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LCRA’s groundwater pumping plan to be challenged

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The Lower Colorado River Authority’s plan to pump and sell groundwater in Central Texas will be challenged October 15, when a hearing on the authority’s permit application begins in Bastrop.

The first day of a scheduled six-day hearing will begin at 10 a.m. at the Bastrop Convention Center.

A packed house is expected as more than 100 local landowners initially filed protests against the LCRA’s pumping and export permit application to the Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District, which includes Bastrop and Lee counties.

LCRA is seeking a permit from the groundwater district to drill eight wells on the Griffith League Scout Ranch in Bastrop County. The river authority wants to pump and export for sale up to eight billion gallons of Simsboro groundwater each year.

“The LCRA has no need for this groundwater, and there is no justification for the threat this pumping poses to the entire Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer in our community,” said Michele Gangnes, a Lee County attorney and director of the Simsboro Aquifer Water Defense Fund (SAWDF), which organized the landowners’ protest of the permit.

The hearing on the permit application will be conducted before two administrative law judges, Lawrence O’Malley and Laura Valdez, with the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH). Following a preliminary hearing last December, some 34 landowners, the Pines and Prairies Land Trust, and Environmental Stewardship, a conservation group dedicated to protecting the Colorado River, were approved as parties eligible to protest the LCRA’s permit.

Representing most of the landowners and the land trust protesting the permit will be Austin attorneys Donald H. Grissom of Grissom & Thompson LLP, and Charles W. Carver of the Law Office of C.W. Carver PLLC. Representing Environmental Stewardship will be Eric Allmon and Marisa Perales of Frederick, Perales, Allmon & Rockwell.

Also filing protests and admitted as parties were the City of Elgin, Aqua Water Supply Corporation and Recharge Water LP (formerly, End Op LP), a private water marketer.

The region just east of Austin is the hottest spot in the state for urban and suburban areas seeking to tap into new sources of water supplies, said Andy Wier, who lives very near the proposed well site and depends on a Simsboro well for his family’s water supply.

“If this permit is approved, my well no longer will be viable,” Wier said. “Even more importantly, this pumping will have a detrimental impact on the health of the aquifer in much of Bastrop and Lee counties.”

The Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District referred LCRA’s permit application to SOAH for a contested case hearing. While the administrative law judges will make recommendations to the district, a final decision on the permit will be made by the groundwater district’s board.

Several other water marketers already have permits to pump massive amounts of groundwater from the Simsboro aquifer.