The Simsboro Aquifer Water Defense Fund needs your tax-deductible donations NOW! to raise funds for this hugely important October 18th hearing. After we win this battle, we need ongoing support to continue fighting this permit and set important legal precedents about the rights of Texas landowners to protect their own groundwater and steward it for the future. Please go to our "DONATE" page.http://www.simsborowaterdefensefund.org/donate.
SAWDF Press Release
October 6, 2017
For Immediate Release
Bastrop District Court Hearing Set for Oct. 18
On Landowners’ Rights to Protect Groundwater
ELGIN - – A hearing set for Oct. 18 in state district court in Bastrop could result in a landmark decision concerning the right of Texas landowners to protect the groundwater under their land from negative impacts by water marketers, according to a citizens group organized to protect groundwater in Central Texas.
The 1:30 p.m. hearing before 21st District Court Judge Carson Campbell is the latest chapter in a long-running battle by residents of Bastrop, Lee and other Central Texas counties to protect aquifers in their communities from over-pumping.
Water marketers have bought rights to pump groundwater from thousands of acres in those counties, with an eye on selling groundwater to San Antonio and other cities along the I-35 corridor.
“It’s not only landowners who are threatened,” said Michele Gangnes, a Lee County attorney and a director of the Simsboro Aquifer Water Defense Fund (SAWDF). “The future well-being of our communities depends on maintaining the health of the aquifers here.”
The Oct. 18 hearing is part of a legal challenge to a permit granted in 2016 by the Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District (LPGCD) to water marketer End-Op, now known as Recharge Water LP.
The permit allows Recharge Water to pump and export up to 46,000 acre-feet of water annually (approximately 15 billion gallons per year) to Hays, Travis and Williamson counties, from 14 wells in Lee and Bastrop counties. At least four Lee County wells must be completed and producing before any Bastrop County wells are drilled, under a settlement by Recharge Water with Aqua Water Supply Corporation, whose main wells lie in Bastrop County.
Three individual landowners and landowner Environmental Stewardship, a non-profit conservation organization, are asking the court to stop that permit from going forward and to instruct the District to allow a new contested case hearing on the permit.
An administrative law judge refused in 2013 to allow the four landowners to be parties during the original hearing on the proposed permit. As a result, they were unable to present their evidence of the harm the permit would inflict on them and their property, as well as the region’s aquifer. Environmental Stewardship also was unable to present evidence on negative impacts on the rivers, streams and springs that depend on groundwater.
“We believe state law requires that landowners whose groundwater is affected by these permits have the right to effectively participate in the hearings,” Gangnes said.
Gangnes said the Oct. 18 hearing will decide the issue of whether the court has jurisdiction to hear the landowners’ appeal from being denied party status. If Judge Campbell accepts jurisdiction, as SAWDF expects he will, he could go further and decide whether the landowners were improperly denied their opportunity to be heard in opposition to the permit.
SAWDF was formed in 2016 by veterans of several groups, including Neighbors for Neighbors, that have battled for almost two decades to protect the region’s groundwater.
“Water marketers are eager to profit off the groundwater in our communities, regardless of the negative impacts locally,” said Travis Brown, another Lee County resident and director of SAWDF. “Our goal is to ensure the amounts exported are limited so the long-term health of the aquifers is preserved.”
SAWD is a “501(c)(3)” tax exempt organization and is raising funds to assist these and other area landowners in defending their rights to protect groundwater. Tax deductible donations can be made through the group’s Web site, www.simsborowaterdefensefund.org or by sending checks to the Fund at P.O. Box 690, Elgin, TX 78621-0690.
Recharge’s website (www.rechargetx.com) boasts the permit will serve the annual “commercial and residential needs of 184,000 people”. These for-profit water marketers renamed themselves “Recharge Water LP” when they received an infusion of investment capital to fight our landowners and push water supply contracts in the IH-35 corridor. They apparently think they can convince you that the ancient aquifer underlying Lee, Burleson, Milam and Bastrop counties actually recharges quickly enough and in sufficient amounts to withstand all the big straws aimed at the Simsboro. In fact, the aquifer recharges in glacial rather than human terms, which means it recharges painfully slowly. According to representatives of Aqua Water Supply Corporation back when the Lost Pines Groudwater Conservatio District was formed, carbon dated water stored in the Simsboro is thousands of years old.
With Recharge's permit, the permitted Simboro portion of 50,000 AFY Vista Ridge (San Antone Hose) pipeline from Burleson to Bexar counties, the 20,000 AFY permitted in Milam-Burleson counties to Blue Water for the SH 130 water project, and Forestar’s permit for up to 28,500 AFY in Lee County, the Simsboro is definitely and irrefutably under siege. (Bryan and College Station, the City of Lexington in Lee County, Lee County Water Supply Corp. and Aqua Water Supply Corporation in Burleson County also rely on permits for Simsboro groundwater.