This commentary "LCRA joins siege on Simsboro Aquifer" first appeared on Saturday, July 14, in the Bastrop Advertiser Edition of the Austin American-Statesman newspaper.
The Lower Colorado River Authority likes our local groundwater so much, it’s coming back for lots more. It already uses Simsboro wells to fill its Lake Bastrop Power Plant cooling pond. LCRA’s application for eight more Simsboro wells — and 8.15 billion gallons of water a year — is pending at Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District. This is the latest chapter of the saga we call, “The Siege on the Simsboro,” also known as: “California, Here We Come.”
The Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District will soon schedule the official public hearing that precedes any action on the permit. The hearing date could be announced at the district’s board meeting on July 18 at 7 p.m. at Bastrop City Hall, 1311 Chestnut St.
LCRA’s application will be the focus of free community meetings on Tuesday, July 17 at the Paige Community Center, 117 Main St., Paige, at 4:30, 6:30 and possibly 8:30 p.m. We love this venue, but space is limited. Reserve your seat with your name and address — by phone at 512-333-0252 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The many Bastrop residents who live near the project will receive priority.
The Simsboro Aquifer Water Defense Fund (SAWDF), an all-volunteer Central Texas nonprofit 501c3, is proud to have the newly-formed Friends of Bastrop Water (FWB) group as its cosponsor of the meetings. FBW founder Jeannie Jessup of the Circle D community is a champion of the unique Lost Pines ecosystem that lies in the midst of LCRA’s project.
Come talk with us about how you can influence the fate of this permit. Challenging permits has been made extremely difficult, but we can’t let that stop us. If trends continue, Texas law and policy will ensure our aquifers are “mined” to depletion, and rural landowners are marginalized.
SAWDF works every day for sustainably managed groundwater and protection of landowners’ property rights. With your generous donations, we have financially supported the four landowners who stood up to the Lost Pines GCD on the End Op mega-permit. The landowners won in state district court and are now in the Third Court of Appeals, fighting a critical battle that deserves the continued support of their neighbors.
Our friends at Environmental Stewardship and hydrologist George Rice will talk Tuesday about the next 40 years and the predicted drawdowns across Bastrop and Lee counties, in the Simsboro and other aquifers we depend on. You don’t want to miss this.
LCRA’s proposed project is located on the Republic of Texas-era “Griffith League Scout Ranch,” adjacent to Circle D and near the intersection of Texas 21 and FM 1441. Seven other existing or proposed Simsboro commercial wells are nearby.
The “Griffith” in Griffith League Ranch
I can’t help but note that the “Griffith” in Griffith League Ranch was most recently ranch owner Mary Lavinia Griffith. The salty and colorful Mrs. Griffith was a descendant of a signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence. She disinherited her own family in favor of the Boy Scouts, whom she trusted to preserve her family’s 1830’s land grant ranch — and its groundwater — from development. Unfortunately, it was the Boy Scouts, her chosen stewards, who sold the ranch’s water rights “exclusively” to LCRA in January 2015.
When LCRA announced their deal with the Boy Scouts in 2015, they teased us with benevolent words — they pointed out the water is “well located” to help meet Bastrop County’s projected water needs. The potentially local project has now morphed into a full-blown export project. LCRA won’t say where the water will end up other than disappearing into LCRA’s huge water delivery system. The prevailing rumor is that the water will be piped to Austin to offset that city’s Highland Lakes demand.
LCRA apparently has declined the district’s request to talk to the public at any time prior to its hearing. LCRA is hereby invited to join us Tuesday and answer our questions. Needless to say, all elected officials in the two counties are also invited.
Michele Gangnes is a Lee County landowner, attorney and veteran of the central Texas water wars. She is a founding board member of the Simsboro Aquifer Water Defense Fund. For more information, visit: https://facebook.com/groups/bastropwater/ and http://www.simsborowaterdefensefund.org and https://tinyurl.com/environ.steward.