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BSEACD will reconsider 50 million gallon

Monday, June 26, 2000 by

Well drilling permit at Wednesday's meeting

Engineer for Rutherford Rim now says LCRA will provide water

On Wednesday, the Board of Directors of the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District (BSEACD) will once again ponder the well permit of a Hays County landowner who wants to pump 50 million gallons a year out of the aquifer. The board held a hearing on June 13, voting to request additional information from T.J. Higginbotham on why he needs so much water. Board members have repeatedly said they have trouble believing protestations by Higginbotham’s representatives that they do not know the proposed use of the water. (In Fact Daily, June 14, 2000) Board President Craig Smith said Sunday that, “This hearing is on revoking, amending, modifying or suspending (Higginbotham’s) drilling permit. We could suspend (the permit)” he said, “meaning no test on pumpage until you've specified your use, or we could allow them to amend (the application).” The board granted Higginbotham’s permit to drill on May 2, on a vote of 3-2, in spite of unanswered questions about the use of the water. A few days after that vote, Jim Camp was elected, giving environmentalists a majority on the board. (See In Fact Daily April 26, May 3, May 8, 2000) George Murfee, president of Murfee Engineering Co., sent letters to the City of Dripping Springs indicating that Higginbotham’s water would be taken out of the district to serve two new subdivisions, Rutherford Rim and Greenhawe. Reporters discovered those letters and they were subsequently given to the board. Jimmy Alan Hall of Hall & Kleeman, Higginbotham’s attorney, said at the time that he had no knowledge of the letters, nor of any plans to use the water at those subdivisions. Hall said his client would provide information to the district, as requested. However, he said he knew of no contract, offer or proposal from any prospective user of water from the well. Smith said, “We could modify (the well permit) to be a public supply well if–despite their protestations–we find that is what they intend to use it for.” He confirmed that Higginbotham would then have to seek permission from Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission before being authorized to provide such service. When a representative of In Fact Daily went to the Dripping Springs City Hall to obtain information on the two subdivisions, she was informed that the plat maps were “being destroyed” because they were incorrect. Jimmy Alan Hall, Higginbotham’s attorney, told In Fact Daily on Sunday that he had not been informed of the BSEACD’s Wednesday agenda. “I don't have any notice of that whatsoever,” Hall said. “They don’t seem to give me the time of day.” Hall said he has not provided additional information to BSEACD since the June 13 meeting. Asked whether he would provide additional materials on the well’s proposed use by Wednesday, Hall replied, “I am not anticipating that I will.” Hall said he has been out of town and is spending all his time preparing for a Tuesday trial. However, Board Member Jack Goodman said when he had discussed the well application with Murfee recently, the engineer told him he (Murfee) intends to file a “new (well) application with appropriate information.” Goodman said Murfee told him that his company paid for the drilling of Higginbotham’s well. In addition, Murfee said he intends to submit new information to Dripping Springs, designating the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) as the water supplier for Rutherford Rim and Greenhawe, according to Goodman. Robert Cullick, executive manager of communications and corporate strategy for the LCRA, said “We have no contract or agreement to provide water” to those subdivisions. He said the agency would consider Murfee’s request under the provisions of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by LCRA and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. That MOU says that no new development can receive service until after completion of an Environmental Impact Statement or January, 2002. In addition, Cullick said, LCRA is committed to serving existing development first and the agency is not certain how much water those existing developments will require. “There's three big hoops, each one getting higher and smaller,” that a new development must pass through in order to get service, he concluded. Murfee did not return phone calls on Sunday. “I’m looking forward to resolving this issue. I think the public is anxious to find out,” Camp said. In addition to the Higginbotham well permit, the board is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the 2001 budget at 6 p.m. .

Aquifer district board member puts foot in mouth

During discussion of dwindling water resources

Don Turner derails discussion with 'wetback' remark

The Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District Board last week heard a presentation from Alan Dutton of the University of Texas' Bureau of Economic Geology on the effects of drought on the aquifer. As In Fact Daily has previously reported, if Texas experiences a drought as severe as the drought of the 1950s, Barton Springs might go dry unless pumpage were halted. The report was commissioned by the Lower Colorado River Authority on behalf of the water planning group for this region, known as Region K. (In Fact Daily, May 30) Dutton explained in great detail that aquifer discharge in low flow periods is less than originally perceived. Dutton said, "the discharge has been underestimated during peak discharge periods and overestimated during low discharge periods.” In the discussion that followed, Board Member Jack Goodman said, “There's only a limited–a finite–amount of water available. At some point, the lack of water will stop growth. You can't just continue to say, ‘You can’t stop growth. You can’t stop growth.’ You can stop growth. Water is a limiting factor.” Then Goodman cited the case of Las Vegas, which some residents believe “is going to grow forever.” He said he has heard “that all the water in (the western) Colorado River has already been allocated and by the time it gets to the Bay of California, theoretically, there’s no water left.” He pointed out that much of that river’s water “is being diverted over to Phoenix and Tucson from that Colorado River Basin.”

Board Member Don Turner then said that “aliens in Arizona” were impacting the river. He went on to say that, “pretty soon we won't have to call them wetbacks because the river will be dry.” Board President Craig Smith informed Turner that Arizona was not part of the board’s jurisdiction. A member of the audience then said there were more important matters at hand, and the board moved on with its business.

For the thirsty…The Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) Hays County stakeholders’ group will meet Monday at 5:30 p.m. at the Dripping Springs Primary School on FM 12. The LCRA staff plans to discuss the status of the water line and the Environmental Impact Statement, which is required by a Memorandum of Understanding between LCRA and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. A spokesman for LCRA said the agency hopes to hear from Dripping Springs area residents who need the water. For more information, call Bob Williams at 473-3200… Taking off soon…The Mueller Neighborhoods Coalition will meet Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at Asbury United Methodist Church, 1600 E. 38 ½ St. The group will discuss appointments to the Mueller Implementation Commission and hear an update on Roma Design Group, Inc.’s Master Plan for the old airport. In May, the City Council directed the City Manager to bring back recommendations for a board to oversee the redevelopment, based on recommendations from the coalition. The council is scheduled to make appointments to the commission this Thursday.

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