Governor Greg Abbott gave Texans a wonderful gift Saturday when he vetoed House Bill 1806 and turned The Hose (Vista Ridge) on SAWS, San Antonio’s public water utility.
Read the Governor’s official statement here.
The Governor’s veto sent a clear message to SAWS’ publicly-funded lobby team that they need to give their shenanigans with other people’s water and wallets a rest.
Abbott is no fool. The Governor locked and loaded his veto pen on the next to last possible day having heard an earful from affected parties.
Affected parties included elected local and state officials, nonprofit organizations, landowners, ratepayers from San Antonio to Burleson County and even the groundwater district on the receiving end of this new SAWS water grab. They reached the Governor with a loud and clear message – kill HB 1806 to protect our water and wallets.
SAWS’ temerity in pushing for House Bill 1806 and the right to sell its Edwards Aquifer water to counties and real estate development outside the purview of the Edwards Aquifer Authority (EAA), to “make room” for Vista Ridge water the City of San Antonio will not “need” for decades if ever, is hard to believe, even for SAWS. Neither other permit holders in the federally-protected Edwards Aquifer nor the Edwards Aquifer Authority itself would have had any say in water distribution from the aquifer. The vetoed bill would have involved providing water to a real estate development the Legislature authorized to go forward without requiring the developer to have a water supply.
The “pay to play” boys and girls in the San Antonio real estate lobby, along with Austin Mayor Steve Adler and most officials in the IH-35 growth corridor, are obsessed with growth and building out the metroplex between Austin and San Antonio. Their big plans require the taking of other people’s groundwater and their own ratepayers’ wallets, to satisfy a demand that has yet to materialize.
As a San Antonio based national and international leader in real economic development – Fernando Centeno – puts it in his May 10, 2019 opinion piece, “City’s Metroplex Obsession is the Cloud in Climate Plan” in the San Antonio Express News:
But, hey, four days before the San Antonio city election’s heated mayoral runoff started on May 22, SAWS also did the bidding for local developers who originally insisted SAWS pursue The Hose, but no longer wanted to help pay for it. Their demand to be exonerated from paying their fair share of water impact fees for The Hose’s new supply --- a “mere” $87 million -- was honored by SAWS right under their ratepayers’ noses by the dutiful majority City Council. Only Council members Courage, Perry and Brockhouse dared vote against the developer hustlers.
Note to SAWS ratepayers: You still face the stiff rate hikes the massively expensive project requires, but the local paper didn’t even report on the giveaway to developers!
We wish to thank all who got involved in calling SAWS on HB 1806.
Besides Gov. Greg Abbott, we must thank Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, State Rep. John Cyrier, Bastrop County Judge Paul Pape, Lee County Judge Paul Fischer, Giddings Mayor John Dowell, President of the Cow Creek Groundwater Conservation District, Milan J. Michalec and hundreds of people across the region who called or wrote the Governor. (If we left out any other officials, we apologize and please let us know.)
Some great organizations and activists also did some important lifting on this veto – Simsboro Aquifer Water Defense Fund, Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance, Hill Country Alliance, Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance, Save Our Springs Alliance, the Alamo Sierra Club and leading Republican, Democratic, Green, Libertarian and independent activists.
LIV will soon be moving on the Vista Ridge Resolution in San Antonio, with a larger coalition calling for a full and independent audit of Vista Ridge and a new ordinance clarifying SAWS’ role. The City Council is supposed to make policy that SAWS carries out, not the other way around.
What can you do?
►First, donate to LIV, a non-profit, non-partisan organization.
►Better yet, become a dues paying member. This is what we need to sustain our all-volunteer organization. We need funds to build our networks and to do more effective work.
►Go to our San Antonio page for details and sign the petition if you are served by SAWS.
►Beyond that, we always have something for you to do. So step up and volunteer!
PS Vista Ridge is part of the real estate lobby's plans to ensure growth will never approach paying for itself. We have a lot more work to do, y'all.