Bastrop News

Beal speaks on Austin appearance

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“BMP Administrator’s note: A correction has been added to this story regarding the input of City Attorney JC Brown”

A week after some heated discussion among Bastrop City Council members in the aftermath of his speaking to the Austin City Council on water issues, Bastrop City Council member Joe Beal said he would “do it again.”

As Beal relaxed in his study on Tuesday amid mounted game animals and photos of him and his brother’s tour of duty during the Vietnam War, Beal discussed the local reaction to his appearance Feb. 9 before the Austin City Council. An engineer, Beal is considered a water expert after serving with LCRA for 12 years – as chief of the water division and as general manager – and his current work as a paid water consultant.

Beal spoke to the Austin City Council after being invited there by Mayor Steve Adler. Beal emphasized that he spoke as a “private citizen” who was not representing the Bastrop City Council. He said so in a letter that he wrote for the Bastrop City Council after his Austin appearance, a letter that Mayor Ken Kesselus read to the Council at its Feb. 24 meeting. (Beal was on vacation in Africa at the time). Beal said his Austin talk had nothing to do with City of Bastrop water.

After Beal did not mention during his Austin Council talk that he was also a paid consultant for Recharge, a private company looking to pipe 46,000 acre feet of water from Bastrop and Lee counties to Travis and Williamson counties, Mayor Adler said he would have liked to have had that information beforehand. Some Bastrop City Council members concurred that some people might have construed that Beal was including Bastrop water supplies – after all, Bastrop is ‘within the county’ – when he spoke of Bastrop County.

Beal begged to differ. “All you got to do is view the tape” of his appearance, Beal said on Tuesday. Beal told the Austin City Council that there is “an abundant supply of water under Bastrop and Lee counties. I’ve done the numbers, (water) can be brought in pretty cheaply. We need a call to action today!” Beal was referring to piping water from the Bastrop and Lee counties into Travis and Williamson counties. He said Bastrop’s economic well-being was linked to Austin and its need for additional water.

Bastrop City Council Member Kay McAnally recommended that the council pass a resolution clarifying the city’s position on its water supply. As the Council discussion progressed, City Attorney JC Brown then made “some suggested language changes for clarification” of the resolution, City Manager Mike Talbot said. The resolution – which Beal also voted for – and passed at the council’s March 10 meeting, states that “…the Bastrop City Council has not discussed or authorized that sale of the City’s groundwater rights, or its groundwater supply to any other entity or municipality.” The resolution comes as the city tries to get a permit for piping water from XS Ranch in the future. The city previously bought water rights a well area of XS Ranch.

In his study on Tuesday, Beal said, “I really don’t understand this controversy. I didn’t speak (to the Austin City Council) as a Bastrop City Council member.

Council member Dock Jackson concurred there might have been some confusion in the aftermath of Beal’s statements to the Austin Council. Jackson emphasized that he “was never confused when (Beal) said ‘county’” and that he did not think Beal was also referring to Bastrop’s water supply in discussions of water potential in the county. “But it may have confused some people,” Jackson said of Beal’s statements, so the Bastrop Council wanted to “make it abundantly clear” with its resolution that Bastrop water was not up for grabs.

Mayor Ken Kesselus said Beal had every right to talk to the Austin City Council: “I don’t see how (one of the) leading Texas water experts talking to the Austin City Council affects us in any way, even if he is a Bastrop City Council member,” Kesselus said. He added he saw no conflict in Beal serving on the Bastrop Council and also representing a water contractor eyeballing Bastrop County water.

When asked Tuesday if he would do it ‘all over again’ – appear before the Austin City Council – Beal replied without hesitation, “Yeah, I would do it again. The Mayor’s office called me and asked me to come to Austin.” When asked if would say, given another occasion to speak to the Austin Council or elsewhere, that he was a consultant for Recharge, Beal responded, “I don’t think it’s important.”

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