THE SAVE OUR WELLS FIGHT CONTINUES:
TESPA challenges Temporary Permit
for Needmore Water, LLC
Did we think the water fight was over?
No, we did not. It is just beginning. We, the people of the Western Hays County, must continue to stand up for our water and our rights if we want to prevail.
One of the central groups that formed in the battle to protect our water in the Electro Purification threat was TESPA, The Trinity Edwards Springs Protection Association. TESPA has now filed objections, based on legal grounds, to Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District (BSEACD) granting a temporary permit to Needmore Water, LLC in its application to pump 289 million gallons of Trinity Aquifer water annually. The Trinity is the fragile, slow recharging, and already declining aquifer that most of our local wells and local water companies use to supply our water.
It is important to note that TESPA is not accusing BSEACD of intentional wrongdoing, but of incorrectly interpreting and applying the regulations governing the granting of this permit.
You can read TESPA's press release, a summary of their reasons for why the temporary permit should be rescinded, below. You can also download the full TESPA explanation of their legal arguments.
CARD has already published concerns about the Needmore request, which you can read here. We have urged the BSEACD to do a thorough evaluation of this potentially threatening request, and we have confidence that BSEACD plans to do that.
The true ultimate purpose of the Needmore request is not yet clear. CARD is not opposed to reasonable uses of reasonable amounts of water. But we believe that any request for taking, or the ability to take, water sufficient to harm the aquifer and other people's wells should be denied.
The BSEACD has already started preparations to test the Needmore application, but it has a great challenge, including finding enough wells to conduct a thorough test. CARD has been assured by officers of the BSEACD that they will do all they can to properly examine this request.
Earlier this year, the people of Western Hays County united in an uphill battle to prevent Electro Purification from draining the water source for hundreds of long-established private wells. Through the superlative efforts of many groups and hundreds of individuals, a partial solution was enacted by the Texas legislature. It was a good start, but our fight will have to continue if we want to safeguard our water supply and the economic health of our area.
- CARD Steering Committee
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Vanessa Puig-Williams - 512 826-1026; firstname.lastname@example.org;
Jim Blackburn - 713-501-9007
Barton Springs Groundwater District's Issuance
of Temporary Permit in "Shared Area"
On Monday morning, The Trinity Edwards Springs Protection Association (TESPA) submitted objections to the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District (District) regarding the District's decision to issue a Temporary Permit to Needmore Water, LLC on October 19, 2015. TESPA has analyzed the application and supplemental documentation Needmore provided to the District and has concluded that the District lacked authority under HB 3405 and the District's own rules to grant the Temporary Permit.
HB 3405, which became effective on June 19, 2015, extended the District's jurisdiction to include unregulated areas of the Trinity Aquifer in Hays County, also called the "shared area". Prior to passage of the law, Needmore Ranch, a 5,000 acre ranch along the Blanco River in Hays County, was outside the District's jurisdiction and subject to certain restrictions that were removed by the legislature during the same session.
According to Vanessa Puig-Williams, an attorney for TESPA, "HB 3405 brought this ranch into its jurisdiction along with the lands which were home to the controversial Electro Purification groundwater extraction and sales proposal. During the legislative session, another act removed previous restrictions on groundwater pumping on the ranch, and the door was opened for this temporary permit application to remove hundreds of millions of gallons of groundwater from the Trinity Aquifer.
"On September 19th, Needmore applied to the District for a temporary permit to produce 289,000,000 gallons of groundwater a year from the Trinity Aquifer. After Needmore submitted its application, the District conducted field investigations and learned that the well is currently inoperable and and has been inoperable for quite some time. The District also learned that the well had never been used for agricultural irrigation as set out in the permit application. However, the district issued the permit after changing the classification of the well to agricultural wildlife, even though the District also had discovered that the well had only been used in the past to fill a pond for recreational use.
"The issue is whether or not Needmore qualified for a so-called 'temporary permit'," said Jim Blackburn, another TESPA attorney and board member. "HB 3405 created this classification in order to grandfather in both operating wells as well as wells for which a sale of water was under contract. The law is clear. You had to be operating a well on June 19, 2015 - the day HB 3405 became effective - to apply for a temporary permit. However, from information contained in the District's files, it is apparent that Needmore's well had been in disrepair for some time and was not operating as required by HB3405." HB 3405 provides that the District shall issue a regular permit to a temporary permit holder for the production amount set forth in the temporary permit. The district may only reduce this permitted amount based on a finding that it will either cause a failure to achieve the desired future condition or cause unreasonable impacts to existing wells.
According to Vanessa Puig-Williams, "This issue is extremely important because the Trinity Aquifer in this area is so vulnerable. We did not fight to create regulatory authority over this "shared area" only to allow a well that does not qualify to be grandfathered. The temporary well can be converted to a regular permit much more easily than in the normal permitting process. At the least, this application should be returned and Needmore should be required to submit an application for a new well subject to all of the District's rules."
TESPA's letter to the District also raised concerns about the use classification for the well. The application stated that the well was used for agricultural irrigation purposes. However, District files indicate that in conversations with a ranch employee, District employees were informed that the well had never been used for irrigation or for wildlife management purposes, but had only been used in the past to fill a pond for recreational use. In issuing the temporary permit, the District changed the permit classification from agricultural irrigation to agricultural wildlife management.
Again, according to Jim Blackburn, "Based on the information we obtained from the District files, this temporary permit did not meet the District's rules. Not only was the well not operating but the well was clearly not used for the purposes stated in the permit application. Permit applicants should not be rewarded for filing misleading or erroneous applications. The potential for over pumping this aquifer is very real. We must insist that the letter of the law be applied to the facts if we are to have any chance to protect this wonderful water resource and the much smaller wells of local property owners.
TESPA has requested that the District revoke Needmore's temporary permit and deny the regular permit. Added Blackburn, "It is amazing what we are encountering. TESPA will do what it takes to protect these groundwater resources. If we think it necessary, we will not hesitate to file suit."