Two local water groups have invited the public to informal meetings at 4:30 and 7 p.m., on September 13 at Bastrop American Legion, 3003 Loop 150. The Simsboro Aquifer Water Defense Fund (SAWDF) and Bastrop-based Friends of Bastrop Water (FBW) will lead Bastrop and Lee countians through strategy sessions for protesting a proposed groundwater export permit for the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA).
Seating is limited, so the public is asked to help the groups’ planning by reserving a seat for either meeting at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 512-333-0252.
Individuals, organizations and groups are encouraged to bring their questions as well as information to share about any wells on their property.
LCRA’s plans for eight Simsboro wells on the historic Griffith League Scout Ranch in Bastrop County drew crowds in July at two town hall meetings. SAWDF and FBW say they continue to encourage citizens and especially landowners to unite and challenge the Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District to address their concerns about the permit’s impacts on water supply and property rights.
Gangnes said LCRA can’t resist staking its claim
“Just because LCRA says it is different from the ‘private’ water marketers, the size of this permit raises the same issues as other export projects that target our local aquifer,” said SAWDF board member Michele Gangnes. “The truth is, like all the rest, LCRA can't resist staking its claim (in this case, inserting its ‘straw’) in the Texas Pot of Gold, our Simsboro Aquifer. We have no option but to take our concerns to our groundwater district.”
The District’s website says it is the “only tool available” under state law to protect the water supply of Lee and Bastrop counties. If the permit is granted by the District in its proposed form, LCRA’s laddered permit ultimately will allow pumping of over 8 billion gallons of Simsboro water every year. The District’s draft permit and its FAQ’s on permit protests are available at www.lostpineswater.org.
The wells will sit just off the ranch’s shared boundary with the Circle D community, near existing LCRA wells at Lake Bastrop, four future End Op LP (“Recharge”) wells, and three existing Aqua wells.
Meeting to cover steps to be in permit process
The September 13 meetings will cover steps the public must take to participate in the permitting process. The close of business on September 21, 2018 is the critical deadline for individuals, groups or organizations to file their written requests to formally protest the LCRA permit. A sample form to request a contested case hearing is provided on FBW’s website at www.friendsofbastropwater.com.
SAWDF and FBW are urging the public to “pack the house” on September 26, when the District holds a hearing on the LCRA permit at 7 p.m. in the Bastrop Convention Center, 1408 Chestnut Street, Bastrop. Any member of the public may offer informal oral or written comments to the District.
If the permit process is not interrupted by a contested case hearing, the District could act on the permit at that hearing.
Either the District’s Board or LCRA can trigger a contested case hearing automatically. A state administrative law judge will hold another hearing if anyone else protests the permit by September 21. The judge will hear evidence from potential parties and make recommendations to the District about who should be allowed to participate in any contested case hearing.
Appeals Court rules against Judge Campbell
On a related matter, SAWDF published a statement on August 31 concerning the 14-well permit issued by the District in 2016 to End Op/”Recharge”.
Last week, the Austin Court of Appeals decided that, procedurally, State District Court Judge Carson Campbell did not have the authority to rule in 2018 that four local landowners were wrongfully denied the right to participate in End Op’s 2014 contested case hearing.
According to SAWDF’s statement, both End Op and the District had argued landowners have no right to challenge a Simsboro permit unless they are pumping water from the Simsboro.
The appellate court’s order dismissed the suit without either discussing or deciding whether the landowners should have been allowed to challenge the permit.
Attorneys for the four landowners said they are currently reviewing the decision, which essentially reinstates End Op’s permit, but does not address important constitutional issues. Options for the landowners include appealing the decision to the Texas Supreme Court.
SAWDF, which can be found at www.simsborowaterdefensefund.org, is a qualified 501(c)(3) organization which helps Texas landowners protect their private property rights as well as their aquifers. Friends of Bastrop Water was organized specifically to address the local community impacts of the LCRA project. Its website is designed as a clearinghouse of information on the LCRA permitting process.