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Aquifer board rejects idea of changing district’s name

Friday, October 31, 2008 by Mark Richardson

At their meeting Thursday night, some members of the board of the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District (BSEAD) objected strongly to the idea that they consider a name change to coincide with the possible annexation of western Travis County.


Meeting in a special called session, the BSEACD Board was considering the details of possible legislation allowing them to hold an annexation election. The board did not make a final decision on the annexation.


However, one portion of the draft legislation contained a clause suggested by General Manager Kirk Holland that would change the name of the district to the Balcones Groundwater Conservation District to better reflect the new area it would represent. The reaction was immediate and strongly worded.


“If we do that, I will personally oppose the entire annexation bill,” said Board Member Craig Smith. “I see that as abandoning the district after all the work we have done to establish it.”


Board Members Jack Goodman and Mary Stone agreed.


“Part of our commitment has always been to protect Barton Springs,” Goodman said. “There is no reason to change the name. We have labored for 20 years to make a name for this agency and we should not change it.”


Stone said it would likely damage the agency’s public image.


“I have seen the respect and recognition we get from the landowners,” she said. “I wouldn’t touch the name with a 10-foot pole. You have built up a great deal of marketing name recognition, and you would risk losing that.”


Holland explained that if the district annexed the western part of the county, it would also be regulating portions of the Trinity Aquifer as well as the Barton Springs segment of the Edwards Aquifer.


“We need to tell them that we are not just about the Edwards,” he said. “It needs to include the Trinity. The people in the annexed area are going to think its something that we don’t pay much attention to. I think the annexation election will be an uphill battle without it.”


The three board members remained unmoved, and Holland dropped the idea.


Board members also adopted a map of the preferred area of annexation. It would extend the district from its current western boundary roughly aligned with South MoPac all the way out past the Pedernales River to the Blanco County line. It would be bordered by the Travis County line on the south and Lakes Austin and Travis on the north. The area would exclude most of Lakeway but would include Bee Cave.


The annexation would also take in a small area between South Congress and I-35 between Lady Bird Lake and William Cannon Drive, and create a “core urban area,” which encompasses the parts of the district that are in the Austin city limits.


With an annexation, the board would expand from five to seven members. Two temporary, at-large board members would be named to represent the new parts of the district until the next regular election. Board members said the agency would look for suitable names to possibly submit with the legislation, but if they cannot be found before the Nov. 20 meeting, they would be appointed later.


Board members voted 5-0 to approve changes made in the draft legislation. If the bill were to win legislative approval, a confirmation election would be held in the new portions of the district, probably in April 2010.

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