San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas
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March 22nd, 2009
Letter to the Editor: Chapter 36 … now!

Dear Neighbors in Hays,

This, from a recent Austin American-Statesman article: “Texas had its driest December-February stretch on record. The driest area in the United States is Central Texas and the Hill Country, where severe drought has persisted for months.”

To read this, one would think our politicians would be concerned and busy trying to shore up the institutions that help those of us on wells, our wells that tap a resource that extends beyond individual property lines in Hays County. And you’d think they’d be helping us to get through this drought and helping us manage the resource in a sustainable manner going forward into the future … but no, instead they bicker and continue the same old pattern of head in the sand deliberations about the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District (HTGCD), the weakest GCD in the state. Sadly, if they keep this up, we may really have our heads in the sand sooner than one would have ever imagined.

The HTGCD is seeking full Chapter 36 standing and deserves no less. The HTGCD board, which we elected by 2-1 in 2003, sweeping out all those who ran on killing the District, understands this need and is pursuing it. Hays County Judge Liz Sumter understands it as well. But other politicians, i.e., (Hays County Precinct 3 Commissioner)  Will Conley, continue to obfuscate. To paraphrase Will, “It’s just the new folks coming to the area that will be the problem.” Conley seems to have missed the news that we are beyond sustainable aquifer production already. All one has to do is check the (non-) flow at Jacob’s Well or ask those who once saw Onion Creek flow year round and hear what they think of this baseless opinion. Ignorance of reality is no excuse for making policy.

If you read the local Hays papers, on the one hand you see headlines that the County is announcing a drought emergency; and on the other hand, headlines announcing Commissioners Court Resolutions that support the District in guaranteeing our groundwater to undeveloped parcels of land.

“Guaranteeing” groundwater while ALL the data indicates the aquifer is already over extended? Excuse us, but the politicians seem to be missing some key points here. If the aquifer is already in decline. How is the situation going to be improved by guaranteeing water to undeveloped land? This can’t mean anything good for those of us who already have wells. So how do we manage this for our own sake and our children’s? We need a STRONG water conservation district, not a weak one. This is a moral issue, not a political issue, and it deserves a moral, apolitical solution, not an amoral, political one. Our human right to water is superseded only by our human right to air and without a locally manageable and fiscally sound Groundwater Conservation District, we will not and we do not have a locally manageable and perpetually sound groundwater supply. It is that simple.

The HTGCD is merely asking to have the same ability to fairly manage our groundwater with a locally elected board and access to the EXACT same funding mechanisms available to the other 90-plus water conservation districts in Texas. Hays County political shenanigans, orchestrated by the same politicians we threw out these past few elections, created this mess. We elected new politicians to bring change, not to play the same old fear game about loss of property rights and onerous taxation, for heavens sake.

The joke is, if the HTGCD gains Chapter 36 authority, and we then are allowed a vote to approve or reject new HTGCD funding, (a vote which is required by Chapter 36 before any taxes can happen) the most these taxes, per well, could possibly add up to is the cost of 2 tank-fulls of gasoline a year. With no referee in the already underway groundwater over-pumping game, all of us are going to have to be buying water or installing rainwater harvesting systems in time … and this will cost FAR more than two tanks of gas. Now that¹s a REAL tax if you already have paid $15,000 for a well but are going to have to replace it in a few years with another source once that well goes dry. But the opponents to managing our precious resource don¹t want you to understand these realities. They prefer to scare us rather than reason with us. This was illustrated through a recent fallacious rant in an open letter from Will Conley, ³They want to meter your well, come on your property without your permission, restrict your pump size, and tax you with production fees … Why? Control and Power!”  Conley actually has one thing half-right – the HTGCD is powerless as constituted and needs the same power every other GCD in the state already has in order to protect our wells. Conley leaves that inconvenient truth out. Coupled with this are the fear-mongering letters to the Editor in Wimberley about “water” people coming onto our property. Do these same people shoot the PEC man reading their electric meter? Ironically, we can actually live without electricity, yet without water, we die in three days.

The HTGCD needs full Chapter 36 authority to be able to manage this finite resource and to be able to fund operations. The HTGCD’s current funding mechanism ludicrously charges new drilling fees only. This requires the district to allow ever-increasing demand on a finite resource just to do business. This is unfathomable and irresponsible and we should let our local politicians know this. We should give the HTGCD full Chapter 36 authority and the tools with which to protect our groundwater and the ability to finance their operations.  Anything less is not only irresponsible – it is ignorance of reality.

Rob Baxter
President, The Friendship Alliance

(The Friendship Alliance is a non-partisan, non-profit alliance of Hays County POAs, including those from the Blue Creek, Fieldstone, Goldenwood, Goldenwood West and Radiance Subdivisions; allied for their common interest and the common good.)


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