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2013-06-20

Berger offers defense of BMA

By Carolyn B. Edwards BCC Staff Writer

We're not the enemy," said Ed Berger, business manager for BMA (Bexar Medina Atascosa Counties WCID).

Berger was responding to a series of articles the Courier has recently run about the WCID that has a permit for water from Medina Lake to sell to farmers downstream for irrigation and to San Antonio Water Supply for their domestic use customers. Berger said the Courier's articles were not objective.

The BMA board of directors voted this spring to pay for a study of domestic wells around Medina Lake and dams built upstream on the Medina River.

The study's goal is to determine if "illegal" wells are pumping water out of the steadily shrinking Medina Lake pool, and if upstream dams are reducing "the historic recharge of the basin to the lake."

Berger said that the governmental entity that should be doing the study is the Bandera County River Authority. "This study should have already been done [by the BCRAGD], especially regarding the illegal wells," Berger said. In a previous interview, Berger said that wells around the lake should be at least 600 feet deep.

During two sessions of the Texas Legislature, in 2011 and 2013, the BCRAGD has tried to change its board election date from May to November.

Both times, BMA has attempted to attach an amendment to the bill that would codify giving priority to the BMA WCID's rules and regulations regarding property around the lake, over the rights of the BCRAGD, which has also been a WCID (Water Control and Improvement District) since its inception in 1971.

"Why would we ever care when they hold their elections?" said Berger. "They can have them every four years on Groundhog Day if they want."

However, he defended BMA's attempt to add their amendment to the election change bill. Berger assserts that BMA has historically had legal control of lakefront property below the 1084 line (the elevation of the top of Medina Dam) and having two WCIDs with authority over the same property can cause serious legal complications further compounded by the fact that some lakefront is located in another county.

Dave Mauk, general manager of the BCRAGD, contends that BMA has never successfully proved its authority over property below the 1084. Over the years, there have been a number of lawsuits over precisely that point of law. In 2007, BMA reached an agreement with a Waterfront Property Owners Association in which the WPOA members acquired a perpetual easement to their lakefront property. Berger says over 440 people have signed that agreement. On the other hand, LAMCOS, the Lake Medina Conservation Society, is an organization founded at least in part to support lakefront property owners who disagree with BMA's position of entitlement.

Berger's concern for the falling water levels at the lake seem sincere. "Nobody wants an empty lake," he said. "We're doing things to conserve. We're piping [instead of using open canals], we're cutting down on our use of water."

When asked what BMA planned to do if their study confirmed that domestic wells and dams were significantly affecting Medina Lake levels, Berger said BMA will be happy to share the results of their study with BCRAGD, TCEQ, SARA and anyone else.