Year End Report – 2018
We are pleased to share our enthusiasm as Environmental Stewardship (ES) finishes 2018 having made significant advanced in attaining several of its primary goals. We are excited to be going into 2019 well positioned to provide best available science into several critical public policy considerations and decisions.
Of the long-term goals that ES has set, the following accomplishments have helped advanced our objectives in 2018 and set the stage for accomplishments in 2019:
- An updated GMA-12 Groundwater Availability Model (GAM) was completed in early 2018. Through ES’ efforts in 2016 to define the scope of a robust surface water-groundwater (SW-GW) package and raise funding through the Colorado-Lavaca Basin and Bay Area Stakeholder Committee, an updated GMA-12 GAM is now complete and being considered for adoption. This robust package –capable of both regional and local modeling — fulfills an essential gap in the ability of GMA-12 to consider surface waters in the desired future conditions. Having such a model will also serve to inform groundwater-permitting decisions by groundwater conservation districts (GCDs) in GMA-12.
- This will enable ES to make convincing arguments to the GMA representatives regarding the importance of these considerations. We now have the platform, based on good science, to move our arguments forward during the three-year process of reviewing and revising the DFCs. Hopefully we will be able to accomplish our ultimate goal and convince the representatives to adopt DFCs that includes a surface water component by 2022.
- ES is participating in the evaluation and adoption of the updated GAM by having its hydrologist George Rice re-run several previous studies in order to compare results.
- ES is developing a scope of work and cost estimates for a proposed SW-GW Monitoring System to provide empirical data to inform the updated GAM.
- ES worked successfully with the Colorado-Lavaca Basin and Bay Area Stakeholder Committee to obtain Senate Bill 3 funding for initial work on installing the SW-GW monitoring system. TWDB is finalizing a contract for this work.
ES has been accepted as a party to a contested case hearing on Lower Colorado River Authority’s (LCRA) application for a groundwater permit filed with Lost Pines GCD in February 2018.
- ES along with Simsboro Aquifer Water Defense Fund (SAWDF) and Friends of Bastrop Water (FBW) have organized local opposition to the LCRA’s request for 25,000 acre-feet per year.
- ES is providing the scientific studies to support the local effort. Rice has used the old GAM to evaluate the impact of the requested pumping on the aquifers, river, and private domestic wells. Rice is now in the process of using the updated model to evaluate the impacts. The new model should quantitatively predict the trends that were indicated by the old model. Rice has evaluated 30 wells for 20 landowners to identify the aquifer formation that the groundwater is drawn from and drawdowns predicted for each formation. ES has prepared individual well reports for the landowners and their lawyers.
- In January 2018 the Bastrop District Court issued a final judgment favoring ES and the Landowners indicating the Lost Pines District had erred in denying party status in the End Op contested case hearing and reversed the permit issued by the District. End Op and the District appealed the decision and the 3rd District Court of Appeals dismissed the suit on jurisdictional grounds without opining on the merits. This decision — without comment on the merits — leaves a president that has enabled ES and a group of 5=43 landowners to be admitted as parties in the LCRA contested case hearing cited above.
- A report evaluating rainfall/runnof relationships in the upper Colorado River Basin has been published that brings attention to major factors that are causing low inflows into the Highland Lakes. ES advocated for funding of the study through the Colorado-Lavaca Basin and Bay Area Stakeholder Committee using Senate Bill 3 funding.
- Based on the findings in the report, ES and other stakeholders are bringing focus on the extremely low inflows to the Highland Lakes system and urging action to understand and address this issue that threatens the Highland Lakes and lower basin.
- Based on the findings regarding groundwater pumping, ES has challenged the LCRA to consider the impacts of SW-GW interactions on the Highland Lakes Water Management Plan. LCRA continues to resist by taking the position that these considerations are outside the scope of the WMP revisions.
- Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPWD), the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and Texas Living Waters Project (TLWP) and ES (collectively Environmental Groups) participated in the meetings and evaluation of the proposed changes in the plan.
- ES extensively re-worked its website and social media capabilities to improve our outreach and education capabilities. With a new look, better organization of topics, and improved blog capabilities we can now more easily communicate with our constituents.