Houston County Courier - Local News
Stories Added - August 2008
Copyright 2008 - Polk County Publishing Company
Dialogue Begins on Groundwater Conservation District
Houston County Courier - August 2008
By Sharron Randall
Approximately 125 concerned citizens attended the town hall meeting to discuss ground water issues on Monday, Aug. 4 at 6:30 p.m.
Houston County Judge Lonnie Hunt said at the end of the nearly four-hour meeting, "Our reason for holding this meeting was to start a public dialogue, and we've certainly done that!
"Based on the attendance tonight, I believe that three to four times more people will come to the next meeting which we'll have at the civic center in the next few weeks."
A panel of four experts made power point presentations and then a question and answer period followed. Many concerns were laid to rest, but many more issues were raised for future deliberation.
Judge Hunt introduced Roy Rodgers, manager of Neches and Trinity Valley Groundwater Conservation District; Dr. Bruce Lesikar with Texas AgriLife Extension Service, and Attorney John Stover, former member of the Texas Water Commission who currently serves as legal counsel to three existing groundwater conservation districts.
Lance Christian with the Texas Water Development Board lent his expertise to the panel.
A history of groundwater conservation districts ensued with definitions of groundwater, surface water, Texas water law, and state regulations following.
Those in attendance heard that Houston County is "blessed" with abundant ground water, one major aquifer, Carrizo Wilcox, and three minor aquifers, Queen City, Sparta and Yegua Jackson.
However, Christian noted that studies conducted by the WDB did indicate that the water level has dropped somewhat in recent years.
Because most groundwater conservation districts do not cover an entire aquifer, several GCDs may manage an aquifer. Each district must plan "desired future conditions," DFCs, with the other districts within their common groundwater management areas.
Houston and Trinity are the only two deep east Texas counties that have not created a GCD. Input from Houston County would be considered by neighboring GCDs, but only districts get to decide. "If not a district, no vote," said Stover.
So creating a groundwater conservation district or annexing with one already organized was one of the topics that drew interest from the crowd.
There are four existing groundwater conservation districts, which border Houston County. They include the Pineywoods GCD which covers Angelina and Nacogdoches counties, the Neches and Trinity Valleys GCD which covers Cherokee, Anderson and Henderson counties, the Mid East Texas GCD which covers Madison, Leon and Freestone counties, and the Bluebonnet GCD which covers Walker and Grimes counties.
One citizen asked whether the GCD would put meters on existing wells and Rodgers stated, "Absolutely not! Existing wells are exempt and most GCDs do not require metering of small domestic wells. That's one of those false rumors going around."
In addition he reminded citizens that all-agricultural use and all domestic use is exempted from fees charged to commercial users.
All panel members discussed the "right of capture," the right of landowners to capture and make "non-wasteful" use of groundwater, a groundwater law that has been upheld by Texas courts over the years with few exceptions.
Cost of a groundwater district, taxes, management, legislative action, mineral and water rights, fairness, and Texas Water Code Chap. 36 prompted much of the discussion, as did preserving and conserving water for Houston County.
Certain clauses and issues that cause "excitement and emotion" according to Stover, duties of a GCD, eminent domain, pumping, monitoring, water exportation, GCD alternatives, surface and groundwater right issues also claimed a goodly amount of time.
Four hours into the meeting, Judge Hunt asked, "Should we do something or nothing? "
Christian said, "The State of Texas wants us to do something in conserving ground water--to conserve all resources. Local control is better than government control."
Judge Hunt listed these options: create a lone district, join with Trinity County, annex with one of the neighboring districts, or wait and see what happens.
He asked those in attendance to go back and talk to their friends and neighbors for a follow-up meeting to further explore the pros and cons of the various options that were discussed.
"Ultimately, voters will make the decision," he concluded.