Texas House of Representatives
HB 5052 – Rep. Stan Gerdes ** Passed **
Filed on behalf of stakeholders in HD 17, HB 5052 requires GCDs to consider "exempt wells" (domestic & livestock) when making permit decisions. HB 5052 was passed by the House on Thursday, 4/27, with a vote of 141 Ayes and 3 Nays. After receiving it in the Senate, it will be referred to the Water, Agriculture, & Rural Affairs Committee. SAWDF will update you when we need to encourage senators to give the bill a public hearing by the committee. This same legislation failed to receive a public hearing last session. The Texas Farm Bureau and Texas Corn Producers Association registered against the bill.
HB 4532– Rep. Kyle Kacal ** Passed **
Relating to the consideration of modeled sustained groundwater pumping in the adoption of desired future conditions.
SAWDF is happy to see this bill pass the House. HB 4532 is sensible legislation requiring that Desired Future Conditions take into consideration "modeled sustained groundwater pumping." Sustainable pumping is one of the recommendations from the report by Dr. Robert Mace, Five Gallons in a Ten Gallon Hat: Groundwater Sustainability in Texas. Senator Blanco filed a companion bill and sits on the Water, Agriculture, and Rural Affairs committee. SAWDF supports this bill.
HB 3278– Rep. Four Price ** Passed **
Relating to the joint planning of desired future conditions in groundwater management areas.
HB 3990 – Rep. Kyle Kacal – Second Reading on Tuesday, 05/02/2023
Relating to a study of existing surface water and groundwater interaction.
House Natural Resources Committee [HNRC]
There are no groundwater bills up for consideration in HNRC next week, 5/2. However, listed below are bills "left pending" in HNRC that SAWDF hopes will be reported favorably for a House vote.
HB 4445– Rep. Stan Gerdes / Sen. Charles Perry
Relating to water loss in water delivery systems for certain municipally owned water utilities.
Thank you for submitting written comments in support of HB 4445. HB 4445 was well received by the committee. A representative with San Antonio Water Systems [SAWS] spoke against the bill as written. Chairman King questioned the SAWS representative as to why "saving water" was not reasonable or urgent. The cities of Austin, Ft. Worth, and San Antonio registered against the bill. SAWDF wants to note that Mr. Ed McCarthy, legal counsel for various clients, including Gatehouse Water, LP registered "for" the bill. As with most legislation in HNRC, the bill was left pending.
SB 1080 – Sen. Lois Kolkhorst / Rep. Stan Gerdes
Relating to a mitigation program and fees for the Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District.
The “LPGCD mitigation bill" was heard in HNRC on Tuesday, 4/18, and is awaiting a vote by the committee to send it to the House floor. SAWDF is confident it will move forward.
HB 2735 – Rep. Tracy King
Relating to security required before filing suit against a groundwater conservation district.
SAWDF was mistaken about the impact of HB 2735, which was heard in HNRC last Tuesday, April 25. The legislation requires anyone filing suit against a GCD to post a security bond, a maximum of $100,000, to cover legal costs if the GCD prevails. Such a bond may cost up to $2,000, NOT $20,000! The appeal bond is in addition to legal fees and expert witness(es). The bill was left pending.
Other favorable bills that passed out of the HNRC
HB 2443– Harris
Relating to the authority of certain persons to petition a groundwater conservation district to change certain rules.
In the Senate
HB 3059 – King
This bill allows GCDs to raise export fees to 20 cents per thousand gallons. In addition, it gives GCDs mitigation authority to accommodate future drawdowns from groundwater production. HB 3059 was voted out of House and received by the Senate. It was referred to the Water, Agriculture, and Rural Affairs committee. SAWDF supports this legislation.
LCRA Permit for Griffith League Ranch
Thanks to everyone who attended the hearing last Wednesday, 4/26. Judge Reva Towslee-Corbett heard oral arguments on two motions:
LPGCD made a "plea to the jurisdiction" motion against the LCRA. LPGCD contended that the LCRA filed their appeal with the District Court before LCRA had exhausted all of their administrative remedies, i.e., the conclusion of LCRA's Second Motion for Rehearing. Absent proper and timely exhaustion of all administrative remedies, the court would not have jurisdiction to hear LCRA’s lawsuit. Both LPGCD and LCRA argued different deadlines applied, depending on whether you strictly follow statutes in Chapter 36 of the Texas Water Code, or applicable statutes in the Administrative Procedures Act.
The intervenors [City of Elgin, Aqua WSC, Environmental Stewardship, Recharge Water, LP, and Andrew Wier (representing Brown Landowners)] asked the Judge to reconsider her earlier surprise ruling in March, striking intervention by other parties to the contested case. The LCRA argued that there should be no intervenors because the Judge cannot change the permit; she may only send the decision back to the LPGCD Board to correct any deficiencies she may find.
All the parties provided the Judge with hundreds of pages of transcripts and legal cases. The Judge noted that it would take some time to read the material and make her ruling no earlier than the first week of May. (Judge Corbett presides over the 335th District Court for Bastrop, Lee, Burleson, and Washington counties.)
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