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2009-01-15

Flying L property owners want action

By Stephanie Parker

Approximately 30 Flying L property owners converged on the Thursday, Jan. 8, meeting of the Bandera County River Authority and Ground Water District (BCRAGD) demanding action.

They assert a well on the Flying L Guest Ranch continues unlimited pumping for recreational purposes while customers of the Flying L Public Utility District (PUD) face water restrictions.
The Flying L PUD well, drilled and completed March 26, 1998, is the only source of drinking water for 204 residents. The guest ranch well, drilled within 230 feet of the existing well on Aug. 24, 2001, irrigates the resort golf course.

Although the well issue was not included on the agenda, BCRAGD General Manager David Jeffery allowed Flying L residents to voice their complaints. He explained that BCRAGD rules prohibit drilling wells so closely together that they compete against each other for water. However, Jeffery said, the water district’s rules were not enacted until 2002, a year after the resort well had been drilled.

PUD well levels have dropped to 345, forcing residential customers into drought restrictions. Flying L PUD President Robert Dawson met with the BCRAGD board members at their Oct. 9 meeting, requesting that the resort well be required to install an operating water meter on their well, report the amount of water pumped and limit production. He was told that the resort ranch well had been drilled before BCRAGD’s rules were enacted and was grandfathered in, meaning that it could not be forced into compliance with BCRAGD rules.

At the October meeting, BCRAGD board members committed to seeking legal advice about the enforcement of rules on the grandfathered well from BCRAGD attorney Mary Sahs.

During last week’s BCRAGD meeting, Dawson asked board members what Sahs had determined.

Jeffery reported that BCRAGD rules could be changed, enabling the district to tackle the resort well. Changing the rules, Jeffery said, would entail a public meeting and would also translate into enforcing the new rules on all grandfathered wells.

Jeffery warned Dawson that the Flying L PUD wells would no longer be grandfathered in under new rules, thus requiring them to be brought into compliance. “Your wells would need to be plugged because they are co-mingling water,” he said.

BCRAGA President James Chastain added, “Grandfathering protects you from things like that.” He added that the water district is working on updating its rules.

Dawson responded, “We’re in a drought. If you don’t get behind the problem, the problem runs over you.”

Flying L resident Barbara Kaufman asked BCRAGD members, “Whose going to be in our corner? Who is taking care of us? Can’t you do something like moving up the rules quickly? I’m scared I’ll wake up one morning and won’t have water.”

Chastain responded, “We have to be real careful of how the rules affect everyone else. We have to figure out who we are affecting and how.”

Flying L residents offered their assistance.

In other board action, auditor Eric Ede presented the water board with an unqualified opinion - the highest possible rating for an audit. Both he and board members refused to discuss the district’s missing funds until the credit card fraud charges against former office manager Susan Queen have been resolved.
BCRAGD has a favorable budget balance of $97,000. Jeffery said that he hopes part of it can be used for continuing the surface water study on the Medina River. Additionally, a portion of money will be put into the district’s building fund.

At the end of the meeting, to display their displeasure with Bandera County Commissioners Court’s refusal to increase fees for inspecting sewer systems, BCRAGD directors decided to direct nuisance complaints to county authorities for investigation.

“That never was in our contract,” Chastain told the rest of the board. “We were just doing it.”