Environmental Stewardship scores partial victory

Hearing on LCRA’s application for a groundwater pumping permit held before SOHA Judges in October, 2019.

We are pleased and grateful to claim a partial victory in the contested case hearing on LCRA’s application for a groundwater pumping permit.   The judges have issued a Proposal for Decision (PFD) that includes the recommendation that surface water monitoring must be done by LCRA as a part of the permit.  See the attached press release and summary of the key findings as they relate to surface waters.   

Here are a few of the high points that reflect the Judges’ Findings:

  • State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH) judges have ruled that LCRA’s groundwater pumping permit should require the state agency to monitor surface water.
  • The judges agreed with Environmental Stewardship’s evidence that surface waterways, including the Colorado River, could be significantly lowered. Flow of the river could drop below levels necessary to maintain minimal ecological functions (subsistence flows) and its tributaries could actually go dry sooner during drought conditions.
  • In agreement with Environmental Stewardship, the judges recommended that the Lost Pines District should rule that the LCRA must monitor surface water impacts.
  • The Judges found that the District’s test-and-see approach is not adequate to prevent unreasonable impacts on surface water resources. To manage that impact in the future, they recommended the District include a surface water monitoring requirement in their management plan so that the District has the discretionary power to curtail all users, if necessary. 

Although we were disappointed that the Judges recommended that the entire 25,000 acre-feet per year permit be granted , we also believe the Landowners, organized by the Simsboro Aquifer Water Defense Fund, also scored a victory.  

  • The judges said the proposed permit should include the right of well owners who participated in the hearing to also participate in the LCRA permit renewal process, including whether monitoring data requires any permit amendments (SAWDF Press Release). This will give Environmental Stewardship, the Landowners and other protestants the right to participate in each of the phased increases in LCRA’s pumping.   

Issuance of the SOAH ruling, known as Proposal for Decision, triggers certain deadlines for exceptions and replies to exceptions.  Exceptions (arguments explaining why parties agree or disagree with the decision) are due  April 30th and replies to exceptions will be due June 1st.

The final decision on whether to issue a permit and on what terms, lies with the board of directors of the groundwater district, which must hold a public hearing prior to making its decision. 

Steve Box, Board President and Executive Director