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Well application worries Bear Creek

Friday, July 22, 2005 by

Circle C Golf Club seeking more water

The tiny Village of Bear Creek sits just a few miles due east of Dripping Springs, right on top of the Hays-Travis County line, on some of the most idyllic land in the Texas Hill Country. But the 370 or so residents in the 1.2-square-mile municipality may become entangled in a fight with big money and development over water rights to wells in the Trinity Aquifer.

One of Bear Creek’s neighbors, Circle C Golf Club, has filed a water rights application with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to drill an additional well in the area that could pump up to a million gallons a day, threatening the village’s water supplies.

Fay Evans, president of the Bear Creek Oaks Neighborhood Association, said the TCEQ was required to notify all adjacent landowners and affected municipalities about Circle C’s application.

“Somehow, we fell through the cracks,” she said. “It’s my understanding that they used an extremely old plat map when they were determining who needed to be contacted about this. Because we weren’t notified, and we found out about it after the protest deadline, we began asking ‘Hey, what’s going on here?’”

The city secretary called TCEQ and was told that, under the circumstances, they could still file a protest, according to Evans, who filed a formal protest Thursday on behalf of her neighborhood association. She said the Bear Creek Council also voted at its meeting last week to file a protest, but she was unsure when that would be filed.

Evans said Andrew Backus, board president of the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District, met with village officials last week, and agreed to work with them to begin monitoring wells in the Bear Creek area to develop baseline flow data.

The neighborhood association’s letter of protest cites both water supply and environmental concerns over Circle C’s plans. Evans’ letter notes that when Circle C drilled a well for its first golf course some years ago, residents noticed an immediate impact on levels in the aquifer.

“Levels in all the area wells dropped rapidly,” she said. “Some of them went dry, and we don’t want that to happen again.”

She asked the TCEQ if Circle C performed any feasibility studies using the Texas Water Development Board’s Approved Groundwater Availability Model for the Trinity Aquifer, and to provide copies of those studies. She also questioned whether the Circle C application is in compliance with the terms of Bradley Settlement with the City of Austin as it pertains to groundwater rights.

“I think that the issues in that settlement are being ignored,” Evans said. “The water rights issue really dovetails into that.”

The City of Austin is studying the situation, according to Nico Hauwert, an aide to Nancy McClintock, assistant director of the city’s Watershed Protection and Development Review Department. Bear Creek resident Erin Foster said she and the City of Austin have been monitoring area wells for some time.

Lauri Swan of Stratus Properties, which owns land close to Bear Creek, did not know about the application. She said, “We know nothing about it.”

No date for a hearing on the Circle C application has been set, according to the TCEQ website. Attempts to contact Circle C Golf Course Manager Chip Gist for this story were not successful.

©2005 In Fact News, Inc. All rights reserved.

Making the rounds . . . Members of AFSCME have been visiting City Council offices this week with their latest proposal to beef up city employee compensation. More information to follow next week (Hint: they still want more than City Manager Toby Futrell and her staff have proposed) . . . Sales tax numbers down, up . . . Although the year has overall been in the positive category for Austin sales tax collections, last month's sales tax payment for May sales was $8.9 million. The Public Information Office says this represents a 0.5% decrease over the same period last year, but the city is still expecting to meet its sales tax budget of $123.7 million. Round Rock reported a 17.37 percent increase, bringing in $4.16 million as compared to $3.54 million for the same month last year. The state as a whole gained 9.2 percent compared to figures released last year at this time. Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn said that so far this calendar year, sales tax allocations to local governments are running 7.1 percent higher than last year . . . Less than pleased parents form PAC . . . A new group will hold a press conference at 10:30am today to announce formation of the Texas Parent PAC. The group, which includes Carolyn Boyle, Bev Barrow, Staley Gray, Ellen Jones and Dinah Miller, says its purpose is to elect legislators who "listen to parents, consistently vote in the interests of children and support high-quality Texas public schools." The group intends to leaflet the more than 3,000 parents attending today’s Texas PTA summer seminar at the Austin Convention Center. . . Rapid Bus open house . . . Capital Metro is hosting three open houses on July 27 and 28 to elicit public feedback on its first planned Rapid bus route. Community input will help determine priorities for route location, frequency of service and locations for station stops and transfers. The first open house will be 6:30-8pm next Wednesday at the Texas Department of Human Services Winters Building at 701 West 51st Street. Others will be next Thursday, from 11:30-1pm at City Hall, 301 W. 2nd Street, and 6:30-8pm at Grace United Methodist Church, 205 E. Monroe. The first Rapid Bus route, from North Lamar to South Congress, could be operational by late 2006 or early 2007.

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