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BCRAGD holds quarterly meeting

By Carolyn B. Edwards BCC Staff Writer

The Bandera County River Authority and Groundwater Conservation District Board of Directors worked their way through their agenda in congenial fashion during their Oct. 4 quarterly meeting. The meeting was held at the BCRAGD's offices at 440 FM 3240.
General Manager Dave Mauk held the floor for most of the meeting as he went over the end of the fiscal year budget with the board, presented various reports, asked for approval of permit fee increases, and sought approval for sending a resolution to the Texas Legislature to change the district's election schedule.
The 2012 fiscal year budget ending Oct. 30 showed expenditures right in line with what was budgeted on almost every line item. Only five items showed overruns, and only two of them were somewhat significant. The utilities line item went $656 over budget, or 105.5 percent.
"We decided to get cell phones for the techs," explained Mauk. "For safety reasons and convenience when they are out in the field...often in isolated areas."
The other overrun was expenditures for the USGS gauging station in Medina that showed an $8,467 overrun, or 156.4 percent. Mauk told the board that was because one of the district's partners in the station had not yet submitted their payment when the books closed at the end of October. However, by the time of the quarterly meeting, the check had been received.
Fee increases
Mauk told the board that the well permit fees BCRAGD currently charges have been in place for over 10 years and he recommended some changes. Permits for household domestic wells would stay at the current $125. For other permitted wells, Mauk recommended that wells pumping under 50 gallons per minute have a fee raised from the current $400 to $500; wells pumping over 50 gallons per minute should be assessed a fee of $1,500.
Director Jerry Sides asked Mauk why the fees needed to be raised. Permitted wells require more staff time, said Mauk. "They have to come before the board to request the permit, the staff has to prepare materials; they have to [submit regular] report[s]; we have to submit reports to the state," said Mauk. The fees would also help offset district expenses incurred from contested cases.
The board unanimously approved the fee increases, to be effective Oct. 1.
Change election
Once again, BCRAGD will attempt to change its board election date from May to November of even-numbered years.
The district had attempted to make the change a couple of years ago, but the effort was stymied when other parties added amendments to the bill in the State Legislature that were not wanted by BCRAGD.
Since that time, federal law has made it easier for governmental entities to make the change which aims to encourage a higher voter turnout for elections involving school boards, city officials, utility district boards and others.
Mauk informed the board that since the district is a river authority, the State Attorney General has advised that a resolution would still need to be passed in the Legislature to make the change for BCRAGD.
The board approved a resolution requesting changing BCRAGD's election date from May to November to be submitted to State Representative Harvey Hilderbran's office. Hilderbran will present the resolution to the next session of the Legislature, which meets in 2013.
Sides added, "If any attachments are made to [this resolution], we want it pulled. We need to demand a stand-alone law."
If the resolution is passed, the new election date would extend some directors' terms of service.
GM's reports
Mauk reported 23 new wells registered in the quarter and two permits issued. The district has completed 5,047 samples of water analysis for the public since 1994. Five wells were plugged in 2012 as part of a program the district started in 2000. The district's monitor wells continue to show a large cone of depression across most of the eastern part of the county, centered around Bandera.
A well in Lakehills found to contain toxic substances earlier this year has been turned over to the Environmental Protection Agency and Mauk expects a report from them soon. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) is handling cases of illegal dumping near wells in the county. A nuisance violation on the Sabinal River near Lost Maples involving septic dumping into the river has been referred to TCEQ.
Mauk stressed that the district is still experiencing serious drought conditions, with an annual rainfall total of 14.92 inches. "The rains are helping, but we are still in an extreme situation in the river and lake levels," he said. "We're better than last year, but it's still bad."
Mauk continues to participate actively in the Clean Rivers Program and invites volunteers to get involved as part of Bandera County's Stream Team.
He also updated the board on the spread of the noxious weed Arundo donax, or giant cane, which is popping up around the county, including Bandera's City Park.
"We're GPSing the stands we spot," said Mauk. "Right now there's only one herbicide that will kill it and that requires three or more applications. We're going to apply for grants to help us eradicate it." If anyone has a stand of Arundo donax on their property, contact the BCRAGD office so that it can be placed on the GPS map.
BCRAGD is interested in eradicating this pernicious pest because "it will soak up as much water as it can," Mauk said.
Action taken following an extended executive session involving consultation with the district's attorney, Richard Mosty, was covered in an article in the Oct. 11 issue of the Courier, "BCRAGD opts to fine Pipe Creek Water Well, owner & drillers."