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TESPA March Updates

Rain finally fell in the Hill Country as March has come to a close, and hopefully springs and creeks are flowing with a bit more gusto. There is absolutely nothing like springtime in the Hill Country, and let's hope that April brings more showers! Please read more for everything TESPA has been up to last month.

Photo Credit: David Parson's Images

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Electro Purification: BSEACD Projects that Modeled Drawdown After One Year Could be between 300 ft to 500 ft in Five Observation Wells.

As we updated you last month, on February 20, BSEACD sent Electro Purification a preliminary finding that EP's production permit application to produce 2.5 million gallons a day from the Trinity Aquifer has the potential to cause unreasonable impacts to existing wells. Below are pertinent excerpts from BSEACD's detailed memo, which you can read here.

TESPA is meeting with BSEACD staff on April 9th to discuss the District's finding that the EP application will cause unreasonable impacts to wells. If you have questions or concerns, please email Vanessa at vanessa@puigwilliamslaw.com

BSEACD's next board meeting is on April 12th at 6:00 PM. Landowners concerned about the impact the EP application will have on their wells and how BSEACD intends to mitigate these impacts should attend and make comments during the public comment period.

The aquifer test determined that after about a week of pumping at the requested volume, water levels could decline below a reasonable pump intake level (Table 1). Water levels in the Woods #1 and Escondida wells drew down to within 23 ft and 18 ft of the pump level, respectively. If we assume drought conditions with water levels being an additional 50 ft of lower, existing local well interference, and the appropriate depth of water needed above a pump intake to yield water, it is likely that these and other wells will cease to yield water. If those factors are considered, the number of impacted wells will likely increase in the vicinity of EP.

It is uncommon, in the experience of the BSEACD, for an aquifer test to produce drawdown that indicates negative impacts to surrounding water-supply wells (without considering modeling results). This is likely due to the magnitude of the requested pumping rate and the compartmentalized nature of the Middle Trinity Aquifer (BSEACD, 2017, 2018).

Projecting the effects of drawdown after pumping for 1 year results in significant drawdown that approaches the top of the Cow Creek in the EP pumping and observation wells. The simulated drawdown from 1 year of pumping is sufficient to understand the potential effects of pumping for a long duration. Modeling 7 years of drawdown effectively shows de-watering of the Cow Creek, which would be an unreasonable impact

The aquifer tests were conducted at a time when water levels were above average in central Hays County. When a factor of 50 ft, to account for severe drought conditions, is subtracted from the aggregate drawdown from the tests, resulting water levels would be such that the Woods #1 and Escondida wells would cease to produce water. Modeling has shown that with longer periods of pumping will cause even greater drawdown. Thus, we conclude that the proposed production of 2.5 MGD of groundwater from the existing EP wells has potential for unreasonable impacts.

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Needmore Contested Case

On March 5th, the State Office of Administrative Hearings Administrative Law Judge heard oral arguments on TESPA's Motion for Summary Disposition as well as Needmore and BSEACD’s Motions. TESPA is arguing that Needmore was not eligible to apply for a HB 3405 permit because the District determined that Needmore's well was abandoned and not in use and that, therefore, the District erred in granting a temporary permit and proposed regular permit to Needmore. Both Needmore and the District argued that TESPA doesn't even have a right to challenge Needmore’s eligibility. The ALJ took everything under advisement and will likely rule in early April. You can read the parties' motions here.

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Jacob's Well Dye Trace Study

Last week hydrogeologists from BSEACD and the EAA injected dye into a cave near Jacob’s Well to see if it will end up in Jacob’s Well. The thought is that the underwater cave passage in Jacobs Well extends to beneath this cave. If the dye is traced to Jacob’s Well, it will provide new information on the sources of recharge for the spring. Stay tuned for a video we are putting together about this project.

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Southwestern Travis County GCD Off to a Rocky Start

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 at an event at West Cave preserve 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, 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.

A Poem for Spring

  • Lines Written in Early Spring
  • By William Wordsworth

  • I heard a thousand blended notes,
  • While in a grove I sat reclined,
  • In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts
  • Bring sad thoughts to the mind.
  • To her fair works did Nature link
  • The human soul that through me ran;
  • And much it grieved my heart to think
  • What man has made of man.
  • Through primrose tufts, in that green bower,
  • The periwinkle trailed its wreaths;
  • And ’tis my faith that every flower
  • Enjoys the air it breathes.
  • The birds around me hopped and played,
  • Their thoughts I cannot measure:—
  • But the least motion which they made
  • It seemed a thrill of pleasure.
  • The budding twigs spread out their fan,
  • To catch the breezy air;
  • And I must think, do all I can,
  • That there was pleasure there.
  • If this belief from heaven be sent,
  • If such be Nature’s holy plan,
  • Have I not reason to lament
  • What man has made of man?