UPDATE, October 20, 2016 -- The Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District Board voted to deny the Landowners' Motion for Rehearing and Request for Written Findings and Conclusions at its regular meeting October 19. Needless to say, the End Op landowner team is disappointed but not defeated. Stay tuned for further developments.
The Board appointed Lee County landowner, Sheril Smith, to serve the remaining term of retiring Board member, Alice Darnell. SAWDF recognizes Ms. Darnell for her service to our counties and looks forward to Ms. Smith's service --- Sheril's post-graduate studies concentrated in hydrology and groundwater, and she has a long history of dedicated interest in the preservation of our central Texas aquifers and environment. We believe Director Smith will have a positive effect on the Board.
October 7, 2016. The Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District granted operating and transfer permits to End Op LP on September 7, 2017. On September 27, 2016, Andrew Meyer, Bette Brown, Darwyn Hannah, and Environmental Stewardship ("Landowners") filed a Motion for Rehearing and Request for Written Findings and Conclusions to request that the District reconsider its decision that they are not affected persons for purposes of a contested case hearing and send End Op, L.P.'s ("End Op") application to pump 56,000 acre-feet of groundwater per year back to the State Office of Administrative Hearings ("SOAH") for a contested case hearing including the Landowners as parties.
Landowners also requested that the District reverse its September 7, 2016, decision to issue operating and transfer permits to End Op, for 14 wells in Bastrop and Lee Counties. (The permits were actually granted in an amount up to 46,000 acre-feet per year, on a “laddered” basis. For a copy of the permits and Order granting them, see www.lostpineswater.org)
If the District does not reverse itself as requested, the Landowners requested the District to issue Written Findings and Conclusions regarding its decisions.
The Landowners’ filing with the District seeks an administrative resolution to the Landowners’ objection to the End Op permit and avoid the necessity of a legal proceeding before Judge Carson Campbell in Bastrop District Court to appeal the District’s decision.
The Landowners have taken several steps already to preserve their legal recourse when and if the District issued the permit, and they have indicated a willingness to continue to pursue their case.
Ernie Bogart, a long-time water activist in Bastrop County and a principal of Owen & Bogart, Elgin, Texas, is one of the volunteer attorneys assisting the individual Landowners and summarized what’s at stake with the following statement:
“If the denial of party status to owners of land who have not completed wells in the aquifer affected by permits is allowed to stand unchallenged, no landowner, large or small, who does not have a completed well in the "right" aquifer will be allowed to challenge permits, even if the landowner has an existing well in a different aquifer.”
Don Grissom, a Paige landowner and principal with the Austin law firm of Grissom and Thompson LLC, is also a volunteer lawyer for the individual landowners. Eric Allmon of Frederick, Perales, Allmon and Rockwell, Austin Texas, represents Environmental Stewardship, a 501(c)(3) organization based in Bastrop, in connection with the End Op permit.
The Simsboro Aquifer Water Defense Fund is monitoring the Landowners' appeal of the End Op permit, and has been supporting the efforts of these landowners to pursue important legal issues and precedents.