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State water board rules on DFC appeals from Flying L, Wimberley

By Carolyn B. Edwards BCC Staff Writer

With more acronyms than a military campaign, the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) took final action on appeals from the Flying L Guest Ranch in Bandera and the Wimberley Valley Watershed Association's (WVWA) regarding the adopted Groundwater Management Area 9 (GMA-9) Desired Future Condition (DFC) for the Trinity Aquifer. The decision was handed down at a meeting of the TWDB in Austin on Thursday, March 1.

The board found the 30-foot average drawdown DFC is "reasonable" and shifts the "reasonableness of the DFC" to the local groundwater districts in the way they manage the aquifer.

Flying L Ranch had challenged the reasonableness of the DFC applicable to all of GMA 9, and focused on the impact of the DFC in Bandera County.

WVWA objected to the DFC number
because it believes three Wimberley sites, Jacob's Well, Cypress Creek, and Blue Hole, will dry up from the increased pumping that will be allowed under this DFC.

Following the TWDB's decisions, the WVWA said it will begin working toward the establishment of a Specific Groundwater Management Area (SGMA) for Jacob's Well with a DFC tied to spring flows for monitoring and management. WVWA claims the specific GMA would not only protect Jacob's Well, Blue Hole, and Cypress Creek, but will provide transferable spring management practices to other areas in GMA-9 and the state.

The state board received its petition from the Flying L on July 25, 2011.

According to the state board's report, "Flying L owns seven water wells permitted by the Bandera County River Authority and Ground Water District for an aggregate total of 2,096 acre-feet per year.

"Flying L also owns 100 acres adjacent to its guest ranch intended for new development. Flying L may apply for an additional permit to authorize the drilling and operation of a well on this second tract for up to 100 acre-feet per year."

The state board summarized Flying L's petition as follows:

"Flying L finds the DFC unreasonable because: (1) it is based on a groundwater availability model (GAM) that does not incorporate current pumping amounts authorized under permits issued by the Districts; (2) it adopts a single average drawdown limit for the three aquifer units that make up the Trinity Group, rather than specifying a drawdown for each unit, thereby failing to meet the definition of a DFC; (3) it is based on an average drawdown that is too vague, ambiguous and inherently arbitrary to be an effective management goal; (4) it is not physically possible; (5) it negatively impacts private property rights; (6) implementation of the DFC is reasonably expected to result in adverse socio-economic impacts; (7) it does not allow for a reasonable and prudent development of the state's groundwater resources; and (8) it conflicts with the state's policy of encouraging economic development.