By James Lee Murphy, Esq. / Special to the Bastrop Advertiser
Posted Oct 6, 2018 at 5:27 AM
The Bastrop Advertiser deserves praise for reporting on LCRA’s permit application for 8.15 billion gallons of groundwater per year from the Simsboro Aquifer. Regardless of the outcome of LCRA’s application, the issues go far beyond what will be addressed by the State Office of Administrative Hearings, and all Texans have a stake in the outcome.
These issues need to be addressed, and failure to do so allows readers to assume that the protestants are standing in the way of progress or motivated by “not in my backyard” syndrome. Even sympathetic readers could read the article, share the concerns of local landowners, yet conclude that the residents of Bastrop and Lee counties are unfortunate victims of changing times and that there’s no alternative save a sad farewell to a bygone age.
Consider a couple of quotes from LCRA’ Manager of Public Opinion John Hoffman: “What we are is a water supplier for our region ... and as a water supplier, we pay attention to two particular things — the need for water and the supply.” It isn’t only the locals that should be alarmed by that statement. LCRA is indeed a water supplier, but heretofore exclusively a surface water supplier. Is there really a need for LCRA to be in the groundwater business?
Let’s look at the facts. There is a surplus of permitted excess water from the Simsboro portion of the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer. Excess water represents the difference between the contracted amount of water and the amount under contract to an end user, whether or not it’s actually being used.
How much excess water is available? Add up the Simsboro water permitted to Recharge/EndOp, Forestar and what San Antonio s trying to sell from their Vista Ridge Project and there’s almost 90,000 acre-feet of water already available to supply what Hoffman characterizes as “our region.” Wouldn’t it make sense for LCRA to include already permitted groundwater as a source to meet the region’s need for water and the supply?
Equally troubling is LCRA’s refusal to say who will use the water and where it’s going. Hoffman says it will be used in his service area, but since LCRA’s service area covers 15 percent of the state and extends from West Texas to Matagorda Bay, that information isn’t helpful in evaluating needs or other alternative sources of supply.
The numbers don’t lie, and as per the numbers, LCRA doesn’t need this project nor does it need to be in the groundwater business. This application is a notorious example of a governmental agency engaging in “mission creep,” something that concerns all of us, not just the citizens of Bastrop and Lee counties.
It’s time to inform the Legislature that the present situation is intolerable and contrary to LCRA’s duty to protect a precious, effectively non-renewable resource. Residents will have an opportunity to attend the Sunset Commission hearing on LCRA in December to offer our opinions on LCRA and where it needs to be improved, reformed, or replaced. We look forward to seeing you there.
Murphy is the executive director and general counsel of the America First PAC. For more information on the America First Groundwater reform project and legislation concerning LCRA, email Murphy at firstname.lastname@example.org.