Senator Hegar Files Edwards Aquifer Legislation
AUSTIN, TEXAS -- Senator Glenn Hegar (R-Katy) has filed legislation, Senate Bill 1341 that would implement a stakeholders process to deal with the management of the Edwards Aquifer.
Over the last few weeks, numerous stakeholder groups have met to discuss the Edwards Aquifer Recovery Implementation Program (RIP) which would be a scientific process to achieve a consensus agreement among all stakeholders. The goal of the process would be to ensure that the Comal and San Marcos Springs flows are protected during droughts, while encouraging conservation and the development of new supplies of water to meet the increasing demands of the San Antonio region's rapidly growing population.
The legislation would provide for participation of the following organizations in the Edwards Aquifer Recovery Implementation Program process: the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Economic Geology, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the Texas Water Development Board, the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, the Texas Department of Agriculture, the Edwards Aquifer Authority, San Antonio Water System (SAWS), the South Central Water Advisory Committee, the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority, the Guadalupe Basin Coalition, the Texas Farm Bureau, various environmental groups and other concerned state and federal agencies.
"A scientifically-based approach to balance competing water interests is vital for achieving a consensus to resolve the continuing wars that have plagued the region for years. The pitting of pumpers against San Antonio, and San Antonio against down-stream interests, has done nothing to solve the issue," stated Senator Hegar. "I truly believe that we must work together, as a region, to solve this complex and contentious issue. We must develop the science to answer these critical water questions and everyone needs to be at the table as this scientific based solution is developed and ultimately implemented."
In addition to establishing the stakeholder process, SB 1341 also prohibits lawsuits from being filed while the stakeholder group is working through the process.
"The Edwards Aquifer Authority (EAA) was created because of a lawsuit that resulted in Federal Court orders to protect various endangered species. We are headed right back to the courts if we can't come together and reach an agreement," Senator Hegar continued. "I have a lot of concerns over raising the pumping cap without addressing critical management (drought) issues. EAA has not produced an in-depth scientific analysis, yet they are seeking legislative action to raise the cap rather than pursuing proportional reduction or acquisition of specific permits."
When the Legislature created the Edwards Aquifer Authority in 1993, the pumping cap was set at 450,000 acre-feet per year with a required reduction to 400,000 acre-feet per year by January 1, 2008. SB 1341 would roll-back the dates to February 1, 2010 for the 50,000 acre-feet reduction to take place, allowing time for the RIP process to work. Without this legislation, EAA would need to concentrate on either acquisition or retirement of permits or proportional reduction of permits.
"EAA has not made efforts to reduce the permitted withdrawals in anticipation of the 2008 deadline and continues to come back to the legislature in an effort to "raise the cap". We cannot talk about the cap issue without addressing critical management for downstream users, " Hegar stated. " I want the RIP process to work, and I want San Antonio to know that I am serious about reaching a consensus that benefits the entire region."
Senator Hegar is currently serving his first term in the Texas Senate after serving two terms in the House of Representatives. He is a 6th generation Texan, and earns a living farming rice and corn on land that has been in his family since the mid 1800s. The Hegars reside in Katy, Texas.