If you are receiving this message, it's likely that your State Senator is Lois Kolkhorst OR you live over the Simsboro in a community most affected by HB 1066.
If so, please call her office at (512) 463-0118 (leave a message anytime, including weekends) to OPPOSE HB 1066 by Trent Ashby (R-Lufkin) in the Senate Water and Rural Affairs Committee, on which the Senator serves.
Representatives of SAWDF and other aligned groups will be at the Committee’s hearing on Monday, April 29 ---and please join us at the hearing at 11 am or upon adjournment of the Senate in E1.012—see hearing notice here. We will be there to state our opposition to this bill unless it is amended to be more protective of landowners and their property rights, at least for those mega-permits that have already been issued.
Sen. Kolkhorst must continue to speak up for her rural communities whose groundwater gets “donated” to urban and suburban development without adequate protection for the donor communities.
You don’t need to know any more to call, but here’s what HB 1066 would do:
HB 1066 would extend a permit to export groundwater outside the boundaries of a groundwater conservation district to no shorter than the term of the associated pumping (operating) permit. It also would automatically extend the export permit for each additional term the operating permit is renewed or remains in effect.
Operating permits are already subject to automatic renewal unless the permit holder or the groundwater district initiates a particular kind of amendment that calls for a public hearing. Thus, combined operating/export mega-permits could extend for decades without any direct public involvement --- landowners and other rural residents would simply have to trust their GCD to look out for their aquifers and their property rights in the meantime.
Vista Ridge (aka the “San Antone Hose”) is a direct beneficiary of HB 1066
We believe HB 1066, like its predecessor in the 2017 session which was vetoed by the Governor, is intended specifically to benefit the Vista Ridge/SAWS project in Burleson County (which is in Sen. Kolkhorst’s district). Vista Ridge’s export permit now expires in 2034 while its operating permit runs until 2044. Vista Ridge has tried at least twice to extend the export permit without a public hearing; Post Oak Savannah GCD refused each time.
HB 1066 would allow Vista Ridge, as early as September 2019, to automatically extend, without a hearing and without either public or District involvement, the export permit to 2044 and thereby make the entire project eligible for automatic 40-year renewals thereafter.
The public would have no opportunity to participate in a hearing other than the one that was initially held in 2004 when both permits were issued, if the Post Oak Savannah GCD or Vista Ridge never make any permit amendments that trigger public participation. This should not happen; Vista Ridge should live with the rules that were in effect when they received their permit --- including a public hearing if they request an extension on the export permit any time prior to 2034. By 2044, the Vista Ridge project will have permanently removed 384 billion gallons of Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer water, if pumping begins in 2020 as planned.
Governor Abbott vetoed a virtually identical bill in 2017
Under 1066, the public simply has to depend on its groundwater district to protect the aquifer --- and landowner property rights in their groundwater ----from adverse impacts of a project like Vista Ridge.
HB 1066 is virtually identical to a bill the Governor vetoed in 2017 with these words:
"Excluding the public, potentially in perpetuity, from the decisions of a groundwater conservation district will reduce transparency and inhibit the district’s ability to respond to changed circumstances over time.“