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Letter to Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District: Permit This, Not This

PERMIT THIS NOT BANKRUPTCY-RecycledDear Lost Pines GCD Board of Directors, (Please forward to Board ASAP)

The coalition of below named organizations have developed what it believes would be a reasonable outcome of your deliberations regarding the groundwater permit applications before you at this time.  We find that the production limits sought by Forestar, End Op, and LCRA applications will harm existing permitted wells, the environment, and are far in excess of the DFC and MAG.  The District has failed to factor in the impact of existing permits, and has failed to reasonably consider MAG.  If granted, these permits will make the DFCs unachievable.We believe that, if permitted at all, individual permit should first be reduced to levels actually supported by the applications and then all permits reduced overall as necessary to an aggregate level that, including existing permits, protect the Adopted Desired Future Conditions. In addition the District needs to factor in the impact of existing permits before issuing any new permits.

Example:  Forestar’s application, based almost entirely on a Letter of Intent with Hays County for 25,000 to 45,000 AFY, due to expire in September 2013, is a perfect example of the overarching common element in the two largest applications.  Specifically, the facts demonstrate the applicants are seeking permits for ill-defined projects, whose end users are moving targets and which seek to satisfy the entire demand for their target areas, despite the potential for other sources of supply.  For example, has Hays County’s supposedly “exclusive” LOI with Forestar  now been replaced with Hays County’s April 2013 Request for Proposals for an Alternative Water Supply?  Might the RFP result in a lower bidder than Forestar?  Is Forestar’s proposal to Hays County for up to 45,000 AFY redundant as far as the Hays Caldwell Public Utility Agency’s plan to bring water to Kyle, Buda and San Marcos?  These are exactly the questions the Board should be considering in determining, bottom line, whether these permits seek to prematurely tie up our water while they look for the highest bidder.

In summary, if permitted at all, Forestar and End Op qualify for less than 5% of the water they are seeking.

We encourage the Board to keep permitting within conservative limits that allow pumping that can be reasonably expected to achieve the Adopted GMA-12 Desired Future Conditions.  We oppose the water bankruptcy that would result from all permits being approved at the levels requested.  The flyer attached articulates our request.

If you are not yet ready to take the steps necessary to conservatively manage this resource through the permit process, we encourage you to table final decision on these permits until 1) after the Legislative session has been adjourned, and 2) after the final decisions in the contested case hearings.

1.    We are concerned that the strategy for preservation of the DFC whereby the District will reduce permitted withdrawals later after the DFC has been violated, may be well-intended but is unrealistic.  Once the permitted entities have entered into binding contracts for the supply of water it will be extremely difficult for the District to reduce the permitted water as necessary to preserve the DFC.  This strategy is even more imperiled by the Texas Legislature.  The Legislature has made clear that it is willing to consider legislation that would wholly remove the District’s ability to make such reductions in the future.  As such we believe it is unwise for the District to adopt a management strategy that will at best be exceedingly difficult to implement, and relies upon a management tool that the Legislature may remove entirely.

2.      We also believe that the contested case hearing will allow the District to develop a more robust understanding of the facts involved in regulating permits under the laws and regulations of the State of Texas, and that this understanding will enable the District to make a more informed decision on the application after the hearings have been completed.

We do not believe this is the time to engage legal strategies, but rather that it is time to act to conservatively manage our precious groundwater resources as has been the request of our county Judges, Commissioners Courts, many organizations, and the people of Bastrop and Lee counties.  If challenged in court over having taken this path, we will work as diligently to back you as we have to encourage your good stewardship.

Respectfully yours,

Steve Box, Environmental Stewardship Michele Gangnes, Neighbors for Neighbors Phil Cook, Lost Pines Sierra Club Gretchen McCord DeFlorio, Groups United to Advocate Responsible Development (“GUARD”) Linda Curtis, Independent Texans

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