Good evening, Board Members,
To say I am merely distressed by the settlement proposal this Board has made to End Op LP would be an understatement. But I am also terribly empathetic with the pressure of permitting decisions you are under.
I do, as always, thank all of you for your service, and I have to single out Keith Hansberger, whom I view as a mentor along with two other original board members who have passed, Glenn Marburger and Travis McPhaul. If this board always takes action on the basis those three always did --- with equal amounts of courage and integrity balanced with common sense and good judgment– I will back you 100%.
I don’t believe you will have the information necessary to carry out the analysis you have tasked yourselves with in the first 5 years of the proposed settlement, but I do believe you had a laudable purpose in structuring the proposal the way you did. So I might be willing to give you the benefit of the doubt. However, the fact Mr. Hansberger voted against it concerns me, because I may not know why he opposed it, but I do know his vote was not given lightly.
I can’t do anything about your vote last week, but I can ask you to consider strongly how to put yourselves, your staff and your experts in a position to actually conduct that analysis. Lawyers who know what’s good for them advise their clients to plan for the worst, not the best case, so you had better be right on the front end of this permit because if your fallback position is “we can always cut them back down the road”, you need to think again.
San Antonio and Abengoa believe nothing --- not the groundwater district, not the Legislature and not the courts--- will be allowed to get in the way of their Vista Ridge project for 50,000 acre-feet a year from Burleson County. That’s comparable to the amount of water that End Op and Forestar each want from the same aquifer, primarily in Lee County. They believe once they fill that 60-inch pipeline with water, that they’ll have too much money invested and too much leverage to suffer any attempts to cut them back.
That’s the worst case from the aquifer’s point of view. And it’s also the worst case from your constituents’ point of view --- even, I daresay, the landowners who sold their water. After all, our counties and all of us are in this together.
So I also want to challenge you to task your attorneys and your other experts with making sure the deal you have proposed is protective of all of your constituents, including those of us who collectively own millions of acres of land but who do not choose to sell our water and who won’t let our property right be taken from us without a fight. The choice to sell or not sell does not determine whether we have a protected interest or not. You represent all of us, and if you protect and conserve our aquifers, you are protecting us. In fact, your sole mission, according to your website, is to protect the water supply for the residents of Lee and Bastrop counties, and to determine how best to protect the underground aquifer from over-pumping so that there will be enough water for everyone, now and in the future.
I interviewed awhile ago to be a member of your board and it distressed me then that my ability to be “fair” was challenged. I was offended by the question, as anyone would be, and I answered truthfully, yes, I believe I could be fair or I would not have applied for the job. In fact, I have never advocated that this board simply deny export permits – instead I and the two organizations I represent have joined in communications to this board, like the one I’ve attached to these comments, urging the Board to go slow by permitting a lesser amount, but never to outright deny a water marketer’s permit.
So if it’s an appropriate question to judge me on, based on my track record, then I will ask each of you to ask it of yourself --- is this settlement fair to the people and the aquifers you serve? Your track record indicates you would not have given End Op a 46,000 acre-foot permit, but you might have given them a 12,000 to 13,000 acre-foot permit, with which I probably would have agreed---- ask yourself what has changed in that scenario. If it’s because your lawyers say you have no choice, I would still appreciate if you would ask yourself is it fair to the rest of us.
Michele G. Gangnes, Lee County