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2016-10-27

BCRAGD board meets for quarterly session

By Carolyn B. Edwards BCRAGD/ PR Spec.

The Bandera County River Authority and Groundwater District board met for their regular quarterly meeting on Thursday, Oct. 13, at 9 am at the district's offices. The session moved quickly, dealing mainly with the manager's quarterly report and housekeeping issues.
General Manager Dave Mauk reported that the public has been heavily using the district's lab for water quality testing. “That's a good sign that the public is becoming more aware of our services,” Mauk said. The small fee charged for the tests also brings the district more income.
The quarter saw 28 new wells registered, which was a significant increase. In what is perhaps another sign that the public is becoming more aware of the district's regulatory duties, there were no nuisance calls and no notices of violations were issued.
Aquifer levels “show that we are starting to climb out of the drought deficit,” Mauk said. While the Lower Trinity remains low, the Middle Trinity and the Edwards, which lies beneath the northwestern corner of the county, are rising.
Mauk reported that the Sparks Road illegal dumping site near Medina Lake has remained clean after the district led the clean up effort a few years ago. A solid fence was also erected there with a public notice posted on it.
Another dump site remains under the district's watch. The owner of a tire dump property was given a two-year probation period to clean up the site. That probation runs out in January 2017. Any legal action against the owner would have to be done civilly, Mauk explained to the board. “If you go with criminal charges, they might go to jail and pay a fine, but there would be no clean up. If you sue in a civil court, it gets cleaned up.” Mauk said there has been no noticable improvement at the site.
The district's staff monitors both surface and underground water in Bandera County, including Medina Lake. They have just recently begun a grid study of the water quality in the lake that is in addition to their participation in the state's Clean Rivers Program. “The overall quality of the water is good,” said Mauk.
The lake is currently at 95 percent capacity and the Bexar Medina Atascosa WCID (BMA), which controls Medina Lake water as part of their irrigation permit, has opened the gates in the dam.
In informational items, Mauk reported that some legislators have gone on record as wanting to consolidate all the Hill Country water districts into one big district. “That gets rid of local accountability,” Mauk said. “If it happens [in the 2017 state legislative session] all the decisions [about our water] will be made in Austin.”
According to an article by Bob Beal in the Sept. 28 issue of the Fort Stockton Pioneer, Rep. Lyle Larson [District 122] of San Antonio said “that groundwater conservation districts are 'impeding and blocking' the ability of cities to access water from rural areas.” At a September meeting of the Texas House Subcommittee on Special Water Districts convened in Fort Stockton, Larson “said that GCDs should no longer be considered 'the state's preferred method of management in order to protect property rights, balance the conservation and development of groundwater to meet the needs of this state'....”
“[The legislators] have been talking about this for 20 years,” said Mauk, who had recently been sitting in on hearings in Austin, “but they're no longer being covert about it.”
Board members Sid Gibson and Gene Wehmeyer responded by saying if the cities conserved their water they'd have enough. “We need to do something about conservation in the cities, like get rid of St. Augustine grass,” Gibson said.
In housekeeping, the board reviewed the professional services policy and approved the professional services agreements; reviewed several policies including the director code of ethics and employee manual; and approved the quarterly budget report.
Any citizen with questions about the role of the district is encouraged to go to the website, or drop by the office, located at 440 FM 3240.