ELGIN – Veterans of a long-standing fight to protect the area’s groundwater have joined forces and launched a new organization to help lead that effort.
The new group, the Simsboro Aquifer Water Defense Fund (SAWDF), includes volunteers from the League of Independent Voters, Environmental Stewardship, Sierra Club and Neighbors for Neighbors.
Among the group’s efforts will be informing local citizens about the threat posed by water marketers’ efforts to pump vast quantities of local groundwater to San Antonio and other cities along the I-35 corridor.
SAWDF, which has filed with the Internal Revenue Service for qualification as a “501(c)(3)” tax-exempt organization, also will be raising funds to assist area landowners in defending their legal rights to protect their groundwater.
“It’s not only landowners that are threatened,” said SAWDF board member Michele Gangnes, a Lee County attorney and resident. “Maintaining the aquifers is vital to the continued well-being of our communities.”
Gangnes said several upcoming legal battles will provide good opportunities to protect the area’s groundwater resources.
Among the first of these battles is a Bastrop County district court hearing expected this fall. At issue are the rights of landowners to be represented in the well permitting process when the groundwater under their land is threatened by massive pumping.
The Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District denied several area landowners the right to that representation.
The landowner team, L-R, Eric Allmon, counsel for Environmental Stewardship; Michele Gangnes, SAWDF Board Member; Andy Meyer, Landowner and SAWDF Board Member; Darwyn Hanna, Landowner; Ernie Bogart, co-counsel for Landowners and SAWDF Board Member; Betz Brown, Landowner; Don Grissom, co-counsel for Landowners; Steve Box, Executive Director, Environmental Stewardship (Landowner).
“We believe the district’s denial of that right was unfair and improper,” said Ernie Bogart, another SAWDF board member and Elgin attorney. “Now we need our communities’ help in raising money to ensure we make the best effort we can to win these legal battles.”
Bogart said it’s vital to challenge the groundwater district’s denial of party status to the landowners.
“Otherwise, no landowner, large or small, will be allowed to challenge well permits unless their well is pumping from the ‘right’ aquifer,” he said.
Bogart said donations to SAWDF can be made by sending a check made out to Simsboro Water Defense Fund to: SAWDF, P.O. Box 690, Elgin, TX 78621-0690.
A website for SAWDF with the ability to accept donations, which are tax deductible, is under development.
Groundwater from the Simsboro aquifer already is being pumped in Burleson County and transported via pipeline across Lee County to the Manor area. The Post Oak Savannah Groundwater Conservation District has permitted another 50,000 acre-feet per year for transport from Burleson County over a 142-mile pipeline to San Antonio, starting in 2020.
“Greedy water marketers already have permits granted or pending before the Lost Pines groundwater district that will export more massive amounts of groundwater to the cities and suburbs,” said Andy Meyer, a Bastrop County farmer and SAWF board member. “Our goal is to make sure the amounts exported are kept within limits that secure the long-term health of our aquifers.”
For more information, Gangnes can be contacted at 512-461-3179 or firstname.lastname@example.org and Bogart at 512-281-3326 or email@example.com.