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Aquifer district annexation meeting draws few citizens

Thursday, October 30, 2008 by Jacob Cottingham

Members of the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District Board are concerned over the low attendance at last week’s Town Hall meeting in Bee Cave. The meeting was intended to engage residents of western Travis County on a potential annexation of the area into the BSEACD.


Only nine people attended, not including media, district board members or staff. Dialogue centered on how the district could involve more citizens in this eventual decision. Afterwards, BSEACD General Manager Kirk Holland said, “We wished there were more people here to participate. We got some good comments though, and we appreciate those who did come out to express their concerns and recommendations.” Primarily, criticism centered on the lack of timely publicity alerting residents of the impending meeting.


Karen Huber, candidate for Travis County Pct. 3 Commissioner, attended for a short time but left before the question and answer session.


Holland and Board President Bob Larsen both gave presentations to those assembled, noting that if annexation were to proceed, an election would not be held until May 2010. Holland said currently the BSEACD has 1,100 wells and the area of proposed annexation has “something in the order of 800 wells,” most of which are smaller than the wells in the current district. Holland estimated that 30 wells in the proposed annexation area would be permitted, compared to “about 100” in the current district. Aside from these 1,900 wells, the rest would likely be exempt.


Holland said the current area uses 90 percent of its water for domestic supply and this is “probably very close, percentage-wise” to the area being annexed, although he said there was no indication how much groundwater was being used in the potentially annexed area.


The district has also been in talks with the Blanco-Pedernales GCD and the Hays Trinity GCD to determine what the exact annexed boundaries would be. “The board would like it to be the entire area in the Priority Groundwater Management Area,” said Holland, though he added that for a successful confirmation election it might have to be smaller due to certain communities near the lakes that could provide ideological resistance.


Holland said the district was still evaluating whether the other two GCDs bordering the county may be better suited to annex the area in Travis County west of the Pedernales River. “If those other GCDs want to annex some defined area, more power to them, we’ll work with them to make that happen,” Holland said.” Our board just believes that this area needs to have groundwater protection.”


Annexation requires enabling legislation, which would define the boundaries and the precincts in the new district. Enabling legislation would need to be submitted by September 2009. The board on an interim basis would appoint the first directors of the new precincts. After 2010, new census information will enable the redistricting to be completed and in May 2012, new directors would be elected for redrawn precincts.


The current proposed annexation area would stretch from Oak Hill and Westlake to the Blanco and Burnet County lines and from the Colorado River to the Hays County line. This area relies primarily upon the Trinity Aquifer for groundwater and the Lower Colorado River Authority for surface water by the Highland Lakes. It is in the Hill Country Priority Groundwater Management Area defined by the Texas Commission on Environment Quality.


Bob Patterson, a citizen in attendance had a question about a metered well – as long as there is not livestock and it is not on more than 10 acres. “A single family house that’s on an acre, it’s not that large and doesn’t fit this description, where does that stand?” Patterson asked. Holland told him an exempt well must be for domestic use or livestock only and on a 10-acre or larger lot equipped to pump less than 10,000 gallons a day.


Michael Murphy asked the board, “How did we get to this position tonight where you’re talking about extending the control over southwest Travis County?” Holland said there were “groundwater problems” but didn’t take the opportunity to get into any specific problems or what their relevance may be to the assembled.


Murphy was also the first to confront the district on the attendance issue, “I’m a little concerned there’s not more people here, that there wasn’t more public notice,” he said. “I found out about this through an email from the Hill Country Alliance a couple days ago and I think that if you guys are serious about doing due diligence on this you need to do a better job of getting the word out and getting citizens involved and getting more input into what’s going to happen in this part of the county.”


BSEACD Board members will hold a special called meeting at 6pm tonight at its headquarters at 1124 Regal Row in Manchaca. Board members will discuss and possibly take action on drafting legislation that would establish procedures for the district to annex western Travis County.


The next Town Hall is at Bee Creek United Methodist Church on Nov. 6.

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