Legislative Update March 24
Five favorable bills in the House Natural Resources Committe
Tuesday, March 28 at 8am in E2.010:
***The HB 5052 segment has been updated as of March 25, and one page summaries of HB 3990 and HB 4532 have been added at end of this post.***
HB 5052 is worth your time and energy to testify in-person, Tuesday, March 28!
There are some tips on testifying or writing electronically submitted comments in the HB 5052 description below.
Your presence is what's important, so if you don't want to testify, please do sign in "FOR" HB 5052 at a kiosk -- there are ones near the meeting room. The names of those who don't testify but sign in, with their position on the bill, are made known to the committee at the end of public comment --- it's a great way to "speak"!
Also, please wear your water droplet button if you have one, or Andy Wier will have them. Find him in the meeting room or the overflow room before the hearing --- wear it proudly in the hearing room.
HERE'S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT BILLS UP FOR HEARING ON MARCH 28 THAT SAWDF SUPPORTS:
HB5052 – Gerdes --- Relating to the criteria considered by groundwater conservation districts before granting or denying a permit.
HB 5052 is one of the three bills Representative Gerdes filed at SAWDF's request and in response to interim testimony by well-owners from Milam, Burleson, Lee, and Bastrop counties. The bill requires GCDs to consider unreasonable effects on domestic & livestock wells when deciding on new permits. SAWDF executive director Andy Wier has been meeting with statewide stakeholders on language for a "committee substitute" for HB 5052.
Last year the language "exempt wells" was a bone of contention.
Instead, SAWDF recommends “other groundwater users within the district.” ***Update: It is important not to use the term "exempt wells" --- ask for protection of "other groundwater users" or "household and domestic wells" in permitting ---using the term "exempt wells" to describe household and domestic wells was used to block this same legislation last session, and will be again, for reasons that have nothing to do with getting our domestic and livestock well owners considered in GCD permitting! We favor "other groundwater users", because the same term has been used in the Water Code's criteria for EXPORT permitting for a very long time without controversy. ***
Don’t be alarmed if there is a substitute HB 5052 on Monday. SAWDF supports HB 5052.
Tracy King is the Chairman of the Natural Resources Committee[HNRC]. Chairman King supports landowners with domestic & livestock wells. He invited SAWDF and landowners to testify at HNRC's interim hearings last August.
HB 3059 allows GCDs to raise the regulatory fee for water exported outside a district from 17 cents to 20 cents and allows for a 3% increase each year.
HB 3059 also gives GCDs the authority to spend fees "to maintain the operability of wells significantly affected by groundwater development." Our word for this is "mitigation!" This bill will receive stiff resistance from groundwater marketers with large export permits, such as Vista Ridge [VR], Sandow Lakes Ranch [SLR], Gatehouse Water, the Lower Colorado RiverAuthority [LCRA], and others. However, your testimony before the committee is equal to that of well-financed lobbies. SAWDF supports HB 3059.
See the one-page summary regarding HB 3990 at the end of this post. This bill is significant for anyone with spring flow on their property in the Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District, where the Colorado River and the
Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer intersect. SAWDF supports HB 3990.
See the one-page summary regarding HB 4532 at the end of this post. This bill requires the TWDB and GCDs to investigate the "sustainable" amount of pumping for an aquifer. Sustainable production is an issue that SAWDF has regularly promoted in determining desired future conditions for the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer. SAWDF supports HB 4532.
This bill supports public involvement and transparent decision-making by Groundwater Management Areas [GMAs] in determining desired
future conditions. The GMA representatives must publish, on a website, comments
and other materials submitted during the public comment period. In addition,
the GMA must state why relevant comments were or were not incorporated into the
desired future conditions. SAWDF supports HB 3278.
· Read the bills and draft your comments for the HNRC.
· For those persons testifying in-person, click for information on in-person witness registration.
· Verbal testimony is limited to 2 minutes. We strongly urge you to practice and time your comments so you are not cut-off mid-sentence.
· There is no limit for written testimony submitted in-person, andyou may attach relevant documents.
· Texas residents who wish to electronically submit comments related to agenda items on this notice without testifying in person can do so until the
hearing adjourns. Comments submitted electronically are limited to 3,000
characters [about one typed page]
· A live video broadcastof this House hearing will be available.
If you need a ride to the hearing, Andy Wier has room for three people in his car, but we need to travel very early because of construction & traffic.
Contact Andy directly by Monday 3/23, 6pm: Text/Phone: 512-545-4779
Update on non-legislative items of interest, plus update on Lost Pines Mitigation Bill
URGENT! Bastropians, please attend!
Bastrop Commissioner’s Court upcoming meeting to consider Austin’s proposed Aquifer Storage and Recovery Project that may affect Bastrop and Lee counties.
On Monday, March 27, 9:00 a.m., the Bastrop Commissioner’s Court will take up possible action on a proposed resolution on the City of Austin’s plan to locate an “aquifer storage and recovery” project in either Travis (Trinity Aquifer), or Lee/Bastrop counties (Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer). Themeeting will be held at the Bastrop County Courthouse, 804 Pecan Street, Bastrop, Texas 78602 in the Commissioners Courtroom on the second floor of the annex.
We encourage residents of Bastrop County to attend so that newly elected County Judge Klaus and his Court will see our communities’ great interest in all
things to do with our aquifers and our groundwater! Andy Wier will be there from SAWDF to give public comment on it. We expect some other commenters, so it’s not imperative that you speak to the Court, but your presence will send a
great message of interest and support.
The project would have to be permitted by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, but not until Austin does a lot more site selection work by the end of 2023,
with a pilot project to follow site selection.
So now is the time for our communities to express their concerns about benefits or risks of this project to US!
SAWDF has written in the past about this project, and many of you attended community meetings the City of Austin hosted last year, including a presentation to the Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District earlier this year. Also,see the update below on Lee County’s adoption of a resolution that is virtually identical to the draft resolution pending in Bastrop.
The ASR project does not involve pumping our groundwater -- that would require a permit from the Lost Pines GCD. The idea is to store surplus surface water that Austin owns in an aquifer, in times of plenty, for later withdrawal to augment Austin’s water supply in times of drought. It would require many wells to inject and recover the water, as well as a pipeline(s) for delivery both ways.
Andy Wier has stayed in touch with the Austin ASR team, in the hope that we can keep the lines of communication open and influence the choices Austin makes in the near-term.
Update on Lee County Commissioner’s Court adoption of Resolution concerning the Austin ASR project.
Newly elected Judge Frank Malinak and his Lee County Commissioners voted unanimously on March 13 to adopt a Commissioner's Court Resolution of concern about Austin’s ASR project. The Court expressed its resolution as:
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Commissioner’s Court hereby requests that no permit or authorization to the City of Austin be issued by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, either through issuance of an individual permit or a general permit, or an authorization letter (known as an authorization-by-rule), for an ASR project within the boundaries of Lee County without the approval of the Commissioners Court of Lee County and that the Texas Legislature clearly authorize such approval for any ASR project.
The Court’s motion to adopt the resolution also included a direction for Judge Malinak to provide the Resolution to Sen. Lois Kolkhorst and Rep. Stan Gerdes. The Court currently does not have authority to outright veto an ASR project, but they nevertheless expressed a resolve to work to gain approval rights, while formally voicing their concerns about the project in the text of the Resolution.
Update on TCEQ public hearing on Gapped Bass LLC wastewater discharge permit, March 21, 2023 (aka, a glimpse of Elon Musk’s extensive plans for Bastrop County!)
Read about the TCEQ public meeting on the project in this Wall Street Journal article by a reporter who attended the meeting. The linked article might not show the almost 500 comments the article garnered, some supporting opposition to the project, some not. However, there is no discounting that local residents’ concerns about
the project are significant and important, including the need to significantly improve the permit’s protection of the Colorado River and the aquifers with which it communicates. Very serious science-backed concerns were brought to TCEQ’s attention --- especially by Environmental Stewardship. Read
their comments here.
SAWDF also submitted written commentsto TCEQ, supporting ES’s comments as well as the Lost Pines District’s strong letter supporting permit betterments and reserving the right for the District to formally contest the permit. The League of Independent Voters of Texas also commented, along with many other residents who understand the
importance of protecting not only the Colorado River but also the formations of
the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer, as well as the Colorado Alluvial Aquifer. These
aquifers all directly intersect and interact with the river too close for
comfort to the The Boring Company (aka Gapped Bass LLC) projects, which seek to
discharge up to 142,500 gallons per day of treated wastewater, either directly
to the river or by spraying it on land in proximity to the river. Here is a link to the many comments (See Lost Pines’ comments under district counsel’ name “Martin, Natasha J.”).
The question of the day was raised by one astute commenter last Tuesday to the effect:
“If it’s such clean water by the time it’s discharged, why don’t the Musk companies reuse it themselves instead of dumping it in the river??”
Update on Public Hearing for SB 1080—Lost Pines GCD Mitigation Bill
The Senate Water, Agriculture and Rural Affairs committee held a public hearing on Monday, March 20. SB 1080 was passed out of committee, despite LCRA’s comments on parts of the bill not related to giving Lost Pines authority to mitigate wells. Elvis Hernandez, president of Lost Pines, gave public comment, along with Andy Wier for SAWDF and on behalf of affected well owners. We will keep you updated on the bill’s
progress --- please stay tuned, we may need your help when the House companion bill comes up for hearing.
SB 1080 was filed by Senator Lois Kolkhorst in response to testimony by Lee County residents who suffered sudden well failures due to neighboring large-scale pumping. The bill applies only to the Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District [LPGCD] and gives the district the authority to spend regulatory fees, collected by the district, to address failed wells. SAWDF wholeheartedly supports this bill and helped to draft it.
ONE PAGE SUMMARIES OF TWO HOUSE BILLS WE SUPPORT FOR MARCH 28 HEARING IN HOUSE NATURAL RESOURCES COMMITTEE
Support HB 4532 (Kacal)/SB 2540 – More Water Data for Better Decision-Making
To ensure that water resources in Texas are effectively managed and that landowners’ property rights in groundwater are protected, it is imperative that stakeholders – including water managers, landowners, and scientists – truly understand the unique hydrogeological connection between groundwater and surface water in watersheds across Texas.
Dry springs, diminished flow in rivers, and declines in landowners’ groundwater wells are unfortunate realities that can no longer be ignored. Science is key to collaboratively and proactively addressing solutions to local water challenges.
Groundwater and surface water are connected in Texas. Groundwater sustains the flow of rivers across the state. A 2016 study by the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) determined that an estimated 9.3 million acre-feet of groundwater flows from major and minor aquifers to surface water in an average year, representing about 30% of the water flowing in Texas rivers. During drought, groundwater can provide up to 100% of the flow in many rivers and streams. Conversely, surface water in rivers also provides significant recharge to aquifers across the state – replenishing groundwater beneath the surface.
Despite this critical connection, studies on groundwater and surface water interaction are lacking and data is sparse. This places both groundwater and surface water at risk, as well as the people and wildlife who depend on these resources – for drinking water, for irrigation, or for habitat.
House Bill 3990 by Representative Kyle Kacal requires TWDB, in collaboration with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, to identify areas of the state where there is a strong degree of surface water and groundwater interaction and where data is lacking and models are inadequate, and to prioritize these areas for increased data collection and modeling updates moving forward. The TWDB may coordinate with groundwater conservation districts, river authorities, academic institutions, and other governmental entities in performing this work.
House Bill 3990 is an important step in the development of groundwater and surface water science and to protecting water resources and the property rights of Texans.
Support HB 4532 (Kacal)/SB 2540 – More Water Data for Better Decision-Making
House Bill 4532 Senate Bill 2540 require the TWDB to calculate the modeled sustained groundwater pumping volumes for aquifers in Texas. This is defined as the maximum amount of groundwater that the executive administrator, using the best available science, determines may be produced annually in perpetuity from an aquifer. The bill amends Section 36.108 of the Texas Water Code to add this volume to the list of things a groundwater conservation district must consider when adopting a desired future condition.
This bill is necessary because it will provide groundwater conservation districts with more data that they can use when setting long-term management goals, or desired future conditions. More data is always better. As we like to say, “the better the data, the better the science, the better the science, the better the policy.”
Currently, the only volume of water that groundwater conservation districts can consider when setting their DFC is something called the Total Estimated Recoverable Storage or TERS. TERS represents the maximum amount of groundwater that may be technologically feasible to recover from an aquifer – basically all of the water that can be pumped from an aquifer, regardless of the level of drawdown. House Bill 4532 would provide groundwater conservation districts with another data point – the volume of groundwater that can be pumped forever and still maintain aquifer levels. It will help groundwater conservation districts get a fuller picture of the impacts of their management goals on the aquifer.
The bill carves out the Ogallala Aquifer and Dockum aquifers since these aquifers do not recharge.
As a reminder, groundwater conservation districts are required to use the best available science in their role managing aquifers. This bill will provide them with that. The bill has no fiscal note and in past sessions, it was a Texas Water Conservation Association consensus bill. This committee passed the bill out last session, and it passed the House as well.
Thank you for your interest.
Be informed! Get Involved! Donate!