Trans Texas Corridor

This is your water and wallet wake up call, Texas!

This is your water and your wallet wake up call, Texas!

As we met in Giddings on Wednesday night, in neighboring Lavaca County, a man wept on his knees as his well went dry and he had no money to dig it deeper.

The sharks are circling the waters of Bastrop and Lee counties – the Lost Pines district — and all of Texas should be on the lookout. You likely know by now that Forestar Real Estate Group (an offshoot of corporate giant, Temple Inland) has sued the Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District. But did you know that big bully Forestar actually sued each of the Lost Pines Board Members individually?

Circling close behind is End Op LP, whose 56,000 acre-feet per year permit is pending. Then there is a long line of public officials in Williamson, Hays and Travis County who are scheming with the water marketers to create new water authorities with the power of eminent domain to seize property for the conveyance of water out of the Lost Pines. And we should not forget big municipal water utilities, like San Antonio Water System, who was represented at Wednesday night’s meeting of the Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District.

They all have their eyes on the same water, folks.

The Lost Pines Board stumbled on Wednesday night, though we fully accept and respect their decision. They had to make a very important appointment of someone to fill the Board seat vacated by the recently departed aquifer protection stalwart, Travis McPhaul. Everyone knew that Michele Gangnes had – for years — been Travis’ wish to replace him. Everyone knew that she was by far the most qualified candidate. Michele – thank you – for having been a leader on this issue in this community, freely sharing thousands of hours over a decade, foregoing your own income in your law practice. Thank you for freely sharing your own viewpoint that the District must achieve a balance between protection of the aquifer and production of water when it permits any deep, high-production wells.

What did Michele get in return for her service? Board Member Michael Simmang (another bully in my humble opinion), showed himself to be either a foolish man or a willing tool of water marketers. He did so by abusing his authority (even making a snide lawyer joke about Michele, when he himself is an attorney) and casting aspersions on Michele Gangnes’ “neutrality”. On what basis, did Simmang do so? That she has simply advocated for the Lost Pines District’s sole mission — to protect the water supply of Lee and Bastrop counties. 

Attendees asked us why was Simmang seemingly attempting to drive a wedge between Gangnes (and the rest of us behind her), and the Lost Pines Board? We honestly really don’t know.

Sometimes these questions are best answered by what’s left out. Simmang remained silent on the application of Dan Shelley to the board. Talk about someone at odds with this district. Shelley, a notoriously well-connected lobbyist, who aided Rick Perry’s attempts to ram the Trans-Texas Corridor on us all, doesn’t even live in Lee County. We asked – in a letter to Simmang and again at the board meeting — that Shelley be disqualified. Instead, Simmang chose to publicly embarrass the most respected community leader on this issue who does not sit on this board.

It should not go without saying that Simmang’s harangue diminished his own nomination of Mr. Larry Schatte. We have no doubt that Mr. Schatte was totally innocent in how Simmang handled himself and we wish Mr. Schatte the very best.

Add to this our new additional concern about potential contamination from fracking near the aquifer. We post here for you this letter by retired geophysicist and Bastrop resident, Bill Hornbuckle read into the record at this meeting.

There is no rest for the weary in a world of dwindling and wasted resources and a brokered or broken political process.

Share this with your friends, please. We’ll be back soon with some bold new plans!


Media Advisory: Tomorrow night’s Lost Pines GCD Meeting a crossroad

Media and Community Advisory

Central Texas Water War Escalates
as Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District at Crossroad Tomorrow Night

On Wednesday, April 16th, the Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District will hear from citizens and then deliberate on a board

Public Enemy Lobbyist #1: Dan Shelley, of Trans-Texas Corridor fame

replacement of aquifer conservation stalwart, Travis McPhaul, who passed away on March 4. Though most applicants are free from ties to industry and political movers and shakers, there is the application of none other than Dan Shelley, one of the most well connected lobbyists in the state who led the failed effort for Governor Perry’s Trans-Texas Corridor. Shelley lives in Austin, not Lee County, where he owns a second home.

The Board will also deliberate in Executive Session about the recently filed suit by Forestar Real Estate Group and their continued attempt to move 45 acre-feet per year (not the 12K AFY Lost Pines GCD granted Forestar last summer) of Lee County’s groundwater to the IH-35 growth corridor.

The backdrop of this meeting is a flurry of other activity honed in on the Lost Pines GCD, including a decision last Friday by the State Office of Administrative Hearings recommending that the GCD grant End Op, LP (controlled by former Williamson County Commissioner, Frankie Limmer) 46,000 acre-feet per year of groundwater.

Then there are central Texas officials outside the district making clear their determination to get their own access to the aquifer through the formation of a regional water authority or utility district. Those officials include members of commissioners courts in Hays County (including Hays County Judge Bert Cobb and Commissioners Ray Whisenant and Will Conley, who also chairs CAMPO), and several Williamson County officials (including Williamson County Judge Gattis). Alhough it is unclear if anyone on the Travis County Commissioners Court is doing anything more than observing, both Commissioners Daugherty and Gomez have attended meetings.

There is, perhaps, one thing that could unify everyone. That is the fact that over 100 permits have been filed for hydraulic fracturing in the Serbin Field alone in Lee County. No one really believes that the Railroad Commission is doing proper monitoring of fracking in Texas, so there is mounting concern for contamination of the water everyone seems to want.


Liars and Tigers and Dan Shelley, Oh My!

Note: After you read this, if you live in Bastrop or Lee County, please go here to read more about the potential appointee to the Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District Board to replace the recently departed board member and friend, Travis McPhaul:

Four years ago we called the plans to pipe water from the Lost Pines (Bastrop and Lee counties) to the almighty IH-35 growth corridor, the “Trans-Texas Water Highway”. We had no idea how true those words would become.

We recently wrote to you about Travis McPhaul’s passing on March 4th, longtime and much revered member of the Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District Board. The Lost Pines GCD Board decided at their March meeting to interview applicants for Mr. McPhaul’s replacement with a committee comprised of Lee County board members. (The Board makes the interim appointment until Lee County Judge Fischer appoints at the end of Travis’s term in December 2015.) The decision to form a committee was made at their meeting on Wednesday, March 19. By the next morning, they had seven candidates lined up for interviews the next Saturday (at least two have removed themselves from consideration).

Public Enemy Lobbyist #1: Dan Shelley, of Trans-Texas Corridor fame

We just learned through an open records request that none other than Dan Shelley, one of the most well-connected and notorious lobbyists in the state of Texas, asked to be Mr. McPhaul’s replacement. Shelley couldn’t be more the opposite of McPhaul. You might remember, Shelley provoked an ethics scandal when he served as a lobbyist for CINTRA, the Spanish toll road consortium vying for the contract for the Trans-Texas Corridor, who resigned, then moved inside the Governor’s office working on this issue, then resigned and went back to CINTRA.  Seriously! Read it on respected’s website.

In a cover letter dated before the Lost Pines GCD made their decision to appoint a committee, Dan Shelley wrote a letter requesting consideration for the appointment.  He wrote about his residence in Lee County and even what church he attends, carefully avoiding disclosing his actual homestead. Hmm…that would be his $1M+ home out in the Hill Country west of Austin. (We checked with the Lee and Travis county appraisal districts.)

Then there was the meeting we attended a week ago Monday in San Marcos called by Hays County Judge Bert Cobb with officials from Williamson, Hays and Travis County to discuss a coalition to get water and pipelines from the “wet” counties. The Judge is known for quoting the Bible. (Although we once heard one of his constituents ask him to observe the Golden Rule in his dealings with Forestar’s Lee County water grab, apparently his mama didn’t impress the rule on him, read on).

Cobb did not leave us disappointed at this meeting either, as he talked how we’re ‘all in this drought together’. But then several of those Judge Cobb introduced, including Hays County Commissioner Ray Whisenant, proceeded to paint a picture about the Lost Pines GCD ‘hoarding’ vast amounts of water they all want.

We asked Judge Cobb, just before the meeting adjourned, if he had invited Bastrop and Lee County Judges Pape and Fischer. He said, unequivocally, yes. However, when we checked later with Judge Pape and Judge Fischer, they both told us in no uncertain terms that they were not invited. (We wrote more about this meeting is here on the new Hays County blog

So….here’s what we need you to do:

Please come this Wednesday to the Lost Pines GCD Meeting
Giddings City Hall, 118 E. Richmond
(come at 6:30, thirty minutes early, bring a lawn chair just in case it’s crowded)

NOW…do the Independent Texans’ Three-Step below:

1.  CLICK HERE TO READ ABOUT THE FOLKS who are potential appointees to the board, then fill out the box to send us your preference(s).

2.   Mark your calendar for the event at the Paige Community Center for Friday, June 6th, 6 to 9 pm (NOT May 3rd as previously reported). This event is sponsored by the new League of Independent Voters of Texas.

3. Join the League of Independent Voterssee the new dues structure here. The League also needs volunteers to help organize the event in Paige on June 6th. Please contact Linda Curtis if you want to help at 512-535-0989 or via email at or speak with us on Wednesday in Giddings.


The Big News! Citizens and Candidates Defy the Lobbies!

Many of you have been asking us, “What can I do to help.” Read this update, then please vote for these candidates, depending on where you live. Then get on the phone or on the computer and get your friends out! These are tight races where your vote will count extra!

Early voting ends this Friday, Feb. 28. Election Day is Tuesday, March 4th.

Debra has always been there, standing with the grassroots to protect our land, our water and... our rights!

DEBRA MEDINA stands to come in first in a crowded race for Texas Comptroller!

Once again, defying the odds and creating the biggest nightmare for the Republican establishment is the possibility that Debra Medina could become State Comptroller!  This Texas Tribune piece shows Debra Medina at the top of the heap in this crowded race, facing big money from the usual suspects. Just remember, Debra was always there amongst us, standing with us fighting Trans-Texas Corridor and in recent years has really led the fight for eminent domain reform standing up to TransCanada, despite the fallout from the powerful oil and gas lobby. She gets it on the need to work with everyone, regardless of political persuasion.

Click here for details you can share online and a flier you can print
  PS Debra just sent out a message asking for your help to get her over the 50% threshold. This would knock the Perry, et. al gang, for a loop!

She might not be Wonder Woman, but she's dang close!

Please vote for and ask your friends to vote for Sarah Eckhard for Travis County Judge!

One of the key races for all of Central Texas in Travis County (Austin and surrounding cities relevant are posted below). Austin area friends, please help us get the vote out this year for former County Commissioner Sarah Eckhardt in the Democratic Primary for Travis County Judge. has a full page of well researched information on this race. Some powerful movers and shakers, including State Sen. Kirk Watson, are trying to stop the more than well-qualified (and honest) Sarah Eckhardt and insert a political operative with no experience, Andy Brown, to be their water boy…literally!

At the recent hearing of the Texas Commission of Environmental Qualify (don’t let that name fool you!) Sen. Watson (who now is supposed to represent Bastrop County too) has urged the TCEQ to grant the LCRA the right to severe cut backs (if not a cut off) of those downstream of Austin! Watson, always willing to front for the real estate lobby that wants to hide the fact that central Texas is running out of water. If it weren’t why would private profiteers like Forestar Real Estate and EndOp be working overtime to try to move Bastrop/Lee counties’ water to the IH-35 growth corridor? They want to protect those developers who are building in areas without sustainable water, folks.

Remember our friend, Rep. Lois Kolkhorst? She was the one who helped Texans of all persuasions — from day one — fight and stop the Trans-Texas Corridor. She is also chair of the Public Health Committee in the Texas House. She testified after Watson at the same hearing that, “I’m Chair of Public Health, this will become a pandemic across the state of Texas if we begin to curtail water in certain areas and not throughout the whole basins.”

Bottom line is this — the water robber barons are coming out of the closet. We must unite and vote wherever is needed to cut THEM off at the pass! In Austin and Travis County, that’s in the Democratic primary and it’s for Sarah Eckhardt.

Eckhart might not be Wonder Woman, but she is smart and gutsy enough to listen to citizens.

Here are the various cities within that may be in part or entirely within Travis County that can vote on the Travis County Judge race:

Do you know that live in Travis County that can vote in this race? That would be these cities:

Cedar Park — a small portion
Elgin – a small portion
Horsby Bend CDP (all of it)
Jollyville CDP – a small portion
Jonestown – all of it
Lago Vista – all of is
Leander – a small portion
Lost Creek CDP – all of is
Manor – all of it
Pflugerville – 99%
Point Venture – 100%
Round Rock – a small portion
Shady Hollow – small portion
Volente – all of it
Webberville – all of it
West Lake Hill – all of it
Windemere CDP – all of it

A vote for Timothy is a vote to protect Texans' richest farmland -- the Brazos River Bottom!

House District 12 (all of Limestone, Robertson and parts of Brazos and McLennan counties)

Please vote in the Republican primary for Timothy Delasandro and boot the incumbent, Kyle Kacal out! This race is all about protecting the richest farm soil in Texas (and perhaps the world!), the Brazos River Bottom. Kacal gets an F — send him home! Click here for details you can share online and  a flier you can print out.


Cities form 391 Commission Out of Concern regarding Southern Segment of Keystone’s Tar Sand Pipeline

About one year ago, three small cities in East Texas, located south of Jacksonville, formed the East Texas SubRegional Planning Commission (ETSRPC).  The ETSRPC is a 391 Commission, formed out of concern for numerous issues surrounding TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline. The initial cities consisted of Gallatin and Reklaw. Later, the city of Alto also joined.  All three cities are within Region 6 in the state of Texas with populations of less than 1200 citizens.

The 391 Commission is part of  the Texas Government Code, established in 1987, that allows at least 2 or more cities, counties, or combination thereof, to form a sub-regional entity within a region to work together to make plans or discover answers for their communities on matters of concern.

The formation of a 391 elevates a city and/or counties position with state and federal agencies, as it gives the 391 the power of a regional government recognized by the state, requiring agencies to “coordinate” their activities around issues and answer questions regarding issues of concern.

Basically, when a 391 is formed, the groups involved have a bigger voice in what happens in regards to a project within their geographical jurisdiction.  In the case of the Keystone XL pipeline, the 391 can ask questions and expect answers from agencies such as the Railroad Commission, TCEQ, Army Corps of Engineers, etc. over various issues that apply to a project or issue of concern.  During the Trans-Texas Corridor controversy, several 391 Commissions were formed in opposition to the proposed road project, with the end result being the road not coming to fruition.

Gallatin, Reklaw  and Alto formed the 391 Commission for the following reasons regarding the Keystone XL pipeline:

1) Water:  The cities are concerned about their municipal wells being contaminated should a spill occur and what alternatives they would have to have potable water.  Tar sands crude is laden with far more chemicals and pollutants than conventional crude, and these cities are also concerned about the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer that underlies their water supplies.

2) Emergency Response:  A tar sand spill is a hazardous material spill.  Since it is not conventional crude, there is concern regarding how these towns’ voluntary fire departments would deal with such a spill.  On the Kalamazoo River in Michigan, where a tar sands spill occurred involving the Keystone Pipeline, residents were evacuated at least six miles from the spill site due to benzene and hydrogen sulfide levels that were at dangerously high exposure levels.

3) Liability and Safety:  The tar sand spills in Kalamazoo, Michigan have cost more than $800 million.  It was the largest and most expensive onshore spill in U.S. history according to the National Transportation Safety Board.  The spill has taken more than two years to clean up.  Since TransCanada doesn’t have to pay into the U.S. spill fund due to an IRS exemption, a real question that deserves a real answer is what would be the liability for these local municipalities, the county, or state should a spill occur?  On TransCanada’s new Keystone 1 line, the company has already had more than twelve spills in less than one year.

The East Texas Subregional Planning Commission formed to preserve the “health, safety and welfare of their residents and plan for future development of their communities for almost any activity.”   In July, the 391 Commission joined a suit against the Army Corps of Engineers regarding the water crossing permits needed by TransCanada.  Currently, the suit is on appeal at the 10th circuit court in Denver.


Texas Water Wars Conference