February 9, 2018
For Immediate Release
Groundwater District Board Votes
To Appeal Judge’s Ruling for Landowners
BASTROP – In a split 4-2 vote, the ten-member Board of Directors of the Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District voted to appeal a state district judge’s ruling that favored four local landowners. The dispute concerns permits issued to End Op LP, now known as Recharge, to allow pumping of massive amounts of groundwater from Lee and Bastrop counties.
The vote came after two lengthy executive sessions, and an unprecedented public dialogue among board members, the District’s attorneys and the audience during a specially-called February 1 meeting in Giddings.
Local water conservation activists fighting groundwater exports from the area said they were disappointed the district’s directors did not accept the ruling by Judge Carson Campbell. Recharge has also appealed the Judge’s decision, which clearly influenced the Board’s vote.
“This was an opportunity for the district’s board to accept the Judge’s decision and stand up for the property rights of local landowners to protect their groundwater,” said Michele Gangnes, a Lee County attorney and director of the Simsboro Aquifer Water Defense Fund (SAWDF). “The district’s lawyer seemed to believe the district would be protecting the ‘public interest’ by joining End Op’s appeal. We believe continuing the district’s fight against landowners sends the opposite signal to the citizens of Lee and Bastrop counties.“
Campbell ruled in January that the Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District improperly excluded three individual landowners and conservation group Environmental Stewardship, also a landowner, from participating as parties in a 2014 hearing over the permits issued by the district in 2016.
Those permits allow Recharge to pump and export up to 46,000 acre-feet of water annually (approximately 15 billion gallons per year) from 14 wells in the Simsboro formation of the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer, for export to Hays, Travis and Williamson counties.
The judge’s ruling also revoked the permits, pending a new hearing to allow the landowners’ protest to be heard. Counsel for the district advised the board the district probably would be enjoined from holding a new hearing. She also stated End Op seems interested in mediating the dispute prior to the appeal going forward.
SAWDF was formed in 2016 by veterans of several groups, including Neighbors for Neighbors, who have battled for almost two decades to protect the region’s groundwater. SAWDF, a 501(c)(3) organization, continues to focus its fundraising campaign on supporting the landowners’ case.