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Hays County groundwater bill signed into law

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State Rep. Jason Isaac (R-Dripping Springs) and state Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels) officially announced June 22 the Hays County groundwater protection bill is now a law.

The new law expands the boundaries of the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District (BSEACD) to cover an area of the Trinity Aquifer that was previously not within a groundwater district.

Electro Purification’s (EP) well fields are now within the jurisdiction of the BSEACD. The company will have to obtain a pumping permit from the conservation district before it can legally move forward with the project.

House Bill 3405 (HB 3405) was introduced after Hays County residents expressed fear and disapproval at EP’s announcement that they would extract five million gallons of water per day from an unregulated area of the Trinity Aquifer.

In a press release announcing the bill’s passage into law, Campbell said that in the aftermath of the historic Memorial Day weekend floods, the law represents a “sign of hope” for what citizens can accomplish together in the future.

Isaac said he feels the legislation’s success is a triumph for all in Hays County, and HB 3405 is a “win-win for multiple parties involved.”

“There were some interests that did not want to see our legislation pass,” Isaac said.

Isaac and other bill supporters got HB 3405 passed on the 139th day of a 140-day legislative session.

“I started working on this about a year ago when I first learned that there was part of an aquifer in Hays County that wasn’t protected,” Isaac said. “The threat of a possible groundwater production project in Wimberley kind of accelerated other people’s interest in trying to find a solution.”

Although the company addressed the concerned public at a town hall meeting in Wimberley on Feb. 10, residents remained skeptical about how an extensive pumping project would leave the fate of their groundwater-supported homes.

Isaac said EP officials have stated from the beginning that their plans are based on “sound science.”

“EP will be able to do what they can do (if they secure a permit), and that’s their right,” Isaac said. “And we affirm those rights for them so long as it doesn’t affect the desired future conditions of the aquifer or have an unreasonable impact on surrounding wells.”

EP could not be reached to comment on future plans for the proposed project if the bill were to pass.

“The landowners that would like to sell their water have the right to do that,” Isaac said. “And the surrounding landowners won’t be negatively affected by their neighbors’ efforts to sell their water.”

Isaac said the fact that the bill was sent to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk the second to last day of the session, is a reflection of hard work from the many supporters in the legislature such as Campbell.

“The people I serve that live on groundwater will be protected and their groundwater will be secure,” Isaac said.

Jeff Mundy is the lead trial lawyer for the Trinity Edwards Springs Protection Association (TESPA) in a lawsuit the nonprofit organization filed earlier this year in an effort to halt EP’s plans.

“The law will achieve much of what we wanted to achieve, which would be to bring the EP wells within a groundwater district permitting and regulating process,” Mundy said.

TESPA’s lawsuit asked the court to rule that EP’s well fields are within the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation district.

“(EP’s well field) will now be within the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Groundwater Conservation district, which is a very good, well-funded groundwater control district, so it should help to protect the water for all the users,” Mundy said.

Hays County Commissioner Will Conley, Precinct 3, said he has supported Isaac’s legislative effort from the beginning.

“It took an entire team to get this legislation through,” Conley said. “There was a tremendous amount of special interest fighting this legislation, but we were able to get it brought back and do what’s right for our community.”