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2014-04-17

Meeting on water issues held in Mico

By Sula Combs Special to the Courier

Photo by Sula Combs
Jaime Maldonado, US Department of Agriculture rural development coordinator from Uvalde, and Stacy Barna from the Texas Water Development Board spoke at a meeting on water issues at the Mico Fire Station on March 19.



Because many wells around Medina Lake have gone dry due to the current drought, members of the Medina Lake Preservation Society (MLPS) arranged for state and federal representatives to attend a meeting and offer information on how people can get help from the government to solve their water problems.
MLPS Executive Director Carol Smith introduced the two speakers, local US Department of Agriculture Development Coordinator Jaime Maldonado and Stacy Barna, who serves in the project financing area of the Texas Water Development Board and is alsoa member of the Texas Water Infrastructure Coordination Committee (TWICC).
Of the approximately 80 people attending the meeting, about half of them held up their hands when asked if their wells had gone dry. One homeowner reported her well had been dry for 4½ years and another said his well has been dry for two years.
Barna spoke about funding for public water systems, one of the TWICC goals. "Qualified applicants for financial assistance include political subdivisions, nonprofit water supply corporations and, in limited cases, investor-owned public drinking water systems and private entities," she said.
Only a few people in the audience were part of a subdivision with a public system. Most were homeowners who relied upon their own wells. Barna suggested that perhaps those living near a subdivision with its own system might be able to hook their residence up to that system.
Maldonado works with private homeowners to provide help for primary residences, but not for vacation or rental properties. His agency can provide grants to people 62 years or older and loans to other homeowners, but the eligibility for both grants and loans is restricted to people with very low incomes. The income of all people living in the home is combined to determine income level.
Maldonado said the actual limits on income depend on the particular loan. Some of the loans require a lien on the property. The loan amounts are based on the cost of the well. Loans or grants require a site visit and an estimate of the cost.
When the audience realized that most of them would not be eligible for assistance, about half of them left the meeting. MLPS board member Roberto Pachecano said, "If you and I can't stick together we all lose. We need to change the laws - who we elect. Whether it's an individual well or a corporate well, it all the same pool of water. I have questions about the eight quarries around here that have deep wells and use a lot of water. I would also like to know if there is funding for rainwater collection."
Barna suggested that perhaps people could get together to form a municipal district, making them eligible for assistance from her agency, noting, "You have a lot more options if you are a system." She recommended they form a committee and conduct a survey to determine what people want to learn about. "The Texas Water Development Board might be able to fund a survey, but I don't know because we look more at funding infrastructure. The web program 'Survey Monkey' might provide a low cost way to do it."
When a member of the audience asked if the MLPS website was a place to ask questions and do a survey, Smith replied, "Get together with your friends and neighbors and email questions to me. We'll create that survey."
The MLPS website is medinalakepreservation.org and the email is medinalakeps@gmail.com. There is also a Facebook page.
Pachecano said, "We have a disaster here and no one is taking action on our behalf. Nobody is doing a well count survey. Nobody knows how many wells have gone dry. That number counts! When you go to the government, we need to know. We need to have another meeting."
Addressing the audience, Smith said, "This has spurred discussion and I am glad that you have stayed. That statistical evidence is what you need to take to the government. Let's keep the conversation going."
Barna can be reached at stacy.barna@twdb.texas.gov and the TWICC website is www.twicc.org. The US Department of Agriculture Rural Development Program website can be visited at www.rurdev.usda.gov/tx/. The USDA office dealing with Medina County is in Fredericksburg and can be reached at 830-997-8902, Ext. 4.