The newly created Southwestern Travis County GCD, which has authority to regulate production from the Trinity Aquifer, has had a rocky start and was the subject of discussion at last night's panel on groundwater management in Texas held at West Cave Preserve
The GCD's enabling legislation required that before the District could officially operate, voters would need to confirm it at an election no later than May 2018. Consistent with this requirement in the enabling legislation, the temporary board directors ordered the election last month. The Travis County Commissioners Court then voted to provide the District with a loan to pay for the election because the District has no revenue right now. Subsequently, the temporary board directors met and voted to cancel the election as they were uncomfortable taking on a large debt (the cost of the election was estimated to be $150,000) before the District was even up and running.
There are many questions now about what type of authority the temporary board directors will have and what will happen moving forward. Representative Workman, who authored the enabling legislation, said last night that he will amend the bill next session to allow for a November 2019 election, which should be less costly than a May election. But what will happen during the interim?
TESPA Executive Director, Vanessa Puig-Williams voiced concern last night that during this interim period, the District and landowners in the area could be vulnerable to large permit requests that the District cannot deny. This is because Chapter 36 and the District's enabling legislation arguably allow the temporary board to issue interim permits but they are restricted from reducing permitted amounts until they have rules and a management plan in place, which they cannot adopt until they are confirmed. The reality, however, is that a permit applicant may not want to risk applying for a permit that may be cut back once the District adopts rules, but as attorney Mike Gerson pointed out last night, there is always the possibility that the District could find themselves involved in a lawsuit for infringing on a permit applicant's property rights when they later attempt to reduce an interim permit.