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March 31 Update

Legislative and news summaries

First, some important advice from Executive Director Wier ---

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And one more serious piece of Wier Advice about water legislation coming on for hearing this week:

Two bills are up for public hearing this week. SAWDF recommends “No comment!”

Now here's what else you need to know in the short-term at the Legislature, with a couple of dates to put on your calendars.

Senate Water, Agriculture& Rural Affairs; Monday, April 3, 2023; 8 am, RM E1.012
Bills on for hearing:

SB 638 – Springer

Relating to the governance and decision-making of groundwater conservation districts in contested cases.

Discussion at the recent Texas Water Conservation Association conference characterized SB 638 as “a bill by the Lower Colorado River Authority [LCRA] targeting the Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District.”

That resulted in the committee chairman, Senator Perry, stating that he would only put the bill on the calendar if it were changed to address issues important to the State of Texas, not LCRA's petty matters. The Texas Alliance for Groundwater Districts [TAGD], LPGCD consultant Greg Ellis, and other GCD lawyers have been working on extensive changes to the bill. SAWDF has not seen a copy of the “committee substitute” yet.

As of this update, SAWDF recommends NOT giving the bill any credibility and NOT making any comment.

· A live video broadcast of this Senate hearing will be available.

 HB 1971 – Ashby

Relating to the procedures for acting on a permit or permit amendment application by a groundwater conservation district and the disqualification of board members of groundwater conservation districts.

HB 1971 is similar to SB638, except it does not have the preamble section about the importance of groundwater and the urgency for GCDs to make permit decisions.

As of this update, SAWDF recommends NOT giving the bill any credibility and NOT making any comment.

· A live video broadcast of this House hearing will be available.

Thank you to all those who submitted written comments electronically. You can read all the electronic comments, here. You can see who registered for, on, or against the bill here.

Special thanks to Ronnie and Nancy McKee for coming to the Capitol to testify alongside SAWDF executive director, Andy Wier on HB 5052. It was the perfect amount of verbal testimony for a very busy agenda. HNRC Chairman, Rep. King, committee members, and Rep. Gerdes were very appreciative.

HB 5052 and all the other bills discussed that day were “left pending” in the committee. As of this update, HNRC has not met to give a final vote on all those bills. We will let you know as soon as the committee convenes and takes a vote. SAWDF is confident that HB 5052 will move forward.


Other News

We won't get into the weeds of LCRA’s campaign against Lost Pines at the
legislature, stemming from its experience trying to get its first groundwater permit.

We do offer this reminder to the Brown Landowners and others following the saga of the LCRA permit, to put April 26, 804 Pecan Street, Bastrop, TX 78602, Judge Reva Towslee-Corbett’s Courtroom, 2 pm, on your calendar.

Judge Corbett will consider two matters related to the lawsuit (“appeal”) LCRA filed in her court against Lost Pines, to reverse the District's decision to reduce their request for 25,000 acre-feet per year of groundwater production in Bastrop County to only 8,000 acre-feet per year. Lost Pines made its decision after a contested case hearing at the State Office of Administrative Hearings.

Other parties who participated in the contested case hearing, including Andrew Wier, as an individual Brown Landowner, are seeking to intervene in that lawsuit in order to have some involvement in the proceeding, but they all also want LCRA’s appeal to be dismissed entirely.

We don’t know in what order J. Corbett will consider the following:

  • the “plea to the jurisdiction” motion brought against LCRA, which basically asks the Judge to rule she doesn’t have jurisdiction to proceed on LCRA’s appeal of their reduced permit request, because of procedural hoops LCRA alledgedly failed to satisfy (that’s our non-legal interpretation!); and
  • a motion asking the Judge to reconsider her surprise ruling in March that the other parties to the contested case do not have “standing” to
    intervene in LCRA’s appeal in her court.

That’s as far into the weeds as we will go in this seemingly unending saga, but both
matters raise important issues. We hope you will plan to be in our local
district judge’s courtroom that day. (J. Corbett presides over Bastrop, Lee,
Burleson and Washington counties in her 335th District Court.)

One more date for your calendar

We will soon update you on a Rules Workshop the Lost Pines District will hold on Wednesday, April 19, 6 p.m. at the Bastrop Convention Center, 1408 B Chestnut Street, Bastrop 78602, just prior to the District’s regular board meeting, also to be held at the Convention Center. The District is considering significant rule changes that we
will discuss in that future update.

Thank you for your interest!


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