SAWDF Director Andy Wier makes the case for a proposed County Commissioners Court resolution to advise Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District of County's desire, on behalf of Lee County reAZ
County rejects proposed Desired Future Conditions
In the midst of discussions of the county’s budget, proposed tax rates, and new subdivisions at its Monday meeting, the Lee County Commissioners Court unanimously passed a resolution to address the county’sgroundwater future.
The resolution was proposed to the court by the Bastrop-based conservation group, Simsboro Aquifer Water Defense Fund (SAWDF). The resolution advises the Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District, on behalf of the citizens of Lee County, of the Court’s opposition to the proposed Desired Future Conditions (DFC) pending for adoption by the district.
The district and four other groundwater conservation districts are members of Groundwater Management Area 12 (GMA-12), which is tasked every five years with setting the DFC in terms of allowable drawdowns over rolling fifty-year periods, in the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer and other minor aquifers under the five districts.
The resolution states the proposed DFCs call for significant increases in the allowable drawdowns for water levels in the Carrizo-Wilcox, Sparta and Queen City Aquifers under Lee and Bastrop counties, from 30% to 340%, depending on the aquifer formation.
A virtually identical resolution was recently unanimously passed by Bastrop County.
County Judge backs resolution
Judge Paul Fischer’s interest in protecting the water supply of Lee County has been no secret throughout his tenure. He has appeared before the Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District numerous times to ask the district’s board to be conservative in their permitting decisions.
In the resolution, the commissioners made findings that the proposed DFC do not establish the required balance between development of groundwater resources, and conservation and protection of those resources.
They also advised the district that they support conservation and sustainablemanagement of aquifers, rather than depletion (mining) of our water.
Lee County's water aquifers targeted
Lee County’s aquifers have been targeted for development and export to urban areas along the IH-35 corridor since before the district was created by the Legislature in 1999.
The Carrizo formation is already showing stress from the massive Vista Ridge export project to San Antonio from Burleson County in the neighboring Post Oak Savannah Groundwater Conservation District. Numerous household and domestic wells in northeast Lee County and Burleson County began showing dramaticimpacts within a few months after Vista Ridge began pumping.
On its website, the Lost Pines district acknowledges it has powers to help prevent large-volume users from over pumping and damaging our water supply, in pursuing its sole mission of protecting the water supply of Lee and Bastrop counties.
SAWDF, others support resolution
Prior to voting on the resolution, the court heard Monday from SAWDF board members, Andrew Wier and Michele Gangnes in support of the resolution. SAWDF is campaigning across GMA-12, along with Bastrop Countyconservation group, Environmental Stewardship, to convince the member districtsto reject the proposed DFC, and instead adopt DFC that are more protective ofboth landowner wells and the Colorado River System.
Lee County landowner and attorney Gangnes emphasized in her introductory remarks that the proposed resolution in no way is intended to be critical of the Lost Pines district. She characterized it as a way for Lee County to express concern for the best interests of its residents.
Gangnes thanked Herbert Cook and Sheril Smith, two Lee County board members of the district, for attending Monday’s meeting. Judge Fischer later commented he would much rather be County Judge than a board member of Lost Pines, and thanked them for their willingness to take on very difficult issues. He noted that the commissioners court appoints the Lee County members of the Lost Pines board.
Andy Wier presents resolution specifics
Bastrop landowner and LCRA permit protestant, Andy Wier, made SAWDF’s case for the resolution. Wier pointed out in his presentation that the drawdowns allowed by the proposed DFC are not future conditions that should be “desired”.
He told the commissioners that the Post Oak Savannah district was the lone vote at GMA-12 against proposing the significant increases in drawdowns, and only one additional district’s vote against them would cause the proposed DFC to be rejected.
Wier described in some detail how the proposed DFC, if imposed on Post Oak by the other four districts in GMA-12, would impair Post Oak’s ability to manage its aquifers, including any production curtailments authorized under its pre-existing, state-approved management plan. Vista Ridge’s permit to produce and export water from the Post Oak district is subject to curtailment in production if certain conditions exist.
Wier’s detailed presentation to the Court included graphics showing the number of wells in each commissioner’s precinct, along with cross-sections of the Carrizo-Wilcox aquifer to illustrate its characteristics as it passes under Lee County. He pointed out to the court that Lee County is dependent on groundwater for its potable water.
Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District board member, Herbert Cook, addresses County Court's questions.
Well issues talked about at meeting
County attorney Martin Placke and Precinct 4 Commissioner Steven Knobloch asked Wier questions about well failures in Lee County, how future wells planned for new subdivisions in the county would affect certain aquifers, and the Lost Pines district’s response to well failures caused by Vista Ridge.
Commissioner Knobloch had specific questions about Lost Pines’ mitigation plan for owners of household and livestock wells in theCarrizo formation who are impacted by Vista Ridge. The plan was announced at a special meeting of the district held in Lexington last May to hear from concerned well owners.
Wier noted that Lost Pines has in fact re-directed $500,000 in its current budget to a mitigation fund to reimburse the costs incurred to remediate those specific wells. Costs up to $3,500 would be reimbursable by the district’s general manager, with higher reimbursement decisions made by the board.
Wier answered Commissioner Knobloch’s question about how soon reimbursements would start by saying the forms the district intends to use for landowner requests are not yet available. He advised landowners to inquire directly to the district about getting on any waiting list to fill out the paperwork. The district’s general manager Jim Totten can be reached at 512-360-5088, or at email@example.com.
Wier cautioned the commissioners that mitigation is just a“band-aid”, and provides no guarantee that both wells and our aquifers will not be damaged in the future from over-pumping.
Wier cautioned the commissioners that mitigation is just a“band-aid”, and provides no guarantee that both wells and our aquifers will notbe damaged in the future from over-pumping.
DFC hearing to be held August 18
The Lost Pines district will hold its required hearing to receive oral public comments on the proposed Desired Future Conditions at the Bastrop Convention Center, 1408 Chestnut St., Bastrop, Texas 78602, on Thursday, August 18 at 6 p.m.
More information on the proposed DFC is posted on the district’s website at lostpineswater.organd is available at the district’s office at 908 Loop 230, Smithville, TX 78957, by calling the district at 512-360-5088, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Written comments may be submitted through August 18, 2021 at the same address or emailed to email@example.com.
Final DFC must be adopted by the GMA-12 districts by January 5, 2022.
SAWDF and Environmental Stewardship emphasize in their public outreach that the districts have adequate time to do their required work to produce DFC that are fair and balanced, as required by the Texas Water Code, and that do not threaten local communities, surface waters and their ecosystems.
The Lee County resolution states, “[A]t the least, Lee County, Texas requests that any new or amended DFCs should not significantly increase the allowable drawdowns in the aquifers over those in the current DFCs.”
SAWDF NOTE: The following is a copy of the Resolution adopted by the Lee County Commissioners Court on August 9, 2021 --- it is virtually identical to the Resolution adopted by the Bastrop County Commissioners Court in July 2021:
LEE COUNTY, TEXAS
RESOLUTION NO. 2021-XX-XX-X
A RESOLUTION OF THE LEE COUNTY, TEXAS COMMISSIONERS COURT
TO THE LOST PINES GROUNDWATER CONSERVATION DISTRICT
REGARDING ADOPTION OF NEW OR AMENDED DESIRED FUTURE CONDITIONS
WHEREAS, the Conservation Amendment of the Texas Constitution makes clear that the conservation and development of the natural resources of Texas, including itswater, are public rights and duties, and authorizes the Legislature to createconservation districts to accomplish these purposes; and
WHEREAS, Chapter 36 of the Texas Water Code empowers groundwater conservation districts to protect property rights, balance conservation of groundwater againstgroundwater pumping to meet the needs of this state, and use the best availablescience to guide conservation and development of groundwater; and
WHEREAS, the Texas Water Code requires groundwater districts, grouped into GroundwaterManagement Areas (GMAs), to periodically plan how to manage our groundwater resources for the future, to include adopting new or amended descriptions of the “future desired condition” of our aquifers (Desired Future Conditions, or DFCs) that are compatible throughout the management area; and
WHEREAS, the Texas Water Code requires that the DFCs must balance groundwater production with the conservation, protection, recharging, and prevention of waste ofgroundwater, and control of subsidence; and
WHEREAS, the Texas Water Code requires GMAs, when setting DFCs, to document impacts on aquifer conditions, water supply needs, hydrological conditions, spring flows, interactions between groundwater and surface water, socioeconomic conditions,property rights, groundwater availability model run results, and other relevantfactors, to demonstrate the required balance will be maintained between production, and the conservation and protection of groundwater; and
WHEREAS, Lee County is in the Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District (LPGCD), which is a member of Groundwater Management Area 12 (GMA 12); and
WHEREAS, Lee County residents within LPGCD rely on the Carrizo-Wilcox, Sparta, and QueenCity Aquifers located in LPGCD to maintain their economic, human andenvironmental needs; and
WHEREAS, the proposed Desired Future Conditions for the Carrizo-Wilcox, Sparta, and QueenCity Aquifers are not adequately supported by documentation of factors required to be considered under the Texas Water Code; and
WHEREAS, the proposed DFCs will significantly increase (depending on the formation, from30-340%,) the allowable drawdowns for water levels in the Carrizo-Wilcox, Sparta and Queen City Aquifers within LPGCD; and
WHEREAS, significant increases in drawdown in the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer by LPGCD and other GMA-12 member districts threaten surface waters and their ecosystems by reducing groundwater inflows; and
WHEREAS, sudden and significant failures of domestic and livestock wells already have occurred in the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer in Lee County and neighboring Post Oak Savannah Groundwater Conservation District during 2020-2021; and
WHEREAS, significantly increased allowable drawdowns in the Carrizo-Wilcox impairs the ability of individual districts to appropriately manage production within the district by moving the thresholds for such management rules; and
WHEREAS, each district is required to hold at least one public hearing and receive public comments for a minimum 90-day period, before taking a final vote on theproposed DFCs; and
WHEREAS, the Lee County, Texas Commissioners Court may submit comments to LPGCD and fellowdistricts within GMA 12 through the end of the public comment period on August 18, 2021;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the Lee County, Texas Commissioners Court:
We find that the proposed Desired Future Conditions do not establish the required balance between development of groundwater resources, and conservation and protection of those resources.
We support conservationand sustainable management of our aquifers and not management to depletion(mining) of their waters.
On behalf of thecitizens of Lee County, we request that LPGCD and other GMA-12 member districtsreject the proposed 2022 DFCs and instead maintain the current DFCs to protect the aquifers during the next five years.
At the least, Lee County, Texas requests that any new or amended DFCs should not significantly increase the allowable drawdowns in the aquifers over those in the current DFCs.
PASSED ANDAPPROVED THIS __9th___ DAY OF AUGUST, 2021,
with ____four____ayes, ____zero____ nays, and ___zero_____ abstentions.
[SIGNATURE BLOCK FOR PUBLIC BODY]