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Release: Legacy Farm Landowner Contests Vista Ridge Variance

from l to r: Amy Hinnant, Michele Gangnes, Judith McGeary and Amy’s mother, Helen Jurica

For Immediate Release March 30, 2017

Milano, Texas: It was standing room only last Tuesday night in rural Texas, not 70 miles from the Texas Capitol. Amy Jurica Hinnant is the owner of a family legacy farm established in Burleson County in 1894. Prior to a public hearing, she asked her local Post Oak Savannah Groundwater Conservation District to allow her to formally protest a permit amendment for the controversial Vista Ridge Project (aka “the San Antone Hose”).

Hinnant’s property has never been leased for water but is virtually surrounded by leased land and by the 33 deep wells that will pump 50,000 acre-feet of groundwater annually for export to San Antonio. Hinnant asked the Post Oak’s Board to delay acting on the permit amendments to relocate 11 wells and conduct a formal hearing on whether the relocated wells, especially the two that are within ½ mile of her property, will drain her property’s groundwater.

Hinnant, a well-spoken teacher and educator at Texas A & M, said, “I’m here for myself and the 83% of county landowners who choose not to sell their water. What about our rights to ensure the next generation has water, and what about our duty to protect this treasured aquifer?” The Board, on the advice of its counsel, denied her request on a technicality.

Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance Director Judith McGeary, a Milam County farmer and attorney, told the Board, “You’ve heard both veiled and explicit threats that if you stand in the way of these marketers, the Legislature will strip the District’s powers. As a result, the District focuses more on the moving of water than conservation. The innocuous term, ‘aquifer management,’ is used to disguise the reality of systemic depletion.”

The audience applauded Burleson landowner Gabbo Goetsch when he commended the Board for “having the best meeting I’ve been to — you have been listening and paying attention.” He went on to recount the “bullying” of landowners by Scott Carlson, who goes door-to-door, pressuring landowners to sign water leases.

Michele Gangnes, a director of the League of Independent Voters (LIV) and the 501c3 non-profit Simsboro Aquifer Water Defense Fund, reported, “To his credit, the new President Sydney Youngblood allowed landowners to speak their hearts. We were pleased the Board delayed acting on the amendment until at least next Tuesday, and invited us to submit questions for Vista Ridge in the meantime. But Ms. Hinnant and other landowners stand to suffer hundreds of feet of drawdown in their groundwater due to Vista Ridge pumping. The Board needs to address her case and our questions, even if that means standing up to the marketers and key state legislators in this legislative session who are positioning to open the floodgates on our groundwater.”

Hundreds of water bills, including two omnibus water bills, were filed late in the session, giving ordinary Texans little time to prepare themselves for the rush on groundwater. LIV is urging urban ratepayers and rural landowners to join forces to urge their legislators help stop the “California Water Model” – mass movement of groundwater to dry areas for real estate development.

A press conference will be held just before the Post Oak Board meeting next Tuesday in Milano at 310 Avenue C with landowners, attorneys and organizations determined not to let this happen to Texas.

For more information: Call Linda Curtis for LIV at 512.657.2089

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