “Accident Involving Death and Manslaughter” after it was determined that his car struck and killed Jarmon as she was walking at night along the side of a roadway. Local jurors deliberated three hours before delivering the not guilty verdict.

SAN ANGELO CONSIDERS EDWARDS-TRINITY AQUIFER
San Angelo Mayor Brenda Gunter made it clear that the Edwards-Trinity Aquifer, which supplies Eldorado and Schleicher County was her choice for a future water supply for San Angelo during a meeting of the city’s Water Advisory Board on May 21, 2018. Faced with the option of recycling sewer water, Gunter told the board, “I think it would be easier to negotiate with the people of Eldorado and Sonora than it will be to sell people on wastewater treatment. I think they would prefer taking the battle to Eldorado first.” Her comments drew opposition from the Plateau Underground Water District here in Eldorado as well as surrounding districts from Menard, Kimble, Sutton, Crockett and Irion Counties. Fortunately, heavy rains came a couple of months later and San Angelo’s interest in the aquifer quickly subsided.

FAREWELL TO MAYOR NIKOLAUK
Eldorado lost its longest serving mayor in 2018. John Nikolauk passed away on July 25, 2018, at the age of 87. He served 27 years as the town’s mayor after six years on the Eldorado city council. Prior to that, he spent more than 30 years in the United States Air Force, rising from an enlisted man to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He served in multiple posts including a stint as base commander at Goodfellow Air Force Base. Nikolauk was followed in office by George Arispe, who was elevated from Mayor Pro Tem to become Eldorado’s first hispanic mayor. Prior to his time on the Eldorado city council, Arispe served as a member of the Schleicher County Hospital District board of trustees. He is retired from the Schleicher County Sheriff’s Department where he served many years as the Chief Deputy.

WIND TURBINES GOING UP
Construction began in early August on 76 massive wind turbines that will be part of the Live Oak Wind Farm in the north part of Schleicher County. Large cranes were in place and hoisting tower sections as well as the nacelle, generator and blade assemblies. Some of the first turbines to be erected were along FM 915 north of town. When complete the project will stretch from just west of FM 915 across the northern edge of the county to a point near U.S. 277. The project is due to be completed by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, representatives of a second proposed wind farm requested and received tax abatement deals from the Schleicher County ISD board of trustees and the Schleicher County Commissioners Court. If constructed, the proposed wind project would be located southeast of Eldorado and would be adjacent to the LCRA transmission line that crosses that part of Schleicher County.

BODIES REMOVED YFZ RANCH CEMETERY
As the State of Texas negotiated the sale of the YFZ Ranch to a prospective buyer, several bodies interred in the ranch’s cemetery were relocated, several to the Eldorado Cemetery in September. Schleicher County had donated some plots for the purpose. The remains of at least one woman, Barbara Jeffs, were moved to Colorado City Arizona to be re-interred by family members. Barbara Jeffs was one of FLDS prophet Warren Jeffs’ many polygamous wives. She had died 14 years earlier, long before the 2008 raid on the YFZ Ranch and her husband’s subsequent conviction on charges of child rape.

42-INCH NATURAL GAS PIPELINE TO CROSS SCHLEICHER COUNTY
Kinder Morgan Texas Pipeline LLC (KMTP) and EagleClaw Midstream Ventures in October heir intention to build a 42-inch diameter natural gas pipeline, extending from the Waha pipeline hub near Coyonosa in the Permian Basin to the Houston Central Plant near Sheridan, Texas, some 50 miles east of Houston. From there it will connect with several pipelines that reach up and down the Texas Gulf Coast.

Approximately 54 miles of the project will be carried out in Schleicher County. The pipeline, identified by the company as the Permian Highway Pipeline Project (PHP), closely follow the route of the 24-inch Kinder Morgan Texas natural gas pipeline that crosses the county along the same path. The pipeline will cross U.S. 190 about 3.4 miles west of Eldorado. Both the new and existing pipeline pass near the Rancho Station just south of Eldorado and cross U.S. 277 in that vicinity.

RESURGENT ELDORADO EAGLES FOOTBALL TEAM BEGINS TO WIN 
The Eldorado Eagles football team surprised a lot of naysayers in 2018 as they rallied behind second year head coach Michael Johnson and began to string together a series of wins. They defeated TLCA 54-18 before losing to Winters 22-0 in a homecoming game that had to be moved from Eldorado to Old Bobcat Stadium in San Angelo due to heavy rain. Even there, the two teams played in the rain where a large Winters squad claimed the 22-0 win. But that’s just when the Warbirds seemed to find their stride. They traveled to Brackettville the following week and defeated a larger Tigers team 30-19 also in the rain and on a muddy field. The Eagles then dropped a pair of heart breakers to state-ranked teams, losing 12-8 to Iraan and 26-26 to McCamey

Following a bye week, the Eagles caught fire, defeating the Irion County Hornets 52-0 in the District 8-2A opener. They then upended the Miles Bulldogs 48-0 and the Rocksprings Angoras 30-3 to guarantee a playoff berth. The Eagles defeated the Menard Yellowjackets 48-0 before dropping their final district game to Christoval 39-30.

Still the Eagles claimed a share of the District title and advanced as the #1 seed into the state playoffs where they lost to Haskell in the Bi-District round by a score of 26-22.

The Eagles placed 20 players on the All-District team and the Warbirds coaching staff was named the district’s Staff of the Year.
A few weeks later Eagles defensive end Jack Griffin was named to the Associated Press 2A All-State Team as a defensive end.

VOTERS RE-ELECT BRADLEY AS COUNTY JUDGE
Schleicher County Judge Charlie Bradley handily defeated independent challenger Rey Lucio by a margin of 811-104.

Lucio, who ran into some legal problems a year earlier, spent 60 days in jail after being convicted by a local jury of harassing an Eldorado woman. Bradley presided over the case and Lucio apparently blamed him for the conviction. He circulated a petition in order to get a spot on the ballot as an independent candidate. He then lobbed insults and accusations at Bradley as well as County Attorney Clint Griffin, Sheriff David Doran and The Eldorado Success newspaper on social media platforms. His efforts didn’t gain much traction, however as Bradley was returned to office along with numbers of other Republicans as Schleicher County leaned heavily toward the GOP.

100 MEGAWATT SOLAR FARM PLANNED NORTHEAST OF TOWN
A German company named EnergieKontor announced its intention on December 3rd to build a solar farm capable of generating 100 megawatts of electricity just outside of Eldorado. The project, named the Prickly Pear Solar Farm, is planned on about 2,000 acres north and east of the AEP substation on County Road 300, just a couple of miles from town.

Henriette Boom, a project developer for EnergieKontor, met with Schleicher County Commissioners to discuss the project. She said she expected it would be completed in late 2021 and estimated its total value at $90 million.

Boom said she was hoping the commissioners would be interested in granting a tax abatement for the project and mentioned setting up an annual payment to the county that would be about 20 percent of what the project would pay in ad valorem taxes if the project went on the tax rolls at full value.

ETG PROPERTIES LLC AGREES TO LEASE/PURCHASE OF YFZ RANCH
The Eldorado Success obtained a copy of the lease agreement under which the 1,691-acre YFZ Ranch is being used by ETG Properties LLC.

The agreement executed by District Attorney Allison Palmer and ETG Properties LLC, Vice President Terry D. Pope, outlines the agreement between the company and four of the state’s legal jurisdictions.

The 180-page document and a four-page amendment describes the legal boundaries of the ranch and details company’s intent to purchase the property for a total of $3.67 million.

The lease is due to convert to a sale agreement once an appeal of a lawsuit brought by former FLDS Church spokesperson Willie Jessop is decided by the State Court of Appeals.

TACTICAL TRAINING EVENTS BEGIN AT ETG RANCH
Members of the U.S. Border Patrol Special Operations Detachment took part in a training exercise held at the ETG Ranch last week. Eldorado residents and some of the ranch’s neighbors reported seeing helicopters, Osprey tilt wing aircraft and other airplanes circling the ranch and coming and going from the Schleicher County Airport.

Dennis Smith, a spokesperson representing the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, confirmed the detachment’s participation in the exercise and explained that the unit, which operates in the agency’s Del Rio sector, routinely trains for a wide array of missions.

ETG Ranch operators indicate that additional training events are planned for military forces and law enforcement agencies with one event on the books for early January 2019.