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BCRAGD, Flying L works to reach understanding on pumping permits

By Carolyn B. Edwards BCC Staff Writer

The Bandera County River Authority and Groundwater District (BCRAGD) voted to delay approving a Memorandum of Understanding with the Flying L Guest Ranch Ltd. for one more following an executive session held during a called meeting on Thursday, June 13. The decision appeared to disappoint Flying L representatives attending the meeting.

The Flying L Guest Ranch's problems with water permits began in 2009 when the property owners of the Flying L Ranch Subdivision brought their concerns to the BCRAGD board. They claimed that the guest ranch continued unlimited pumping for recreational purposes while customers of the Flying L Public Utility District faced water restrictions.

The PUD customers also objected to the drilling of a guest ranch well within 230 feet of the well that provides water for the PUD. Local rules regarding distances between wells were not in place, however, until after the guest ranch well had been drilled.

In November 2011, the Bandera City council voted to hire LBG Guyton Associates to represent the city's interests in a Texas Water Development Board hearing in which Flying L Guest Ranch challenged the 30-foot drawdown on the Trinity aquifer set by Groundwater Management Area 9 as a Desired Future Condition (DFC).

At that time the guest ranch could pump 325 acre feet per year, while the city pumped 246 acre feet. The city was concerned that increased pumping by the ranch, which has a hotel, a golf course and a water park, could negatively effect the water levels in the city's wells.

In March 2012, the TWDB found the 30-foot average drawdown DFC reasonable.

In January 2012, the BCRAGD filed two complaints against the guest ranch, charging the ranch with possible usage violations in their water park and a waste of groundwater on the golf course. The first complaint declared that the guest ranch was using a well permitted for irrigation to service the water park. The second complaint charged the ranch with constructing reservoirs in natural water courses in order to use the water collected for commercial purposes while failing to obtain the necessary permits prior to construction of the reservoirs.

The complexity of water issues for the guest ranch involve both local and state water rules and laws, as well as commercial, public and domestic use of water.

BCRAGD General Manager Dave Mauk has been working with the guest ranch to find solutions to the problems. At the June 13 meeting, the BCRAGD board met in executive session with their attorney, Richard Mosty, to discuss a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that, if adopted, could resolve some of the outstanding issues.

An MOU is a document in which two or more parties agree to a common line of action.

John Lyons, Flying L Guest Ranch manager, thanked Mauk and the BCRAGD board for working with the ranch to develop the MOU. "It takes the friction out of the situation," he said, "...saving litigation costs."

Flying L's attorney Lou Rosenberg said the MOU would give both entities closure "so we can go ahead with our business plan."

Ranch owner Trip duPerier emphasized the importance of water for his business, which he said is the third largest employer in the county. "The water is very critical for the golf course, the water park. If they close, the place closes."

Mauk recommended the board take no action on the MOU until their July meeting, which is set for Thursday, July 18. "At that time we should have some preliminary data [from a water study commissioned by BCRAGD]," Mauk said.

DuPerier indicated that the ranch may not be willing to agree to the items in the MOU in a month's time. "I'm happy with [the MOU discussed in executive session]. I'm good. I've got the permits and I went as far down as I can go [in this MOU]," he said before leaving the meeting.

Among the items included in the MOU were the following points:

• The annual onsite use not to exceed 439 acre feet per year,

• New wells not to be located within 1,000 feet of any other water well drilled into the same formation and registered with the District,

• Existing ponds may continue to be used for conveyance of groundwater; no new ponds may be built utilizing groundwater, but existing ponds may be replaced, ...not to exceed 5 acre surface feet,

• Permittees agree to participate in any District mitigation plan designed to manage, conserve, monitor and improve groundwater resources.