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2014-10-23

BCRAGD holds quarterly meeting

By Carolyn B. Edwards BCC Staff Writer

Anticipating another round of activity with the Texas Legislature to change its election date to November, the Bandera County River Authority and Groundwater District board approved a professional services policy that includes a lobbyist.
The river authority has made two attempts to change its election date from May to November through required legislation, only to be stymied. The first attempt got sabotaged by amendments added to the bill by other water interests, the second attempt got sandbagged by a North Texas state representative who took it off the calendar at the last minute.
BCRAGD retained lobbyist Greg Ellis, a well known attorney with experience in both water issues and legislative tactics, to help the district walk the election date change bill through the Legislature when it convenes in 2015. Ellis will also keep an eye on other water related bills that might affect the water rights of Bandera County residents.
"It's very important to have somebody [in Austin] protecting our interests," said General Manager Dave Mauk.
BCRAGD's professional services policy also includes bookkeeping service, auditing, legal services, and groundwater modelers.
In other business, the board appointed new Office Manager Jeff Jilson as the district's election coordinator.
Mauk gave the board his quarterly financial report, reminding them that they had taken $90,000 from the district's reserve fund to pay for the county-wide LIDAR project, a new vehicle and overages on attorney fees.
There was also a $610 over-budget spending on payroll. Mauk said that was partly due to one staffer leaving to pursue her master's degree, causing some inter-office shuffling. "We also had to pay a temp to handle a big public information request," he said.
In his quarterly report, Mauk said 21 wells had been drilled in the fourth quarter, an increase over last year at the same point in time. He reminded the board that the county remains in severe drought status and said the recorded drop in the aquifer levels went over the Desired Future Conditions (DFC), a standard set by state mandate. "Even if all pumping stopped," Mauk said, "we'd see a drop in the aquifer. It's not like the 50s drought. We have more people here now."
District staffers continue to work on a plan for developing individual aquifer storage and recovery (IASR) systems. "We're now collaborating with Blanco-Pedernales Groundwater Conservation District and hope to get approval from TCEQ to develop this as a pilot program," Mauk said.
Staffer Sarah Schlessinger reported the state-mandated Explanatory Report from GMA-9 was projected to cost $92,500 but has been negotiated down to $65,000. "Each of the nine districts will pay [a little over $7,000] over a period of two or three years," she said. The stretched out payments allow some districts in GMA-9 with little income to pay their share. Schlessinger is working on the necessary interlocal agreements for the report.
The board agreed unanimously to amend UMC Investments LLC permit from 50 GPM to 300 GPM with an annual production rate of 40 acre-feet. Kevin Meyer, spokesman for the property, explained that he could irrigate his field in 36 hours at 300 GPM, but it would take nine days to do it at 50 GPM.
Mauk said the property's well proved to be more productive than expected and the annual production rate would remain unchanged from the original permit.
Two items on the agenda were postponed on the advice of the district's attorney, Richard Mosty. The items dealt with notices of violation the district has issued to well driller Rodger North and driller and drilling company owner Robert Rae Powell.