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March 19th, 2009
Letter: Fear mongering over water

GUEST COMMENTARY by WILL CONLEY

A few weeks ago the Commissioner’s Court, in a bi-partisan resolution, voted 4-0-1 (our Judge decided not to vote) on a resolution asking the Texas Legislature to give our local groundwater district more authority in the western portion of the county. It’s a good resolution that gives the Hays Trinity Groundwater District full chapter 36 authority on all new development, puts everyone under a drought contingency plan, and allows the HTGD to gather fees and information to better understand the Trinity.

It also protects existing residential well owners and platted lot owners from intrusive, unnecessary government intervention and production fees. I don’t support everything in the resolution, but it is necessary in order for us to gain more control over new development that is needed in our area.
For some in our community this wasn’t enough. It’s not enough to say every new well in the western part of the county is going to be fully regulated; it’s not enough to say we all must register our wells and follow drought contingency plans; it’s not enough that the HTGD board members will have longer terms, no county oversight, and have the right to call an election for voter approved taxes. For Judge Sumter and the environmental left, it isn’t enough until they have complete control over all of your resources. They want to meter your well, come on your property without your permission, restrict your pump size, and tax you with production fees. If you own property in the western portion of the county and haven’t drilled your well yet, you may not get the chance. You may be told that the water budget is tapped so you need to haul your water in from another source or use only rainwater harvesting (by the way I believe I am the only member of the Court who actually owns a rain harvesting system). If you own an existing well and want to sell your land, you may be told the water budget is tapped, and you need to sell your land without the use of your well. In short, we would have no historical rights and our private property rights would be drastically reduced.

Fear – You have been told, without a doubt, that the Trinity is out of water. You have been told that our water resources are tapped, and that this government takeover is necessary, in order for any of us to have water in the future. This, however, is untrue. We still don’t know the full capabilities of the Trinity. The scientific studies are incomplete and anyone who states otherwise simply hasn’t reviewed the facts. Now I believe it would be unwise to continue to let development of new wells go unregulated.

The scientific studies I have seen led to my support of full chapter 36 authority on all new development, but I haven’t seen anything that gives me the impression that those of us who are already here need full government regulation. The Edwards Aquifer for example has been studied for many years and they just recently started to regulate existing well owners through ownership changes and they still have some historical rights after the fact. Why not wait until we have a clear picture of what is necessary before we start regulating everyone in our community and infringing on private property rights?

Why? Control and Power! These big government promoters know that if they can control your water resources it will give them almost unlimited control and power over all citizens in the western portion of the county. By fully controlling water resources, they can run the cost of living up, tell you when and where to use your water (i.e. land use control), and continue to promote their own special interests. All of this would be done on your wallet and on your private property rights as a U.S citizen. If we are going to have this type of government influence in our lives, the least we can do is call for an election of the people to see if this is what our citizens really want, just like we did when the HTGD was formed a few years ago. It’s not right to have so few determine the future of so many citizens.

Water is an extremely important issue for the future of central Texas and our state as a whole. We have many challenges that must be met. In Hays County we need a combination of water conservation, surface water, grey water, land conservation, and rain water collection in order to meet future demands. Let’s take a deep breath, truly evaluate the situation and take action. Let’s not jump to conclusions and use the current drought as an excuse for big, intrusive government to jump right in our back yard.

WILL CONLEY is the precinct 3 commissioner.

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13 thoughts on “Letter: Fear mongering over water

  1. The real fear-mongering is coming from you, Will, not from the hydrogeologists.

    No one has ever said “The Trinity is out of water”.

    No one has ever said they would take away current users of water from continuing to use their water in a responsible way.

    No one is trying to put meters on current residential wells and no one is proposing that.

    Will, you have a strange definition of “new development”.

    Your definition seems to only refer to future sales of land and future platting of land, not the thousands of lots you would have grandfathered to have the “right” to a well permit that are just raw land today, no house, no plan for a house, no nothing but a plat.

    You are just making things up. That is the nice way to put it.

    What the current well-owners and residents of the area of the county which derives the majority of its water from the Trinity aquifer are trying to do is provide a scientifically-sound and evidence-based policy for how to continue to have water not only this year, in this drought, but for future generations.

    Our local groundwater conservation district in the western part of Hays County does not have the same kind of authority to protect and preserve our local water resources that all the surrounding counties have. Why is this so?

    Our enabling legislation for our water board was intentionally hamstrung by developer interests who want to be able to promise unlimited water to future landowners and future homebuyers. Some people have the idea that they can make lots of money in this area building houses if they can just convince people there is no problem with water.

    Only problem is, there IS a problem with water availablity. Water is a finite resource and any society that continues to use critical resources unsustainably is in big trouble.

    If we keep pumping the way we are, if forecasts of a drier future for our region are correct and if no measures to conserve water are put in place today, then the life we enjoy in the Hill Country will disappear. This isn’t fear-mongering, this is just common sense.

    Will, is this what you want? Are you willing to give into the short-term gain of making money on development and developer campaign donations and risk a future where this county, this area, this state do not have enough clean water for all its citizens?

    Really, are you willing to do this to us all?

  2. The Politics of Fear Mongering a la Will Conley

    This opinion letter that was also sent out as e-mail from Hays County Precinct 3 Commissioner, Will Conley regarding his support/opposition to granting Chapter 36 authority for our Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District (GCD) is classic Conley fear mongering politics.

    Conley’s rambling is full of contradictory and false statements meant to create voter fear through misinformation, a la Karl Rove.

    Conley begins by calling the Resolution passed in commissioners’ court bipartisan (four votes for, none against and one abstention). What a joke. Conley knows the Resolution was going to be approved with or without his vote.

    Talking out of both sides of his mouth Conley then writes: “I don’t support everything in the resolution, but it is necessary in order for us to gain more control over new development that is needed in our area.” Who is this “us” Conley thinks is necessary to gain more control?

    Folks with well problems know about Conley style control, and they would rather be represented by locally elected District officials who are professionals in groundwater management, than by county officials who won’t say no to developers even when nearby wells are going dry. Hello Northridge subdivision.

    Then Conley has the audacity to call the groundwater district “big government,” after he votes for a $207 million road bond, $19.5 million special tax bond, promoting a $90 million bond for a new government center, and my favorite, $2.4 million for the Wimberley First Baptist Church property. Next to Commissioner Barton, Conley is the BIGGEST spender in Hays County…but he does his 4-1 tax vote act when its time to pay for all his spending. Conley wants to have it both ways come election time.

    It was officials like Conley who oppose responsible management of our Aquifer and who set up the GCD for failure when they wrote the disabling legislation, but voters confirmed our GCD by a two to one margin. Chapter 36 authority will once again give voters an opportunity to express their wishes regarding protection of their water wells.

    Conley and his developer supporters (Winton Porterfield, Loomis, Quicksand, etc.) want what they consider to be their inalienable right to build, drill and run with their profits while neighboring wells go dry. That’s the old Rule of Capture mentality that has no place in a civilized community of neighbors with limited groundwater supply.

    Conley has bragged that Karl Rove is his hero and so it’s no surprise when he deploys Rovian political fear mongering tactics.

    Shame on you Commissioner Conley. A reliable supply of clean water for our citizens should not be a matter of politics…of any kind, much less your fear mongering politics.

  3. Will Conely just wants to control the water so that he has an ample supply for his car wash were he pays his employees $1.50 an hour plus tips which were non existent before our current economic downfall and now practically ZERO!

  4. Will Conley and Jeff Barton are the strongest and the best Commissioners on the court. They think for themselves and not how it’s going to effect their special interests.

  5. BerniceB,

    You are getting there:

    “They think for themselves and not how it’s going to effect their special interests.”

    Recognizing Barton and Conley have special interests is a good first step.

    Now watch closely and you can see what a great return on campaign financing investments their special interests realize.

  6. MR. O’Dell: What about your own financing of special interests?
    We’re all still waiting for the last candidate you backed to file his campaign finance reports so we can verify whether you actually freely contributed thousands of dollars, or just “loaned” the money. Maybe your hatred of good politicians like Barton and Conley lies in your bitterness over the fact that they can actually win elections. Better luck next time.

  7. Lila, dear….

    This is no way to get invited to the Government Watchdog Pool Party.

    You are going to have to try harder to make friends with Charles and his Special Interest swimming buddies.

  8. note to django and lila:

    You two are really bizarre at times. You think you are so “cutesy pie” but in reality you are hostile and passive aggressive. The reason for this may be that you are both so insecure.

    I really wish you would stop it and grow up. Discuss the issues and stop being so patronizing and attacking. You give any blog you respond to a bad reputation.

    I hope you can handle the criticism in the way intended, but probably won’t let it sink in.

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