Posts Tagged ‘Environmental Stewardship’

Legislature’s Water Fund Deflates, Water Wars Escalate

For Immediate Release                                                   May 13, 2013

Legislature’s Water Infrastructure Fund Deflates,
Local Water Wars Escalate

Simultaneous to the Legislature’s scramble to find the votes to get $2 billion to fund water infrastructure, residents living in counties just to the east of the Capitol are headed for a critical skirmish in the water war over their aquifer – the Simsboro portion of the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer.  What’s at stake is an aquifer that water marketers have had their eye on for years, and the setting of a precedent that could open the door for draining Texas aquifers to feed exponential growth, doing great harm to Texas landowners.

Citizens from across the affected counties of Bastrop and Lee, together with others from counties that could receive their exported water, will show up on Wednesday, May 15th, starting at 5 pm, at the Bastrop Convention Center to witness a contested hearing as Aqua Water Supply Corporation faces off against private water marketers, Forestar Real Group (Temple-Inland), End Op LP (owned by former Williamson County Commissioner, Frankie Limmer) and the LCRA.  In dispute are groundwater permits totaling 111,000 acre-feet per year (approximately 99 million gallons per day).  The first battle will be over whether Aqua Water has filed in time, according to the rules of the administrative hearing process, to mount a proper challenge to Forestar’s permit request for 45,000 acre-feet/year and LCRA’s permit request for 10,000 acre-feet/year.

Of great interest will be whether the Lost Pines GCD will also grant “party status” to nine landowners and one community organization, Environmental Stewardship, that has led the fight for years to protect the Simsboro.  Seven members of the Brown family in Lee County have filed for party status.

The Browns have owned land in Lee County since the 1800s at ground zero where Forestar plans to sink 10 deep-water wells.  Adding to the drama is that their cousin and neighboring, Garry Brown and State Representative Tim Kleinschmidt, have either leased or sold their own water rights now part of the Forestar deal.

On hand for interviews will be the following individuals and organizations:

•    Betz Brown and other family members who filed for party status against the Forestar and End Op permits.  Betz Brown provided this 2-minute riveting testimony at the most recent hearing in Giddings:  click Betz Brown here and watch Madeleine Stiffelmeyer Brown here talk about how her family has been divided by this issue.

•    Darwyn Hanna, a Bastrop landowner whose family has owned land in Bastrop County since the late 1800s.  Hanna has filed for party status against the permits for Forestar, LCRA and End Op.

•    Andrew Meyer, a young, new farmer who recently purchased land in Paige to start an organic farm.  Meyer has filed for party status against permits for Forestar, LCRA and End Op.  Video of Meyer’s 2-minute testimony to the LPGCD is here.

•    Steve Box, Executive Director of Environmental Stewardship, who has provided his considerable policy and scientific expertise to Bastrop and Lee County landowners and residents for years.  ES has filed for party status against permits for Forestar, LCRA and End Op.  Watch this 3-minute testimony by Steve Box here.

•    Phil Cook, Bastrop landowner, Sierra Club – Lost Pines area.  Watch Cook’s 3-minute testimony here.

•    City of Austin resident, Dick Kallerman, Chairman of the Save Our Springs Alliance Board, to support the call for ‘conserve first, move water later.’

•    Tom Sherman, Concerned Citizens for Texas Water Resources, who lives in New Ulm, and is working to stop the 20-well application by Electro Purification to export water to Richmond and Rosenberg.

•    Jimmy Gaines, President of Texas Landowners Council, an original sponsor of House Bill 3250 that died in committee this week.  Mr. Gaines will talk about groundwater as a private property right and because it is a private property right, state law should protect individuals against the taking of groundwater and it does not.

Travis Brown, President of Neighbors for Neighbors and 20 year Lee County landowner.

•    Linda Curtis, Director of Independent Texans, a citizen-led political action committee for non-aligned voters.  Independent Texans has sounded the alarm to residents bringing out large crowds to previous hearings.

Linda Curtis of Independent Texans said, “What is at stake in Bastrop and Lee counties is no different from what is at stake for all Texans — rural, urban and suburban.  Most of our officials have turned their head to any genuine effort to protect Texas aquifers or landowners living over them.  Texans are crying out for what we all need — the common sense notion that we should conserve first, move water later.   The Legislature should be helping us, not helping those who are set to profit from draining our aquifers.”

Lots more details on this battle are in the News section of this blos and the website of Environmental Stewardship.  Maps obtained by Environmental Stewardship delineating potential damage to well owners are here.

•    Note:  The three permit requests under dispute at the time of this release are:  45,000 acre-feet/year for Forestar Real Estate Group (Temple-Inland), 56,000 acre-feet/year for End Op LP and 10,000 acre-feet for the LCRA.  LCRA is asking the Bastrop County Commission at a special meeting called for Tuesday at 9 a.m. to pass a resolution in support of their permit application.

For more information:

Linda Curtis
Independent Texans
512-535-0989 office
512-657-2089 cell

Share

Letter to Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District: Permit This, Not This

PERMIT THIS NOT BANKRUPTCY-RecycledDear Lost Pines GCD Board of Directors,
(Please forward to Board ASAP)

The coalition of below named organizations have developed what it believes would be a reasonable outcome of your deliberations regarding the groundwater permit applications before you at this time.  We find that the production limits sought by Forestar, End Op, and LCRA applications will harm existing permitted wells, the environment, and are far in excess of the DFC and MAG.  The District has failed to factor in the impact of existing permits, and has failed to reasonably consider MAG.  If granted, these permits will make the DFCs unachievable.We believe that, if permitted at all, individual permit should first be reduced to levels actually supported by the applications and then all permits reduced overall as necessary to an aggregate level that, including existing permits, protect the Adopted Desired Future Conditions. In addition the District needs to factor in the impact of existing permits before issuing any new permits.

Example:  Forestar’s application, based almost entirely on a Letter of Intent with Hays County for 25,000 to 45,000 AFY, due to expire in September 2013, is a perfect example of the overarching common element in the two largest applications.  Specifically, the facts demonstrate the applicants are seeking permits for ill-defined projects, whose end users are moving targets and which seek to satisfy the entire demand for their target areas, despite the potential for other sources of supply.  For example, has Hays County’s supposedly “exclusive” LOI with Forestar  now been replaced with Hays County’s April 2013 Request for Proposals for an Alternative Water Supply?  Might the RFP result in a lower bidder than Forestar?  Is Forestar’s proposal to Hays County for up to 45,000 AFY redundant as far as the Hays Caldwell Public Utility Agency’s plan to bring water to Kyle, Buda and San Marcos?  These are exactly the questions the Board should be considering in determining, bottom line, whether these permits seek to prematurely tie up our water while they look for the highest bidder.

In summary, if permitted at all, Forestar and End Op qualify for less than 5% of the water they are seeking.

We encourage the Board to keep permitting within conservative limits that allow pumping that can be reasonably expected to achieve the Adopted GMA-12 Desired Future Conditions.  We oppose the water bankruptcy that would result from all permits being approved at the levels requested.  The flyer attached articulates our request.

If you are not yet ready to take the steps necessary to conservatively manage this resource through the permit process, we encourage you to table final decision on these permits until 1) after the Legislative session has been adjourned, and 2) after the final decisions in the contested case hearings.

1.    We are concerned that the strategy for preservation of the DFC whereby the District will reduce permitted withdrawals later after the DFC has been violated, may be well-intended but is unrealistic.  Once the permitted entities have entered into binding contracts for the supply of water it will be extremely difficult for the District to reduce the permitted water as necessary to preserve the DFC.  This strategy is even more imperiled by the Texas Legislature.  The Legislature has made clear that it is willing to consider legislation that would wholly remove the District’s ability to make such reductions in the future.  As such we believe it is unwise for the District to adopt a management strategy that will at best be exceedingly difficult to implement, and relies upon a management tool that the Legislature may remove entirely.

2.      We also believe that the contested case hearing will allow the District to develop a more robust understanding of the facts involved in regulating permits under the laws and regulations of the State of Texas, and that this understanding will enable the District to make a more informed decision on the application after the hearings have been completed.

We do not believe this is the time to engage legal strategies, but rather that it is time to act to conservatively manage our precious groundwater resources as has been the request of our county Judges, Commissioners Courts, many organizations, and the people of Bastrop and Lee counties.  If challenged in court over having taken this path, we will work as diligently to back you as we have to encourage your good stewardship.

Respectfully yours,

Steve Box, Environmental Stewardship
Michele Gangnes, Neighbors for Neighbors
Phil Cook, Lost Pines Sierra Club
Gretchen McCord DeFlorio, Groups United to Advocate Responsible Development (“GUARD”)
Linda Curtis, Independent Texans

CLICK HERE FOR THE FLIER — PERMIT THIS NOT BANKRUPTCY-Recycled

Share

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.

Share

Urgent Message for Lee and Bastrop County Residents!

Two important items for protection our groundwater require your participation!

Lee County Reminder this Monday night, April 8, 6 pm, Giddings Library! Flier attached here. Independent Texans and Environmental Stewardship will prepare you information for the CRITICAL Lost Pines Groundwater District Hearing on the 17th.  Spread the word, please!  You can also call or email your county commissioners here and Judge Fischer here.

Bastrop County please come to the Bastrop County Commissioner’s Court, also this Monday, at 9 am!  Judge Paul Pape and members of the Commissioners Court want to help protect our groundwater by passing the following resolution click here.  Please come at 9 am sharp, feel free to speak, and if you can’t make it, please call or send a message now to your commissioners here and Judge Pape here.  Thank them!

All Bastrop & Lee counties residents — remember we share the same districts covered by the Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District.  We all need to be in Giddings on Wednesday, April 17th, 6 pm at Giddings City Hall.

IF Lost Pines GCD approves approximately 120,000 acre-feet in permit requests (107,000,000 million gallons per day), this is bad news for everyone but water profiteers and their friends.  Therefore, invite all your friends from Travis, Williamson, Hays and Bexar counties, set to receive these exports and include neighbors in Milam and Burleson counties whose groundwater district (Post Oak Savannah) is already over-pumping the same groundwater!

Most people we know want more serious conservation and protection of our aquifers.  This unites us all — regardless of party and ideology.

Share

Water Update

A pivotal challenge affecting the entire state’s groundwater management taken by Environmental Stewardship (ES) is awaiting a ruling by the Texas Water Development Board in GMA-12 (Bastrop, Brazos, Burleson, Falls, Fayette, Freestone, Lee, Leon, Limestone, Madison, Milam, Navarro, Robertson, and Williamson counties). Do groundwater districts have to consider the impact of aquifer (groundwater) drawdowns on rivers and streams (surface water)?  Any hydrologist will tell you that “surface water” (rivers, streams, etc.) are intimately connected to groundwater (aquifers).  Go to the ES website for more information.

Share

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:

[signature]

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

Make Growth Pay for Itself

No Vista Ridge/San Antone Hose

Archives
Share