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Water corp.asks aquifer district

Monday, December 10, 2001 by

For 400 million gallon increase

Board schedules formal hearing for January 3

By Beth Nelson

Representatives from Creedmoor-Maha Water Supply Corporation (CMWSC) last week asked the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District to treble the company’s water pumpage permit: an increase of 400 million gallons.

Residents who crowded into the BSEACD office in Manchaca voiced their concern about the increase and what it could mean for surrounding wells and the aquifer. “I think they are asking to take water from me,” Buda resident Tommy Poer said.

District bylaws require that a public hearing be held when permittees request a change to their pumpage permit. The water district currently allows CMWSC to take 214 million gallons from the aquifer. The water corporation would like to change that to 614 million gallons. According to CMWSC lawyer, Mark Zeppa, the water company used 10-year growth projections to substantiate the huge amendment to its permit.

BSEACD Board President Craig Smith asked why CMWSC needs so much water now for population growth so far into the future. He pointed out that the district’s bylaws only allow the district to approve permits year-by-year, not 10 years at a time.

CMWSC’s present transport system needs upgrades, said Zeppa, and the pumpage increase would allow the water supplier to secure funding for a new water line. Zeppa added that they are not asking for a 10-year extension to the permit, but an increase to the company’s yearly water allowance based on 10-year growth projections—a far different prospect, and one that is troubling to board members and citizens alike. “They should not ask for more than they need. I would never ask for more than I need,” resident Larry Pilkington said.

BSEACD Board Member Jim Camp questioned Zeppa specifically about CMWSC’s water needs for the upcoming year. According to Zeppa, in 2002 they expect to supply additional residences east of 183 in Creedmoor and Mustang Ridge.

Rarely mentioned and not physically present at the meeting, the shadow of developer Gary Bradley hung over the proceedings. According to Zeppa, CMWSC has discussed with several unnamed people the possibility of supplying water to 4,000 homes and a mall along the Hays and Travis county line. However, Zeppa said, the water supplier does not have a plat for this potential project.

Another huge concern to the district and citizens is how the additional pumping will pull down neighboring well levels. In advance of the meeting, CMWSC performed two pump tests to gauge the effect on adjacent wells. Instrument problems plagued the first test, according to private contractor Nico Hauwert, but the second test ran smoothly. District staff and Hauwert worked with CMWSC on an acceptable model for the impact study. Hauwert, a former BSEACD employee, and staff will continue to look at the impact studies before making recommendations to the board.

Representatives from the Save Our Springs Alliance, the City of Buda, the City of Austin and the Friendship Alliance have officially protested the permit change. These groups are concerned with the sustainability of the limited water resource and the harmful impact this pumping could have on Barton Springs.

A previously neglected section of the BSEACD bylaws calls for a formal hearing during which a permittee and those who submitted written protests can present evidence. The BSEACD Board scheduled the hearing for January 3 at 3 p.m. Smith said Sunday that only the parties that have already filed written objections to the permit and the permittee will be allowed to speak at the January hearing. The district must decide on CMWSC ’s request no later than 35 days after closing the hearing.

Environmental Board endorses

Impervious cover mitigation fee

Attorney fears legal hurdles

Despite a note of caution expressed by an assistant city attorney, the Environmental Board voted unanimously last week to recommend an impervious cover mitigation fee designed to offset water degradation from add-on projects that increase impervious cover on single-family lots. City Council Member Beverly Griffith presented this idea to the Board last June, suggesting that revenue collected from the fee be used only for purchasing land dedicated for parks or preserves. (See In Fact Daily, June 12, 2001.)

The Board formed a subcommittee last summer to study the proposal and last week a recommendation was approved by a vote of 5-0. Board Members Ramon Alvarez and Matt Watson were absent.

The recommendation calls for a one-time mitigation fee, to be charged at the time of construction, if applicable, said Secretary Karin Ascot, who made the motion for approval.

Chair Lee Leffingwell said the fee is intended to have landowners pay for the increased environmental expense caused by the addition of impervious cover. “The purpose is to provide a solution to the problems created by impervious cover,” he said, relating the concept of the fee to the city’s Pay-As-You-Throw (solid waste) program.

Assistant City Attorney Mitzi Cotton briefed the Board last week on the legal ramifications of the proposed fee. Last month the Board had asked her for a report on potential legal problems that might arise from exacting such a fee.

“I don’t want to mislead you. I do think it’s fraught with legal problems,” she said.

“The City may impose a fee only if the City provides a service whose cost is related to the amount of the fee. Consequently, in order for the proposed charge to be characterized as a legitimate fee, the amount of the fee would have to be calculated to pay for a particular service to be provided to the applicant paying the fee,” Cotton stated in a memo.

She enumerated each vehicle the City has for extracting revenue from citizens, be it a “fee,” a “tax,” an “impact fee,” or a “development exaction.” With each method it is incumbent upon the city to provide commensurate service, capital improvements or facility expansions.

“The City may impose a development exaction only if the exaction passes the constitutional test set forth by the United States Supreme Court in Dolan v. City of Tigard,” Cotton explained. “In this case, the purposes of the proposed charge to mitigate water pollution and purchase parkland must be directly connected to the charge imposed . . . Dolan requires that ‘rough proportionality’ exist between the effect of the development and the exaction.”

Leffingwell indicated such a connection exists. “You can make a tenuous connection between water quality and parks,” he said, because more parkland results in reduced impervious cover.

Phil Moncada, chair of the subcommittee, which included Ascot and Leffingwell, read the group’s seven-point recommendation, which states, “The purpose of the proposed fee is to provide a funding mechanism for detention and water quality infrastructure necessitated by additional IC (impervious cover). It is recognized that IC other than single-family residences has substantial impact on flooding, erosion, and water quality in Austin’s watersheds. Accordingly, efforts should subsequently be made to account for IC remediation costs generated by the State, County, and School District, which currently pay no drainage fee but have considerable impact on the aforementioned watershed problems.”

One of the seven points reads, “All mitigation fees should be deposited in a fund dedicated to construction or improvement of RSMP (Regional Stormwater Management Plan) projects and retrofit water quality projects or, alternatively, used to purchase open space such as parks, preserves, or greenbelt areas which serve to reduce IC.”

2001 In Fact News, Inc. All rights reserved.

First to announce . . . Road warrior Gerald Daugherty will announce his candidacy for County Commissioner Precinct 3 at 11:30 am today at the County Line on Bee Caves Road. Daugherty, a Republican, is hoping to fill the seat soon to be vacated by Commissioner Todd Baxter, who is running for the House of Representatives District 48 seat. Daugherty told In Fact Daily that he expects County Judge Sam Biscoe to make an appointment to fill Baxter’s unexpired term as early as next week. Daugherty has the application form and plans to file for the appointment also . . . Seeking Signatures and Funds . . . City Council Members Daryl Slusher, Beverly Griffith and Jackie Goodman, with their supporters, will be posted at the entrance to the Zilker Park Trail of Lights this year. The trio needs to collect about 18,000 signatures each in order to run again next spring. Griffith has hired professional help in the person of Linda Curtis, one of Griffith’s many opponents in the 1999 election. Apparently, there were no hard feelings. Slusher and Goodman are currently using an all-volunteer group to collect their signatures . . . Party time . . . Councilmember Beverly Griffith is having her first fundraiser on Wednesday from 5:30 to 7:30pm at Mother Egan’s Irish Pub, 715 W. 6th. Goodman will be having a fundraiser the following week and Slusher plans one in early January . . . Council reappoints judges . . . The City Council last week reappointed all sitting Municipal Court Judges. These include Presiding Judge Evelyn McKee and Community Court Judge Elisabeth Earle, as well as Judges Celia Castro, John Vasquez, Karrie Key, Ronald Meyerson, Mitchell Solomon, Ferdinand Clervi and Kenneth Vitucci. Relief Judges are Stanley Kerr, Arturo Alvarez, Linda Von Quintus, Michael Coffey, Belinda Herrera, Kelly Evans, Deborah Whitfield, Donna Mulcahy and Beverly Landers.

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