Agriculture

Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbors Water, even if it’s legal say Lost Pines landowners & residents

The Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District, covering Bastrop and Lee counties, is ground zero for a uniquely Texan drama.   It is a drama about life and death – life and death of an aquifer, life and death of a regional economy and life and death of a way of life.  The leading players are:  Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District made up of 10 appointed volunteers charged with conserving Lee and Bastrop counties’ groundwater, local farmers struggling after drought and the massive Bastrop Complex fire in 2011, community and environmental organizations (Environmental Stewardship, Neighbors for Neighbors, GUARD, Sierra Club), county and city government; a local water coop, Aqua Water Supply; water marketers seeking profits as the middlemen for moving large quantities of groundwater to the IH-35 growth corridor; and State Representative Tim Kleinschmidt, who leased his own water rights now owned by Forestar Real Estate Group.

Independent Texans, a citizen-based political action committee for non-aligned voters, helped sound the alarm bringing out hundreds of landowners and residents to two back-to-back hearings held last week in the small town of Giddings.  Testimonials from scores of residents focused on the future value of their land in the face of over-permitting the Simsboro formation within the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer.

The result of these hearings was a temporary delay in the vote to approve or deny permit applications for approximately 110,000 acre-feet per year (about 98,000,000 gallons per day) by the Lost Pines GCD Board.  Aqua Water Supply surprised the crowd by filing for a contested case hearing to mitigate the potential damage to their own wells in Bastrop and Lee counties.  The hearing is scheduled for May 15th, 5 pm in Bastrop, location TBA, just hours before Lost Pines GCD holds its regular monthly meeting.

The LPCGD General Manager Joe Cooper urged the approval of three permit applications; Forestar Real Estate Group (45,000 acre-feet), former Williamson County Commissioner Frankie Limmer’s End Op LLC (56,000 acre-feet) and 10,000 acre-feet for the LCRA.  Cooper, long respected by local residents as reasoned voice for groundwater protection, despite the impassioned pleas of residents and landowners, recommended the Lost Pines GCD grant the permits and “see what happens,” then cut back those permits if any harm is proven.

Jimmy Gaines, President of Texas Landowners Council said, “The situation in the Lost Pines district illustrates the need for HB 3250 pending in the Natural Resources Committee in the Texas House.  The people of Lee and Bastrop counties do not want their aquifer drained, but the law governing groundwater districts in Texas have no provision requiring districts to prevent draining and does require permits to be issued.  HB 3250 would make groundwater districts accountable for allowing over pumping and require them to reduce pumping when it has a disproportionate affect on portions of an aquifer.  Chapter 36 Water Code has been rewritten over a period of years to facilitate draining aquifers to temporarily meet the state demand for water.  We must pass HB 3250 to require districts to ‘preserve and conserve’ aquifers as the state constitution requires.”

Bill Graham owns land in Milam County one of two counties (along with Burleson) covered by the Post Oak Savannah GCD adjacent to the Lost Pines GCD. Graham has tried to no avail to get the Post Oak Savannah GCD to stop over-permitting (twice the availability) the same aquifer in dispute before the Lost Pines GCD.  Graham said, “When I was approached by water marketers for my water rights and I told them no, they threatened to pump my water anyway by getting my neighbors to lease.  Well, I showed them – I lobbied for the Groundwater Conservation Districts who are now pumping my water anyway.  Sorry!”

The legislature hasn’t yet made up its mind about funding the “water bank” passed by a small margin of statewide voters in 2011.  The water bank would fund a variety of water infrastructure projects, including pipelines to move groundwater.  Legislators are grappling with whether to take $2 billion for water projects from the Rainy Day Fund, or to put it up for a public vote in November 2013.  Senator Troy Fraser also wants to change the governance of the Texas Water Development Board to paid appointees by the Governor, raising fears about more cronyism in state water policy.  An alliance between municipal governments, water marketers, the Texas Public Policy Foundation, Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association and corporate agricultural interests through the Texas Farm Bureau, has left out many small farmers and landowners.  These are our local food growers who represent thousands of jobs in Texas that will be lost in the wake of the folly of building infrastructure before all is done to conserve water in the middle of a historic drought.

Linda Curtis of Independent Texans said, “Citizens are being asked to flood the legislature with calls to protect our aquifers and to move HB 3250 out of committee.  There’s a reason the water marketers, instead, are pushing HB 1796. The water marketers, unethical business people that they are, are attempting to establish a monopoly on the fast becoming most valuable resource in Texas – groundwater – by establishing a permanent and automatic permit renewal process for the big pumpers. If they pull that off in this legislative session, we have to make the legislators pay hell in upcoming elections.  That was a critical piece that many forget in taking down the Trans-Texas Corridor just four short years ago.”

The water war in Lee and Bastrop County was thrust into the 2010 election cycle after Rep. Tim Kleinschmidt walked out of a well-attended water forum sponsored by Aqua Water Supply in the summer of 2010.  Rep. Kleinschmidt was confronted at this forum by Linda Curtis as doing little to protect the aquifer serving Lee and Bastrop counties.  Just before his exit, Kleinschmidt responded saying, “The legislature is going to be too busy with the budget to address water.”  Over thirty water bills were introduced in that session (2011), including SB 332, which passed.   The problem with SB 332, in the eyes of Texas landowners and residents, is it perpetuates “historic use” – which rewards corporate agricultural interests who have superior and perpetual rights to pump.  They and Texas municipalities are the biggest water wasters.  The good news is that millions of municipal customers are already practicing conservation and are willing to do more.

The water war is to be continued in Bastrop on May 15th.  Independent Texans is happy to provide contact information to speak to landowners and residents of Bastrop and Lee counties.

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Flood the Capitol With Water Calls!

What More Can YOU Do to Protect Texas Aquifers & Landowners?
FLOOD the Capitol with phone calls into the Texas legislature now!

Just pick the phone and once you’ve made your calls
ask your friends and family anywhere in Texas to do the same.

Note:  Call your State House Representative and State Senator.  These are the folks that represent you in Austin (not Washington).  If you don’t know them you can simply call the Capitol Switchboard at 512-463-3630 and they will connect you!

You can also find them: http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us on the web and ALL your state and federal representativesNote:  If Rep. Tim Kleinschmidt is your State Representative (district map here), he has leased his water rights and will benefit if Forestar Real Estate gets a 45,000 acre-feet permit approved in the Lost Pines (Lee and Bastrop counties) Groundwater Conservation District.  Therefore, writing letters to the local newspaper editors might be more effective.

Please also noteSen. Glenn Hegar (whose district is VERY rural and includes Lee County and parts east – see map here) helped open the door in the 2011 legislative for the water marketers to pressure groundwater districts for increased permitting.  It’s a complicated mess, but trust us and call Rep. Hegar!  State Senator Kirk Watson (Travis and Bastrop counties map here) is very connected to the growth push in central Texas.  Call him!

Then call your local Farm Bureau and ask them why they have not supported House Bill 3250, sponsored by Rep. Bill Callegari upon the request of the Texas Landowners Council (small farms).  TLC analysis here and here.

No matter where you live, call these two committee chairs of Natural Resources in the Senate and House.  They are:

*Rep. Allan Ritter, Natural Resources Committee in the House:  512-463-0706 (in addition:  ask him to release HB 3250 from his committee)

*Sen. Troy Frazier, Natural Resources Committee in the Senate:  512-463-0390

Here’s a sample message:

Note:  If you call the Capitol Switchboard 512-463-3630, just ask for your State Representative then call back for your State Senator.

My name is ________ and I live in _______________ (your city and county).

When you get to the right place:

I am calling to ask Representative/Senator ______________ for his/her help to protect our aquifers and the property rights of Texans living near them in rural Texas.  Before we start exporting water, everyone — rural, suburban and urban — must conserve.  We should not start with expensive pipelines and reservoirs before we are seriously conserving.  Citizens are beginning, on their own, to do this.  State leaders must lead by example and be honest about Texans’ limited water supply, rather than catering to the special interests hooked on growth.

If they ask you what you want them to do exactly, tell them:  It is your job to figure this out, but you can start by making sure that you stop any legislation like HB 1796 and HB 2740 (still pending the Natural Resources Committee), that would grandfather permit holders such that no reductions over 5% can be made. You can start holding town halls across the state, which includes the organization for independent voters – Independent Texans.  And, last you must acknowledge that Texas is in a water crisis.  Citizens will work with you on what we can accept – but you’ve got to start with honesty.  Water is scarce – more pipelines to move it, won’t make it rain.

 

Independent Texans

PO Box 651 *  Bastrop, Texas 78602  *  512-535-0989

www.IndyTexans.org * email ljcurtis@indytexans.org * sign up to get our emails or phone calls

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Flood the Capitol With Water Calls Today & Monday!

Thanks to the lovely people of Bastrop & Lee counties
for your words of wisdom last night in Giddings.

Today (and Monday) is the day to flood the legislature with water calls!  Let them hear you!

Quick update on Lost Pines Water War:  We have a temporary win in Giddings, thanks to the participation of hundreds of citizens and the intervention of Aqua Water Supply.  Aqua has filed for a “contested case hearing” — the first one will be at 5 pm, Wednesday, May 15th in Bastrop (location to be announced) just prior to the next meeting of the Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District!  More analysis coming and our own citizens’ meeting…so keep an eye out.

CLICK HERE FOR YOUR UPDATED (also pasted below) INSTRUCTIONS ON YOUR CALLS TO BE DONE TODAY AND MONDAY.  If you received the flier at last night’s meeting in Giddings, be sure to read this updated flier by clicking on the link above.

CLICK HERE TO READ THIS ANALYSIS from Jimmy Gaines, Texas Landowners Council!  Don’t forget to ask Rep. Ritter to move House Bill 3250.  Then call your Farm Bureau and ask them why they have not gotten behind HB 3250 and why they’re not representing the small landowners and the aquifers!

TO ADD INSULT TO INJURY OF THE SMALL FARMING COMMUNITY, the animal tagging bill moved out of committee.  We will add some more calls to your list in an email next Monday.

ONCE YOU’VE COMPLETED YOUR CALLS, please comment at the end of the posting of this message so others can see how it’s going.

What More Can YOU Do to Protect Texas Aquifers & Landowners?

FLOOD the Capitol with phone calls into the Texas legislature now!
Just pick the phone and once you’ve made your calls
ask your friends and family anywhere in Texas to do the same.

Note:  Call your State House Representative and State Senator.  These are the folks that represent you in Austin (not Washington).  If you don’t know them you can simply call the Capitol Switchboard at 512-463-3630 and they will connect you!

You can also find them: http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us on the web and ALL your state and federal representativesNote:  If Rep. Tim Kleinschmidt is your State Representative (district map here), he has leased his water rights and will benefit if Forestar Real Estate gets a 45,000 acre-feet permit approved in the Lost Pines (Lee and Bastrop counties) Groundwater Conservation District.  Therefore, writing letters to the local newspaper editors might be more effective.

Please also noteSen. Glenn Hegar (whose district is VERY rural and includes Lee County and parts east – see map here) helped open the door in the 2011 legislative for the water marketers to pressure groundwater districts for increased permitting.  It’s a complicated mess, but trust us and call Rep. Hegar!  State Senator Kirk Watson (Travis and Bastrop counties map here) is very connected to the growth push in central Texas.  Call him!

Then call your local Farm Bureau and ask them why they have not supported House Bill 3250, sponsored by Rep. Bill Callegari upon the request of the Texas Landowners Council (small farms).  TLC analysis here and here.

No matter where you live, call these two committee chairs of Natural Resources in the Senate and House.  They are:

*Rep. Allan Ritter, Natural Resources Committee in the House:  512-463-0802 (in addition:  ask him to release HB 3250 from his committee)

*Sen. Troy Fraser, Natural Resources Committee in the Senate:  512-463-0390

Here’s a sample message:

Note:  If you call the Capitol Switchboard 512-463-3630, just ask for your State Representative then call back for your State Senator.

My name is ________ and I live in _______________ (your city and county).

When you get to the right place:

I am calling to ask Representative/Senator ______________ for his/her help to protect our aquifers and the property rights of Texans living near them in rural Texas.  Before we start exporting water, everyone — rural, suburban and urban — must conserve.  We should not start with expensive pipelines and reservoirs before we are seriously conserving.  Citizens are beginning, on their own, to do this.  State leaders must lead by example and be honest about Texans’ limited water supply, rather than catering to the special interests hooked on growth.

If they ask you what you want them to do exactly, tell them:  It is your job to figure this out, but you can start by making sure that you stop any legislation like HB 1796 and HB 2740 (still pending the Natural Resources Committee), that would grandfather permit holders such that no reductions over 5% can be made. You can start holding town halls across the state, which includes the organization for independent voters – Independent Texans.  And, last you must acknowledge that Texas is in a water crisis.  Citizens will work with you on what we can accept – but you’ve got to start with honesty.  Water is scarce – more pipelines to move it won’t make it rain.

Independent Texans
PO Box 651 *  Bastrop, Texas 78602  *  512-535-0989
www.IndyTexans.org
* email ljcurtis@indytexans.org
sign up to get our emails or phone calls on this site

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Giddings & State Water Update!

A quick report about the Giddings hearing — yes, that’s us trying to get in the door!  Thank you for showing up — not only from Bastrop and Lee counties, but from across the region as far as Huntsville and our municipal friends — who continue to push for real water conservation — from city of Austin!  

We need you to COME TO TONIGHT’s second hearing in Giddings (starts at 6 pm sharp, at the American Legion Hall in Giddings at 1502 US Hwy. 77). 

Things could be turning our way.  But, more pressure is needed!  There will be plenty of room inside tonight’s hall — so come.  Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District has apologized for the rude treatment last night — they heard us.

We have a temporary delay on 55,000 acre-feet of a total of now 111,000 acre-feet per year applications.  (That’s nearly 100 million gallons per day).  We should also thank Aqua Water Supply Corporation, a member owned water coop serving 50,000 residents mostly in Bastrop County.  Aqua Water filed a request for a Contested Hearing to lay out their concerns about the Forestar (45,000 acre-feet) and LCRA (10,000 acre-feet) permit applications.  This stopped any votes on these permits, until Aqua Water’s request is addressed at May 15th meeting of the Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District meeting — to be held in Bastrop.  Then these permits could be delayed further or approved, depending on how Lost Pines GCD votes on Aqua’s request to contest Forestar and LCRA.

Tonight’s hearing on End Op LLC’s 56,000 acre-feet application is CRITICAL to the entire picture for water conservation and potential exportation in Lost Pines GCD and all the folks who are turning their attention to it.

Meanwhile, water wars are cropping up all over the state.  Hays County and nearby folks — mark your calendars for a TOWN HALL meeting next Thursday, April 25th at the Wimberely Community Center at 7 pm.  (We will work to get a calendar up soon for folks across the state to start activating on this issue.)

Remember, tomorrow AND Monday, we will ask you to make some calls to your legislators.  We’ll send you a message late tonight or tomorrow morning with details.

Believe it or not, we are a range of people from the green party to the tea party and all points in between!  Our common mantra, for now is, Conserve Now, Export/Import Later.  What more we can do together is up for discussion.  It’s going to be a long fight.

PS  Lots of detailed information is also now up at Environmental Stewardship. 

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Action Alert: Protect small farmers and backyard poultry owners

Action Alert: Protect small farmers and backyard poultry owners

The Texas Legislature is considering a bill that would authorize the Texas Animal Health Commission to adopt federal regulations and require every chicken to have a permanent leg band with a unique ID number when it is sold or moved to a new location.  While commercial hatcheries and large confinement operations would be exempt, the requirement would impact both small farmers and people with a few backyard chickens.

The bill also gives the agency a blank check to adopt federal regulations governing animal ID of all kinds of livestock animals, including goats, sheep, pigs, cattle, and horses.  The federal regulations govern the movement of animals between states, which is not a frequent occurrence for small farmers.  But imposing those same regulations on every movement within the state could cause significant problems for small farmers.

No one knows what federal rules may be adopted next year or 5 years from now, which means that the Texas Legislature is buying into the federal regulations without even knowing what they will be!

Tagging animals, without having any connection to disease control measures, is unnecessary and time-consuming. This creates a significant burden for small farmers, ultimately making it more difficult for them to remain viable sources of local food for the community.

The bill gives this open-ended authority to the Texas Animal Health Commission.  This is the agency that tried to impose mandatory premises registration and the National Animal Identification System on every livestock and poultry owner, which would have hurt thousands of small farmers.  (More information is at the end of the alert)

TAKE ACTION

Call your Texas State Representative and Senator and urge them to vote NO on HB 2311 and SB 1233, the Animal ID bills.

You can find out who represents you at http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us/Home.aspx or by calling the Capitol Switchboard at 512-463-4630

Message:
“Hi, my name is _____ and I am a constituent.  I urge you to vote against HB 2311 and SB 1233, the Animal ID bills.  While the bills sound like they limit the Texas Animal Health Commission’s authority, they actually do the opposite – they are giving the agency renewed authority to adopt Animal ID rules.  This is bad for backyard poultry owners and small farmers, and it’s ultimately bad for the consumers who rely on them. The state’s animal ID programs should be tied to actual disease control measures, not simply tagging animals for the sake of tagging.  I urge you to oppose HB 2311 and SB 1233.”

BONUS ACTION

The House version of the bill, HB 2311, is being considered in the Agriculture Committee.  After you call your own Representative and Senator, please send an email to the Committee members urging them to vote no on HB 2311:

Tracy King (Chair)
Email: Tracy.King@house.state.tx.us

Charles “Doc” Anderson (Vice-Chair)
Email: Charles.Anderson@house.state.tx.us

Mary Gonzalez
Email: Mary.Gonzalez@house.state.tx.us

Tim Kleinschmidt
Email: Tim.Kleinschmidt@house.state.tx.us

Drew Springer
Email: Drew.Springer@house.state.tx.us

James White
Email: James.White@house.state.tx.us

Kyle Kacal
Email: Kyle.Kacal@house.state.tx.us  (note: Rep. Kacal is the sponsor of HB 2311)

MORE INFORMATION

Requiring animals to be tagged, with no connection to any testing or other disease control measure, is not the answer for animal health or food safety.  The Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) already has extensive powers to address animal diseases and to include animal ID as part of those programs.  This bill, however, gives the agency authority to require animal identification solely for the sake of identification, unrelated to any real animal disease control measure.

Back in 2005, at the urging of Agribusiness groups, the Texas Legislature adopted a law that allowed the TAHC to impose mandatory National Animal Identification System (NAIS). NAIS would have required that anyone who owned even a single livestock or poultry animal register their property, individually ID each animal (in most cases with electronic ID such as microchips or RFID), and report their movements to the government.  The agency rushed with the first stage of NAIS, and it only stopped when thousands of Texans cried foul.

The outcry against NAIS was so great all over the country that the U.S. Department of Agriculture withdrew the program in 2009.  When NAIS died, so did the agency’s legal authority to impose animal identification requirements unrelated to disease control programs.

The mandatory NAIS statute in Texas is defunct. At this moment, the TAHC can only legally require identification when it is connected to a disease control program.

HB 2311 and SB 1233 breathe new life into the agency’s authority, however.  The original intent behind the bills was to address the fact that TAHC has been overstepping its bounds, most recently by issuing a mandatory cattle ID rule that requires cattle – even those going direct to slaughter – to be ear tagged.  But the bills have been amended to undermine that original intent, and they now grandfather in the agency’s illegal regulation.

You can read the text of the bill at http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/tlodocs/83R/billtext/html/SB01233S.htm

Agribusiness industry groups are insisting that the bill include all species and allow the agency to impose federal regulations onto every farmer.  We need both farmers and consumers who care about small and diversified livestock farms – which are healthy sources of local food – to speak up!  Please take action today.

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Austin is Not Developers’ Monopoly Board

Sign it, if you live in Austin

Austin is Not Developers' Monopoly Board

Dear Mayor Adler and Austin City Council Members:

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Why don't you share this with your friends, please:

Make Growth Pay for Itself

No Vista Ridge/San Antone Hose

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