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BCRAGD declares 'exceptional drought'

By Carolyn B. Edwards BCC Staff Writer

Drillers fined

Bandera Country River Authority and Groundwater District (BCRAGD) has declared Bandera County to be in the state of "exceptional drought," General Manager Dave Mauk announced at the district's called board meeting held Thursday, May 15.
On May 9, Governor Rick Perry extended a drought emergency disaster proclamation he first issued on July 5, 2011. The disaster proclamation recognizes that the current extended drought has "reached historic levels and continues to pose an imminent threat to public health, property and the economy...." The proclamation applies to 173 counties in addition to Bandera County.
The US Drought Monitor map of Bandera County shows over half of the county in category D4 (exceptional drought), while the rest of the county is rated D3 (extreme drought). Over 20 percent of the state is currently rated D4, and 40 percent is rated D3.
A recent article by Scott Huddleston in the San Antonio Express News declared the current drought "is among the top five extended dry spells in the past 500 years, and soon may rise to the top three," based on statements from the state climatologist, John Nielsen-Gammon.
"Things are bad," said Mauk. "More and more wells are going dry."
In other business during the called meeting, the board voted to fine the owner of a water well drilling company and one licensed well driller that worked for the company.
The board voted unanimously (with all members present except for Director Jerry Sides) to impose a fine of $47,500 against Nick Marsh, the owner and/or general manager of Tejas Water Well. Marsh was cited for violations of district rules 6.1P and 8.2A. On the recommendation of Mauk, all but $25,000 of the fine was suspended and is due within 90 days. The district reserves the right to impose the full fine for failure to pay within that time limit, or if additional violations are committed.
Rule 6.1P says: "Within 15 days of drilling, all wells and test wells must be cased and grouted or sealed to prevent co-mingling between aquifers and contamination from the surface."
"The well in question was left ungrouted and/or uncemented for 45 days," Mauk told the board. The violator can be fined for each day the violation continues.
Rule 8.2A refers to the capping of wells. It says: "all unused wells [are] to be capped to prevent waste, pollution, or further deterioration of a well casing. The well must remain capped until such time as the conditions that led to the capping requirement are eliminated. If well pump equipment is removed from a well and the well will be re-equipped at a later date, the well must be capped...The cap must be capable of sustaining a weight of at least four hundred pounds and not easily removed."
Mauk told the board, "This well was left improperly capped for 130 days."
Also assessed a fine of $47,500 was licensed well driller Ray Turner who was employed by Tejas Water Well on the well in question. He was also charged with violating district rules 6.1P and 8.2A. Turner had attended a previous meeting of the BCRAGD board and said that he should have paid better attention to what was going on instead of just signing off on the paperwork.
Mauk recommended some leniency due to the fact "that Mr. Turner was an employee of Tejas Water Well and not the owner of the company."
The board voted to suspend all but $3,500 of the imposed fine on Turner, due within 90 days.
A second licensed water well driller, Bobby Roberts, had also received a notice of violations (NOV) regarding the same well. Roberts had left the well site without finishing the well because, he said, he did not get paid for the work he did. Because he notified both BCRAGD and the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation about the problems, the board voted to quash the NOV in reference to Roberts.
There is a hearing process available to drillers and water well companies charged with violations by the river authority.
BCRAGD's legal advisor, attorney Richard Mosty said, "We want well drillers to know that violations are serious and they need to come in and report problems."
These violations have been referred to TDLR for any appropriate enforcement actions by that state agency.