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BCRAGD partners with SARA for LiDAR project

By Carolyn B. Edwards BCC Staff Writer

The Bandera County River Authority and Groundwater District (BCRAGD) board voted unanimously to partner with the San Antonio River Authority (SARA) to map Bandera County using LiDAR. The board voted to budget $50,000 for the project that will use light detection and ranging to produce detailed aerial maps of the county to help determine flood zones and more.

The project will eventually yield flood risk databases and reports in addition to the maps. According to BCRAGD General Manager David Mauk, the data will be helpful for emergency services planning, placement of electrical lines and services, property tax data and more.

Mauk has been making the rounds of other governmental entities in the county to talk about the project. While the BCRAGD board is prepared to fund the full $50K share, they hope Bandera County, the City of Bandera, Bandera Electric Cooperative and others may opt to help finance it.
In other financial matters, the board voted to allow the purchase of a replacement vehicle for the district. Mauk touted the benefits of a commercial cargo van to help the district's scientists carry and secure their equipment when out in the field. He will be looking for a three-quarter ton van with a tow package.
The board also approved a number of budget amendments largely consisting of moving funds from underutilized line items to lines that have had higher than expected expenditures for the fiscal year. For example, money budgeted for a USGS gauge on the Sabinal won't be needed because the Edwards Aquifer Authority will be fully funding that project, Mauk said, so the money in that line item was moved to the temporary employment line. As always, anyone wishing to examine the BCRAGD budget is welcome to stop by their offices at 440 FM 3240 during regular office hours.
Mauk presented the board with his quarterly report indicating the work done for the quarter. Fifteen wells were registered and two permits were issued. Three variances were granted.
Since beginning the tests for patrons, the district has completed 5,247 water analysis tests.
Two wells were plugged this quarter.
The Rain Spotter program continues to collect data of precipitation around the county. Mauk said the district needs more volunteers willing to regularly report precipitation in their area.
The district investigated a fish kill in a pond in Medina at the property owner's request. It was determined that a massive die-off of cattails due to drought caused chemical reactions in the water as the plant matter decomposed, reducing the oxygen levels. A lack of fresh water inflow compounded the damage, killing the fish.
Mauk reported that the district continues to use the well logging equipment on a rotating basis with several other districts. Four wells were logged in Bandera County this quarter.
Bandera County remains in a condition of severe drought.
BCRAGD Field Technician Kayla Rohrbach presented a report on the district's surface water quality study. Rohrbach, a student at Schreiner University has been updating the district's data on surface water. "We test for e coli and total coliforms, conductivity, dissolved oxygen and pH at regular sites," said Rohrbach.
On July 3, technicians recorded a huge e coli spike at the Bandera City Park. "We haven't been able to determine a cause," said Rohrbach, "but it could have been due to River Fest activities the weekend before stirring up a lot of things, high duck and geese activity, or a possible RV dump into the river." The bacterial count went down to normal levels within two days, said Rohrbach.
Rohrbach is also collecting data on the pernicious weed Arundo donax and its spread throughout Bandera County. "This thing sucks water up like a vacuum," she said. "It's also a waxy plant that burns easily, preventing the river from being a natural fire break." The arundo is a cane-like plant that grows in clumps along rivers and streams, spreading from rhizomes and broken pieces. It is extremely difficult to kill.
Rohrbach reported that she and her team had suspended testing at Medina Lake because of the difficulty of access. However, board member Karen Ripley said she could help with that.
Once again, the BCRAGD board met in executive session with their attorney Richard Mosty regarding a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Flying L Ranch about the resort's well permits.
Flying L attorney Lou Rosenberg told the board, "I'm not here to threaten litigation. We're just trying to conform our permits to your new rules."
For months, the two entities have been trying to resolve issues regarding the ranch's permits for seven wells. "The problem is that our permits are for instantaneous flow (gallons per minute) and we need to convert that to acre feet," said Rosenberg.
The Flying L contingent had attended a called meeting a month ago expecting the MOU to be approved. However, at that time the board delayed action until data could be obtained from LGB Guyton, a water engineering firm. Unfortunately, that information did not arrive at BCRAGD until 5 pm the day before Thursday's quarterly meeting.

Following the executive session, board member Jerry Sides moved that the board approve meetings between Mauk and the Flying L after both had had time to read the Guyton report. The board unanimously approved that suggestion.