Five years later, Vista Ridge is still controversial
In 1913, Los Angeles began importing groundwater from California’s lush Owens Valley, 233 miles away. The water allowed the city to boom, while the Owens Valley turned into a desert.
One hundred years later, in 2014, San Antonio embarked on the Vista Ridge Project, the largest groundwater transfer in the history of the United States. The San Antonio Water System (SAWS) alleged then the city had to act swiftly to secure water for its future.
The Vista Ridge Project, called the “San Antone Hose” by its opponents, will begin delivery to San Antonio in April 2020 from Burleson County.
SAWS describes the project as “a true example of Texan helping Texan through a win-win deal that benefits San Antonio and the local landowners who are leasing their private water rights”.
September 21 event at Caldwell Civic Center
On Saturday, September 21, residents of Burleson, Milam, Lee and Bastrop counties are invited to a community meeting from 3 to 5 p.m., in the city of Caldwell’s CIVIC CENTER, 103 West Hwy. 21, Caldwell, Texas 77836.
The League of Independent Voters of Texas (LIV) is sponsoring the event, billed as “The Impacts and Risks of Vista Ridge”. Representatives of the Simsboro Aquifer Water Defense Fund (SAWDF) will be on the program.
The event is free, but seating is limited. Interested persons should send their information and seats needed to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 512.213.4511 to reserve seats and get more information.
Vista Ridge creates excess supply in San Antonio
SAWS is contractually bound to buy up to 16 billion gallons of Vista Ridge water every year for the next thirty years, whether the city needs it or not.
The water utility admitted several years ago the water is not actually needed by the city for many years. In fact, SAWS’ unsuccessfully attempted to permanently sell up to 147 billion gallons of water the city will not need over the life of the contract.
SAWS has now decided to make all of the Vista Ridge water part of the city’s current supply, creating a glut in its existing Edwards Aquifer supply. Some critics say the price of Vista Ridge water will be five to six times higher than the price SAWS pays for Edwards water.
SAWS’ attempt to get legislation in 2019 authorizing the sale of its surplus Edwards water for development in the Hill Country, was vetoed by Governor Greg Abbott.
Local aquifers threatened
On our end of the 60-inch pipeline, an extensive well-field has tapped the Carrizo Aquifer and the Simsboro formation of the Wilcox Aquifer. The Carrizo Aquifer lies over the Wilcox, and the two are referred to as the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer.
A 2015 report predicted Vista Ridge pumping alone will cause widespread drawdowns, across the Carrizo Aquifer, the Queen City Aquifer, and all three formations of the Wilcox Aquifer in both the Post Oak Savannah and the Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation Districts.
Two coalitions address Vista Ridge
Local landowners recently heard a Vista Ridge update from Linda Curtis of LIV as part of the program of a SAWDF-sponsored public meeting.
Curtis was the moving force behind two recent coalitions concerned with Vista Ridge. At least ten organizations, including local aquifer protection and conservation groups, formed the “Vista Ridge Resolution Coalition”. The groups recently asked the San Antonio City Council to mount an independent legal and financial review of Vista Ridge, and to increase Council oversight of SAWS.
Earlier in 2019, Curtis was also responsible for another coalition of organizations and elected officials, including Lee County Judge Paul Fischer and Bastrop County Judge Paul Pape, Rep. John Cyrier and Senators Lois Kolkhorst and Kirk Watson, who convinced Governor Abbott to veto SAWS’ attempt to become a regional water broker.
The Governor’s assistance is being sought again by the Vista Ridge Resolution Coalition. The Caldwell meeting will examine what led to formation of the coalition, and will also address the most recent Vista Ridge news in the Post Oak Savannah District.
Vista Ridge wants more water
Blue Water Vista Ridge LLC, the private company that holds the Vista Ridge permits, recently applied to amend its operating and export permits from the Post Oak District.
Among other changes, the company wants to increase its Simsboro permit by 4,842 acre-feet per year (AFY) to 40,835 AFY. The increase would result in permits totaling 55,835 AFY from the Simsboro and Carrizo.
A public hearing on the amendments is scheduled for 5:30 p.m., October 3 at the District’s offices at 310 East Avenue C in Milano (Milam County).
The official hearing notice, posted at www.posgcd.org, advises “persons wishing to be heard as a potential party to the hearing” to notify the District’s General Manager in writing at least five days prior to the day of the meeting. The amendment documents are available for review at the District’s office.
Protests must be in writing, comply with District Rules and be delivered timely
WE ADVISE THOSE WHO MAY WANT TO PROTEST TO GO HERE FOR A COPY OF THE RULES OF THE POST OAK DISTRICT, see especially Rule 14.5.3 (b) about WHO CAN PROTEST.
If you protest:
- GET YOUR PAPERS IN BY SEPTEMBER 26 (DELIVER by that date, don't mail by that date) (5 Business Days prior to hearing seems to be required even though Public Notice says "5 days prior to hearing")
- DELIVER to the POST OAK SAVANNAH GROUNDWATER CONSERVATION DISTRICT GENERAL MANAGER, GARY WESTBROOK: Email: email@example.com or by hand delivery or mail to Mr. Westbrook at 310 EAst Avenue C, Milano TX 76556, with request for acknowledgement of receipt
- By that same date, ALSO DELIVER A COPY TO BLUE WATER VISTA RIDGE'S ATTORNEY, PAUL TERRILL, FAX (512) 474-9888 (Phone 512-474-9108 to confirm receipt) OR EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org with request for acknowledgement of receipt.
Anatomy of a “contested case”
The League of Independent Voters and SAWDF will discuss the who, what, when, where and why of formal groundwater permit protests on September 21 in Caldwell.
In 2018, SAWDF helped over one hundred landowners file protests, and is currently supporting thirty landowner families and the Pines and Prairies Land Trust as parties to the contested case hearing, on a proposed permit for the Lower Colorado River Authority in the Lost Pines District. The hearing runs October 15-22, 2019 at the Bastrop Convention Center.