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2011-02-24

HB 1086 reflects legislative history of water board

By Carolyn B. Edwards BCC Staff Writer

In October 2010, the directors of the Bandera County River Authority and Groundwater District (BCRAGD) voted to change their election date from May to November. As a result, Representative Doug Miller recently filed HB 1086 in the Texas House. Miller represents District 73, which includes Bandera County.
Some wording in the proposed bill caused a bit of a furor among local residents who keep a keen eye on the local river authority's actions.
As one caller to the Courier said, "the language in the bill...giv[es] BCRAGD power or rights as a water control and improvement district (WCID)."
Indeed, HB 1086 does contain the following wording: "Sec. 8847.002. NATURE OF DISTRICT. The district is a groundwater conservation district and water control and improvement district created under Section 59, Article XVI, Texas Constitution."
That language caused many residents concern that the BCRAGD board was attempting an end run to obtain the power to deliver and sell water, among other things, without the consent of the district's taxpayers.
However, in looking at the wording of HB 988, effective August 30, 1971, the Bandera County River Authority has had the power and authority of a WCID since its inception 40 years ago. HB 988 was the enabling legislation that established the river authority as a "conservation and reclamation district." The enabling legislation goes on to state:
"Sec. 5. The district shall have and exercise, and is hereby vested with, all of the rights, powers, privileges, authority and duties conferred and imposed by the general laws of this state now in force or hereafter enacted, applicable to water control and improvement districts created under authority of Article XVI, Section 59 of the Texas Constitution..."
In 1989, the Springhills Water Management District, an underground water conservation district, was formed by another act of the Legislature, SB 1636. Under this legislation, each member of the board of Springhills also "serves on the board of the Bandera County River Authority as an additional duty."
The Courier was unable to find legislation that combined the two districts into one under the current name, Bandera County River Authority and Groundwater District. According to BCRAGD staff, the new name may not have needed an act of the Legislature, but was approved by the board at the direction of a state agency.
Water control and improvement districts (WCID) were authorized by the Texas legislature in 1925 and 1927 to provide broader powers than those allowed water improvement districts (WID). The WCIDs organized under the 1927 conservation amendment may engage in flood control, irrigation, drainage, reclamation, preservation of water resources, development of forests, development of hydroelectric power, navigation, and sewage disposal.
According to the Texas Constitution, Section 59, Article XVI, altering the qualifications or terms of office of the members of the governing body of the district require an act of the Legislature, which is why Rep. Miller submitted the bill at the request of the BCRAGD board.
Members of the BCRAGD board acted to change the election dates in the hope that holding the district election on the November General Election date would bring out more voters and save the district money.