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SAWDF News Release -- Judges' Decision on LCRA


April 3, 2020


P.O. Box 931
Elgin, Texas 78621-0931
~~Working for a legacy of aquifers that last forever~~
April 3, 2020
For Immediate Release

Contacts: Michele Gangnes 512-461-3179
Travis Brown 512-560-0341
Andy Wier 512-426-5002

Judges Recommend Approval of LCRA’s
Groundwater Pumping Plan

BASTROP – The Lower Colorado River Authority’s plan to pump and sell
groundwater in Central Texas came one step closer to being realized this week.

In an 82-page report, two State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH) judges recommended that the Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District issue the LCRA a permit to annually pump and export up to 8 billion gallons of Simsborogroundwater from Bastrop County.

The judges issued their advisory opinion in favor of issuing a phased production
permit and instituting a well-monitoring system after a six-day contested case
hearing last October in which six different parties aired their objections to the
proposed permit.

The final decision on whether to issue a permit and on what terms, lies with the
board of directors of the groundwater district, which must hold a public hearing
prior to making its decision.

Aqua Water Supply, the City of Elgin, Recharge Water (formerly, End Op), Elvis
and Roxanne Hernandez, and Environmental Stewardship, together with 30
aligned local well owners, who were organized and supported by the Simsboro
Aquifer Water Defense Fund (SAWDF), all protested issuance of the permit.

“The landowners who participated in the SOAH hearing essentially represented all
landowners in Bastrop and Lee counties who object to the threat these megaprojects
pose to the entire Carrizo-Wilcox aquifer and their communities,” said
Andrew Wier, who testified for the landowners at the hearing and whose
Simsboro well’s viability will be adversely affected by massive groundwater

The judges decided that LCRA’s computer modeling of the project’s impacts on
water resources and on other permit holders in Bastrop and Lee counties
sufficiently demonstrated the project will not unreasonably impact the aquifer,
the Colorado River, or existing permit holders.

The judges recommended aquifer monitoring wells and phased-in pumping to
allow the district to protect against any real-world effects the computer modeling
did not predict.

However, they found that the District does not have authority under its own rules
or under state law to unilaterally impose mitigation requirements on the LCRA for
harm done to other wells in the district.

Wier, who also is a director of SAWDF, said SAWDF, the landowners it represents
and their legal team are exploring all options to address issues raised by the
judges’ ruling.

SAWDF and Environmental Stewardship did support two of the judges’ findings.
The judges said the proposed permit should include the right of well owners who
participated in the hearing to also participate in the LCRA permit renewal process,
including whether monitoring data requires any permit amendments.

The judges also found the potential for impacts on the Colorado River and other
surface waters “caused by the LCRA and District-wide pumping” justified the
recommended surface water monitoring systems and plan, which were requested
by Environmental Stewardship, a Bastrop-based conservation group.

“Adoption of the recommended monitoring plan will bring all pumping in the
district under a broad umbrella of surface water protection,” said Steve Box,
executive director of Environmental Stewardship.

Over the next two months, the groundwater district’s general manager will
respond to any objections to the judges’ decision raised by the other parties. The
judges will then reconsider and finalize their recommendations before handing
them off to the district’s board of directors.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, it’s difficult to predict when the
groundwater district will hold the required public hearing and then deliberate on
the permit, Wier said.

SAWDF was formed in 2016 by veterans of several local groups who have battled
to protect Texas aquifers for two decades.

Environmental Stewardship Scores Partial Victory ~~ go HERE to read this important story --- our two organizations are completely aligned on needed protections for aquifers and surface water resources.

Go here and then click on the Green Box to access the full SOAH Docket, including the Proposal for Decision, Findings of Facts and Conclusions of Law.

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