Vista Ridge Resolution Coalition

Vista Ridge Resolution Coalition Media Release

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 Vista Ridge Resolution Coalition
Alamo Sierra Club • Bexar County Green Party • Environmental Stewardship • Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance • Homeowner-Taxpayer Association of Bexar County • Joshua Initiative • League of Independent Voters of Texas • LULAC Concilio Zapatista 4383 • San Antonio Making Bureaucracies Accountable • Simsboro Aquifer Water Defense Fund

For Immediate Release                                                                                                                  September 12, 2019
For more information:                                                                                                    Reinette King: 210.241.2683

Coalition Urges San Antonio Mayor and Council Pass Resolution for Independent Legal,
Financial and Managerial Review of Vista Ridge and SAWS Reform Ordinance

San Antonio, Texas, Wednesday, September 12, 2019, 7:00 am: A letter and 10-page backup document from self-described “disparate” organizations stating they are “united in our concerns about the Vista Ridge Water Pipeline project and its risks to, and impacts on, SAWS ratepayers, their water supply, and the water supply of those who rely on the aquifers in Burleson, Milam, Lee, and Bastrop counties” was delivered to Mayor Ron Nirenberg, San Antonio Council Members, a host of local and state officials in affected areas, and media. The letter and document were also sent directly to Governor Greg Abbott.

The cover letter states,

“We are not urging abandonment of Vista Ridge, but rather swift action to gain appropriate oversight of the project, which is slated to begin pumping in less than a year.”

The Coalition’s letter sounded the alarm on the risks and impacts to SAWS ratepayers and to the Aquifers for Vista Ridge in Burleson County as the San Antonio City Council finalizes its budget.

Bob Martin, President of the Homeowner Taxpayer Association of Bexar County said,

“Skyrocketing SAWS bills to pay for the Vista Ridge pipeline are already hurting seniors on fixed income and families struggling to make ends meet. Now SAWS wants even more.  SAWS is proposing raising water bills another 10% next year. City Council must act now to hold SAWS accountable!”

George Alejos, Director of Affordable Housing for LULAC, Zapatista 4383 said,

“We feel that quality of life issues are very important to LULAC, water services being one of them.  Someone must be accountable for the Vista Ridge representations that have been made.  We don’t want another streetcar debacle.”

Terry Burns, MD, who chairs the San Antonio-based Alamo Sierra Club, said,

“The Alamo Sierra Club has criticized many aspects of the Vista Ridge Project, including its cost, its support of sprawl development, its taking of water from another watershed, and its opaque ‘Public Private Partnership’ structure that has concealed many hydrologic and financial details from the public. We called in 2017 for the new Mayor and City Council to order an independent audit of Vista Ridge. Their failure to do so ignored their fiduciary responsibilities.”

Colleen Waring, a Milam County landowner speaking for the non-profit Simsboro Aquifer Water Defense Fund, said,

“In 2003, the Army Corp of Engineers itself made clear the Simsboro formation, which Vista Ridge will be drawing from, cannot withstand the level of pumping Vista Ridge demands without serious risk of damaging this critically important water resource in Central Texas. What we want to know is whether the SAWS Board of Trustees and City Council knew about it before they fast-tracked approval of Vista Ridge back in 2014.”

Fernando Centeno, a Harvard educated community planner born and raised in San Antonio, an Advisory Board Member of the nonpartisan, non-profit League of Independent Voters of Texas, said,

“Vista Ridge is symptomatic of policies that have already led to deepening economic segregation and rising taxes and fees in San Antonio. These policies continue to lead to greater gentrification, dislocation, evictions, indebtedness, and concentrated poverty as a result of an aggressive metroplex agenda.”

Joe Caddell, founder of Joshua Initiative and well known San Antonio based conservative Republican, stated,

“In light of the history surrounding the Vista Ridge project, the multitude of suspect transactions, questionable judgement, and the fact that some of our newly elected Council members were informed and agreed, prior to election, to support an independent examination of this project and its ramifications, I am hopeful that finally something will be done about this mess.”

The ten-page paper entitled, Why Pass the Vista Ridge Resolution and Why Now?, documents the following issues in detail:

1.     Past City Councils have allowed SAWS to make contract amendments that put ratepayers and the City at risk. A legal memorandum flagging significant issues was shared two years ago with Mayor Nirenberg, but no apparent action was taken.

2.     There is credible evidence that this project is likely to damage the Aquifers, harming multiple communities’ future. The damage also poses threats for SAWS ratepayers who are going to be relying on this water resource.

3.     The financials of Vista Ridge require public clarification, and may require action to address possible illegal use of public funds.

4.     Contrary to what SAWS ratepayers have been repeatedly told, the rates for Vista Ridge have not been “locked in.”

5.     Past City Councils have failed to exercise appropriate policy oversight over SAWS, improperly allowing SAWS to develop policies independent of City Council, independently lobby the state legislature, continue serious transparency transgressions and to allow Trustees to stay on the board far beyond their terms in contravention of SAWS’ governing ordinance.

The Vista Ridge Resolution was delivered to Council at Citizens to be Heard in March 2019.

The letter (here) and 10-page document (Why Pass the Vista Ridge Resolution and Why Now?), which provides backup to the Coalition's claims, were also delivered to these officials:

Governor Greg Abbott
Chairman Senator Charles Perry and members of the Senate Committee on Water & Rural Affairs: Vice Chair, Sen. Brandon Creighton, Sen. Carol Alvarado, Sen. Nathan Johnson, Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, Sen. Jose R. Rodriguez, Sen. Larry Taylor
Chairman Represenative Lyle Larson and members of the House Committee on Natural Resources: Vice Chair, Rep. Will Metcalf, Rep. Alex Dominguez, Rep. Jessica Farrar, Rep. Cody Harris, Rep. Tracy O. King, Rep. Mike Lang, Rep. Poncho Nevarez, Rep. Tom Oliverson, Rep. Four Price, Rep. Ana-Maria Ramos
Senator Kirk Watson
Senator Jose Menendez
Senator Pete Flores
Senator Judith Zaffirini
Senator Donna Campbell
State Representative Terry Wilson
State Representative John Cyrier
State Representative Ben Leman
State Representative Erin Zwiener
Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff
Burleson County Judge Keith Schroeder
Milam County Judge Steve Young
Lee County Judge Paul Fischer
Bastrop County Judge Paul Pape
Post Oak Savannah Groundwater Conservation District President Sydney Young
Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District President Mike Talbot
Cow Creek Groundwater Conservation District President Milam Michalec
Gonzales County Underground Water Conservation District General Manager, Greg Sengelmann

Coalition Contacts:

George Alejos, LULAC Zapatista 4383, 210.825.6200
Ellen Berky, League of Independent Voters San Antonio Interim Board Member, 210.737.8421
Terry Burns, Alamo Sierra Club, 210.739.2472
Joe Caddell, Joshua Initiative, 210.865.5777
Fernando Centeno, 210.884.6674
Phil Cook, Environmental Stewardship, 512.321.4964
Antonio Diaz, Bexar County Green Party, 210.542.9271
Michele Gangnes, Simsboro Aquifer Water Defense Fund, 512.461.3179
Bob Martin, Homeowner Taxpayers of Bexar County, 210.690.0880
Judith McGeary, Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance, 254.697.2661
Stan Mitchell, San Antonio Making Bureaucracies Accountable, 210.493.2656
James Murphy, Esq., water attorney, LIV Advisor, 210.859.2189

Having trouble reaching Reinette King, please call Linda Curtis 512.657.2089 or email LIV at info@independentleaguetx.org.

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