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Kyle still struggling

Friday, June 27, 2003 by

To meet water demand

City buying more water from other users

By Bob Ochoa The fast-growing and chronically water-short City of Kyle is headed for another shortfall of about 110 million gallons in its water supply this year.

Only some quick measures like the purchase of temporary water rights from permitted private or municipal users inside the Edwards Aquifer Authority (EAA) can help bridge the gap, giving the city time to focus on a more stable, long-term supply, members of a city water development advisory committee said this week.

“We’re going to buy some water to make up for the shortage,” said Dan Ekakiadis, a Kyle resident and a member of the city’s water advisory committee, which met Tuesday of this week.

One stop-gap option being discussed is the purchase of 350 acre-feet of unused water rights, possibly from the City of New Braunfels, at a price of $150 per acre-foot. “Someone is willing to sell the city 100 acre-feet at a cheaper price, but only for a one-year commitment,” Ekakiadis said.

Two years ago, the city faced fines from the EAA for pumping over its permit. Last year, the city overpumped its permits with both the EAA and the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District (BSEACD) by well over a hundred million gallons and ended up paying the Barton Springs District $130,000 in fees and fines. A settlement was reached with the EAA when the city agreed to purchase a one-year supply of unused water rights from New Braunfels.

This will be the third consecutive year the city faces a large water supply deficit, which city officials say is due to the explosive growth of new residential subdivisions approved over the past three years.

A farm and ranch community with a colorful history, Kyle is located off I-35 about 12 miles south of Austin. The small town has seen its population balloon from 2,500 five years ago to an estimated 12,000 today, and is projected to grow to 35,000 by 2007 from currently approved developments. Many of the new residents are former Austinites who came in search of more affordable housing and better schools.

Unable to keep up with the growth, city officials declared a temporary moratorium on new subdivision developments in March of 2002. The city council recently extended the moratorium through October.

The city’s search for a durable water supply will include a request to triple its current permit with the BSEACD. Kyle City Manager Tom Mattis confirmed Thursday that he had just filed a request with the district to increase the city’s permit from 55 million gallons to 165 million gallons a year.

Mattis said other long-term options are being explored. Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority (GBRA) administrators are talking to Kyle and Buda officials about a new pipeline project that could supply the two cities with up to three million gallons of treated water daily from Canyon Lake. And Kyle is also exploring joining other small cities in a regional venture to tap into the groundwater-rich Carrizo-Wilcox formation from an area around Seguin, about 36 miles east of Kyle.

The cost of surface-water supply and the upfront investment to reserve it for a long period is a matter of concern to the City of Kyle, Mattis said. “That’s the key to the whole thing . . . it’s a very dependable source of water, but a whole lot more expensive than groundwater.” A deal with the GBRA and it s pipeline proposal could wind up costing city water customers $8 more a month initially, according to a member of the city’s water advisory board.

Recently appointed general manager of the BSEACD, Veva McCaig, said Kyle’s request to triple its groundwater permit would be treated like all other permittee requests. “The law requires the district to treat all amendments the same way. They will have to go through the same process as everyone else . . . to justify the need.”

On the plus side for Kyle, McCaig said, is the city’s adoption of a water conservation ordinance. The proposed ordinance, similar to Austin’s, is expected to pass final reading at next week’s Kyle city council meeting. “It’s a good ordinance,” McCaig said. “We’re extremely excited about the fact that Kyle is taking these steps. They are acting very responsibly.”

McCaig said the BSEACD is currently committed to permits totaling almost 2.2 billion gallons annually. “We have a handful of permittees who have requested 10 percent increases in their permits, what we consider to be minor amendments.” Kyle’s request clearly is considered a major amendment that the BSEACD’s five-member board will have to discuss in detail.

According to McCaig, the BSEACD is about 6 to 8 months away from finalizing a groundwater availability model that will help the district make “sensible policy decisions” in the future in terms of responding to requests for new permits or increases. “That probably will include pumping limits,” she said.

Futrell warns of deep cuts,

Departmental reorganization

All other matters will take a back seat to budget

City Manager Toby Futrell laid out the city’s budget woes for neighborhood representatives at the Austin Neighborhood Council meeting Wednesday night in a wide-ranging discussion that lasted almost 90 minutes. While Futrell concentrated on the severity of the city’s budget situation in order to warn neighborhood groups about upcoming cuts to city services, neighborhood leaders had their own questions about the city’s spending priorities over the past few years.

“I cannot balance this budget without layoffs,” Futrell said. “This time, there will be bodies. It will be the first time for major layoffs in the city since 1988. And the employees that are left will be doing significantly more with permanently reduced resources.” She also attempted to brace the neighborhood groups for another unpleasant possibility. “This budget will not be balanced in a way this community will accept without both sides of the ledger being involved,” she said. “I’m telling you that these are going to be deep cuts in service programs and facilities . . . and revenue increases.” And she warned that the proposed budget to be presented by her office on July 31 would dominate the public discussion for the next six weeks. “All of the oxygen will be sucked right out of the room,” she said.

Neighborhood representatives peppered Futrell with questions on topics ranging from economic development, Smart Growth and the proposed health care district to the inner workings of the Travis Central Appraisal District. One topic that proved especially popular was code enforcement, with more than one member of the audience voicing the opinion that it had not been adequately funded even during the city’s boom years. Futrell predicted that code enforcement would likely face the same types of cuts as most other city departments, with the added proviso that some of those departments involved in code enforcement could face reorganization or restructuring. ANC members indicated that they would like to have additional discussions about code enforcement with Cora Wright, assistant director of the Neighborhood Planning and Zoning Department, and may invite her to a future meeting.

©2003 In Fact News, Inc. All rights reserved.

In Fact Daily vacation . . . We are taking a one-week vacation and will return with a new issue on July 7. We hope you will all have a safe and happy 4th of July . . . Wal-Mart meeting announced . . . Opponents of the proposed Wal-Mart have scheduled a Town Hall meeting for next Wednesday from 7-9pm at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center on La Crosse Avenue. For directions, visit the web site: http://www.wildflower.org/?nd=directions.Organizers are hopeful they will have a large turnout to discuss Endeavor Real Estate Group’s plans for the superstore on MoPac, but Wal-Mart’s representatives are uncertain whether the meeting is aimed at having a constructive dialogue or is merely a “pep rally,” according to Trey Salinas, who is representing both Wal-Mart and Endeavor. Salinas said he did not feel that his client had been formally invited to the meeting because the organizers had not contacted him or Richard Suttle, Wal-Mart’s attorney. Salinas said a representative of the Wildflower Center called him as a courtesy, but the center is not organizing the event. Suttle said he presented the company’s plans—in particular the technology by Aqua Logic—that Wal-Mart intends to use to maintain water quality at the site to the board of the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District last night. The board has no authority over the project but asked for additional information, Suttle said . . . Regional plan group schedules meeting . . . The first meeting of the Core Committee of the regional planning group has been scheduled for July 9 at 1:30pm at the Dripping Springs City Hall, 550 East Highway 290 West. The core committee includes governmental representatives from the City of Austin, Hays County, Travis County, Dripping Springs, Buda, Sunset Valley, Bee Caves, the Hays-Trinity Groundwater District and the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District . . . More future events . . . The 2003 Nano Summit, hosted by the Nanotechnology Foundation of Texas and sponsored by the Austin-San Antonio Corridor Council will be held July 31 at the Edwin Hornberger Conference Center, Texas Medical Center, Houston. The keynote speaker will be Nobel prize-winning Professor Richard Smalley of Rice University. For more info, visit the web site: www.nanotechfoundation.org/summit.html . . . Fourth of July fun . . . The Austin Symphony Orchestra and HEB will present the city’s annual July 4th Concert and Fireworks show next Friday, beginning at 8:30pm at the Northeast Triangle of Zilker Park. The concert is free and open to all. Organizers expect more than 100,000 people to gather at the park for “the largest Independence Day celebration in Austin ever.” The Austin Symphony will be under the apt baton of ASO Music Director Peter Bay conducting patriotic music and the 1812 Overture—the latter punctuated by 75-millimeter Howitzer cannons courtesy of the Texas National Guard Salute Battery. Fireworks will begin about 9:30pm.

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