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BMA responds to worries in Bandera - Part II

By William Hoover Courier Contributor

(Editor's note: This is Part II of an interview with BMA Business Manager Ed Berger)

If BMA keeps the level of Diversion Lake below 910.3 feet msl, there is not enough hydrostatic pressure to cause any water loss to seepage in Diversion Lake or between the two dams, according to Berger.

"We don't lose any water," he said. "That's because below Medina Lake Dam we have all these streams and springs that come in and actually generate water between the two dams going into Diversion Lake. There is a significant amount of water that flows into the water shed between the two dams. But if we keep Diversion Lake low enough, we take advantage of those stream flows into Diversion and have more water than we put in. It is hard for people to understand and that's why we needed the (2007) engineering study."

Diversion Dam system

Diversion Dam has a six gate system, when only one gate is needed, to release the 230 CFS of water the canal can handle because the builders knew about the recharge features of the lake and the need to keep its level low.

"You would have to raise the level of the lake to utilize just one gate," explained Berger. "Obviously, if you raise the level to operate out of one gate or two gates, you are going to lose a bunch of water out of the bottom of Diversion Lake. But if you open all six gates you can fill the canals with all the water you'd ever need at 913 feet msl, which means 60 acre-feet at the max would be lost out of Diversion Lake. They knew all this in 1912 and that is why they have a series of six gates.

"Any water flowing out of Diversion Lake goes into our canals," he added, noting there are no release gates into the Medina River at Diversion Dam. "You can go to the first bridge below the second dam (Diversion Dam) and there is water running. The flow is there because the river is completely a spring fed system."

Berger continued, "Unfortunately, the lake is still going down 100 acre-feet a day," he said. "It could be losses to recharge or it could be the illegal wells. That is why we want to look at these well systems. How much are they pulling in? You are not supposed to be pulling water out of any stream. We don't have answers and that is why we need the other studies. The people who should be performing the study are looking the other way. Who permits the wells and are they permitted?"

BMA doesn't care when BCRAGD holds their election, said Berger. The conflict BMA has with the Groundwater District's proposed legislation, House Bill 3898, to move the election date to November, is it would, in Berger's opinion, grant BCRAGD new WCID status creating a situation where two overlapping WCIDs would have jurisdiction over the 441 signatories to BMA's negotiated Waterfront Property Owners Agreement.

Years of lawsuits

"We went through years of lawsuits and determined what was best for landowners below the 1084 and they signed a 33-page compromise agreement," Berger said. "They signed their land over and we gave them a perpetual lease and set rules. People had to fix their septic systems so they would not pollute the lake and they couldn't put any more buildings or barbwire below the 1084 line. It was just common sense."

He added, "We hammered that all out in 2005. Here they (BCRAGD) come and want this new bill, and they want to become a WCID. Their groundwater and river authority has all the same powers of a WCID, so they want to become a WCID and have their uniform elections in November - which is all they say they want. But, if you read the bill, it says the WCID would have broad powers and the boundaries would be Bandera County."

If HB 3898 sponsored by Representative Harvey Hilderbran is approved as written, the river authority would immediately become empowered as a WCID and have authority over property below the 1084 line at Medina Lake, according to Berger. [editor's note: the BCRAGD has had the powers of a WCID since its inception over 40 years ago, according to Texas law.]

"They'd be superior, if there were any questions," he said. "What about all these people who signed our Waterfront Property Owners Agreement?

Our (HB 3898) amendment's simple language says, if you want to be a WCID, that is fine but you can't have authority below the 1084 on the property of another WCID. If you are a person who signed the WPOA, you don't want two bosses."

Of a solution to the conflict, Berger said, "If it's true all they want is to have a standard uniform voting date, they should say the sole intent of the law is to change the election dates and everything else will remain the same. The language we want to put in the bill is not out of line."

Berger added, "As I said, we don't care when they have their elections. We do care about the wells not going down 600 feet into the Lower Trinity where they are supposed to be. We care about them being a river authority and allowing all the damming up of the water that is supposed to be flowing into the river system. We care about our agreement and our rights to the lake we've had for 100 years."