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Barton Springs board allows SOS to contest Kyle water permit

Friday, August 28, 2009 by Laurel Chesky

Last December, when the City of Kyle filed an application to double its draw of water from the Barton Springs portion of the Edwards Aquifer, city officials may have been counting on the winter rains to dilute the inevitable opposition to their proposal. The rains never came, and now, with the aquifer in alarm stage drought, Kyle’s request isn’t garnering much favor from the city’s neighbors, particularly members of the Save Our Springs Alliance.


Last night, Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District Board President Bob Larsen declared, without elaboration, that SOS “is admitted as a party” in the permit process. In other words, the SOS has the right to officially contest Kyle’s permit application. The board did not decide whether or not to grant the permit. A trial-like contested case hearing with sworn testimony will be scheduled to take place next month.


The City of Kyle has applied for a permit to increase its draw from the aquifer from 165 million gallons to 350 million gallons per year and to transfer the additional water outside of the conservation district and into city of Kyle service area not currently served by the aquifer. If the permit were granted, it would not take effect until current drought restrictions have been lifted. The district would also have the right to limit or halt pumping of the additional water in future droughts.


According to state law, a party must prove “justiciable interest,” in order to legally contest water permits. In other words, a contesting party must prove that personal and direct harm would come from granting of the permit. At last night meeting, Kyle’s attorney Jason Hill argued that SOS did not meet the criteria to contest the permit application. SOS attorney Sarah Faust argued that the organization represented individual members who would be personally impacted by the permit and should therefore be allowed a seat at the table.


Stephen Segler, a resident of the Ruby Ranch subdivision in Buda and a member of SOS, served as Faust’s star witness. Segler, a landscape architect, told the board that he is watching his plants die under current drought restrictions. If even more water is taken from the aquifer, he said, he fears that his neighborhood’s water district, whose only source of water is a community well on the shallow end of the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer, will be subject to strict rationing or, even worse, be forced to truck in water.


“I look at this aquifer as a big bucket and we all have straws sticking in this bucket,” Segler told the board. “Now we have someone who is going to double the size of their straw and, not only that, they’re going to bend that straw and suck water outside of the district boundaries. I have a funny feeling my neighborhood is going to have to ration, going to have to cut back, and it’s going to be a real burden on our subdivision.”


Hill argued that Ruby Ranch’s water district has the legal obligation to provide the subdivision with water, regardless of the source. And, Hill pointed out that the board would have the authority to decrease Kyle’s pumping in times of drought.


“In essence, the City of Kyle is asking for a wet weather permit,” Hill said. “The city would not be able to make use of it in drought conditions.”


Faust rebutted that under current rules, Kyle would be allowed to pump 25 percent of the requested extra water in the current drought conditions.

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