Bastrop News

Water well challenges to City continue

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City Manager Mike Talbot aired a bit of frustration – but kept it diplomatic too – when it came to city officials being shut out of giving a briefing during a recent meeting of the Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District (LPGWCD) Board of Directors. Talbot reported on the April 29 event during the Bastrop City Council’s regular meeting on Tuesday evening at City Hall.

Talbot serves as president of the Groundwater District board, but had recused himself from sitting on the dais that night. The city presentation, which was compiled mainly by City Attorney J C Brown with input from the city’s “Water Team” (Talbot, Brown and two others), was meant to alleviate concerns by some area residents that the city’s application for a well permit on XS Ranch property would affect the potential supply of nearby water wells.

Talbot said the board denial to let City of Bastrop officials speak “greatly hamstrung our efforts” in the city making their case for a water permit. Talbot added the denial “gave the appearance we were not prepared for the meeting.” In his regular City Manager’s Update Report that he delivers to the City Council, Talbot added about the board’s denial of a City presentation: “For some reason that the City was not made aware of before the meeting began, the City was advised that it could not (give) its presentation on the technical merits and engineering” of the permit request. (A call to the Groundwater District’s Smithville Office Wednesday) was unsuccessful in contacting an official who could speak to the matter.)

Talbot emphasized that “one (water well) pump over 25 years” that the city is seeking, would have “a negligible drop in the aquifer.”

However, Talbot also emphasized “the City’s permit is not denied” currently. In fact, he explained that the Groundwater District staff – composed of a hydrologist and the general manager – has already recommended to the Board of Directors that the City of Bastrop’s permit request be approved. But with the additional challenges from affected residents, Talbot said the Board of Directors ruled that the other parties who filed protests – 7 to 9 others – may appear before a (separate) hearing examiner to say how the City’s proposed well would affect their water wells. That hearing would be before the (Texas) State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH).

“In the next couple of weeks we will have more information on the SOAH pre-hearing…” which he and staff will keep the Council informed of the review process, Talbot said. “The City wants to be a good neighbor to the surrounding property owners and cause no harm to anyone’s groundwater well in the area of the City’s proposed well site.” (The Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District was created by the Texas Legislature to protect the water supply for the residents of Bastrop and Lee counties.)

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