October 9, 2017
For Immediate Release
Bastrop District Court Hearing Set for Oct. 18 On Landowners’ Rights to Protect Groundwater
ELGIN, TEXAS – A hearing set for Oct. 18 in state district court in Bastrop could result in a landmark decision concerning the right of Texas landowners to protect the groundwater under their land from negative impacts by water marketers, according to a citizens group organized to protect groundwater in Central Texas.
The 1:30 p.m. hearing before 21st District Court Judge Carson Campbell is the latest chapter in a long-running battle by residents of Bastrop, Lee and other Central Texas counties to protect aquifers in their communities from over-pumping.
Water marketers have bought rights to pump groundwater from thousands of acres in those counties, with an eye on selling groundwater to San Antonio and other cities along the I-35 corridor.
“It’s not only landowners who are threatened,” said Michele Gangnes, a Lee County attorney and a director of the Simsboro Aquifer Water Defense Fund (SAWDF). “The future well-being of our communities depends on maintaining the health of the aquifers here.”
The Oct. 18 hearing is part of a legal challenge to a permit granted in 2016 by the Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District (LPGCD) to water marketer End-Op, now known as Recharge Water LP.
The permit allows Recharge Water to pump and export outside the district, up to 46,000 acre-feet annually, or approximately 15 billion gallons per year, from 14 wells in Lee and Bastrop counties. The Lee County wells would be the first to be drilled, in accordance with a settlement by Recharge Water with Aqua Water Supply Corporation, whose main wells lie in Bastrop County.
Three individual landowners and landowner Environmental Stewardship, a non-profit conservation organization, are asking the court to stop that permit from going forward and to instruct the District to allow a new contested case hearing on the permit before an administrative judge at the State Office of Administrative Hearings.
An administrative law judge refused in 2013 to allow the four landowners to be parties during the original hearing on the proposed permit. As a result, they were unable to present their evidence of the harm the permit would inflict on them and their property, as well as the region’s aquifer. Environmental Stewardship in particular was unable to present evidence on negative impacts on, the rivers, streams and springs that depend on groundwater.
“We believe state law requires that landowners whose groundwater is affected by these permits have the right to effectively participate in the hearings,” Gangnes said.
Gangnes said the Oct. 18 hearing will decide the issue of whether the court has jurisdiction to hear the landowners’ appeal from being denied party status. If Judge Campbell accepts jurisdiction, as SAWDF expects he will, he could go further and decide whether the landowners were improperly denied their opportunity to be heard in opposition to the permit.
SAWDF was formed in 2016 by veterans of several groups, including Neighbors for Neighbors, that have battled for almost two decades to protect the region’s groundwater.
“Water marketers are eager to profit off the groundwater in our communities, regardless of the negative impacts locally,” said Travis Brown, another Lee County resident and director of SAWDF. “Our goal is to ensure the amounts exported are limited so the long-term health of the aquifers is preserved.”
SAWD is a “501(c)(3)” tax exempt organization and is raising funds to assist these and other area landowners in defending their rights to protect groundwater. Tax deductible donations can be made through the group’s Web site, www.simsborowaterdefensefund.org or by sending checks to the Fund at P.O. Box 690, Elgin, TX 78621-0690.
For more information, Gangnes can be contacted at 512-461-3179 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
Contacts: Michele Gangnes 512-461-3179 email@example.com
Travis Brown 512-560-0341 firstname.lastname@example.org
SIMSBORO AQUIFER WATERDEFENSE FUND (SAWDF)
P.O. Box 690 * Elgin, Texas 78621-0690
~~Working for a legacy of aquifers that last forever~~
This message is being sent from the non-profit League of independent Voters as a courtsey to SAWDF.
League of Independent Voters of Texas
PO Box 651 * Bastrop, TX 78602
512-213-4511 * 512-657-2089 cell