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Extensive public comments at BCRAGD meeting

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The Board of the Bandera County River Authority and Groundwater District (BCRAGD) met last Thursday, July 14, with a full house of community members in attendance.

All directors were present except for Rebeca Gibson.

To start out the meeting, President Don Sloan announced public comments would lead off the meeting.

The first person to speak was Pipe Creek resident Patti Smith, who represented the Diamond J South.

She praised the county and asked the board to “figure out some rules to save our water; they have been needed for a long time.”

Smith said she firmly supported the 10-acre minimum lot size and stiff penalties for residents who have lots of five acres or less if they use over their limits. She also said she supports lots sizes of at least 400 feet across with a distance of at least 400 feet between wells.

The next speaker was Margo Denke, who represented the Tarpley area.

She said that she represented the Friends of Hondo Canyon. She remarked that she was supporting the rule change for domestic livestock wells.

Michelle Reich, representing the business owners and community around Medina Lake, spoke about reaching the agreement with the Bexar-Medina-Atascosa Counties Water Control and Improvement District No. 1 on the suit filed in 2013. She asked for the continuing problems be addressed by the TCEQ or by legislation.

“As a result of their operations, BMA has now accomplished draining Medina Lake twice in the last decade, eliminating its recharge benefit to the aquifer,” stated Reichle. She noted that Medina Lake was now at only 12.2% capacity and that numerous homeowners’ wells were going dry.

Reichle took issue with the representation in the BMA which does not include stakeholders from the Medina Lake area. She also noted that SAWS subsidizes 80% of the BMA’s income and was also not granted representation on the BMA Board and has not purchased water from them since 2013.

She also stated that BMA wastes over 75% of the water they release from Medina Lake by sending it down 312 miles of mostly dirt ditch canals where most of the water evaporates or seeps into the ground downstream. Only 10-15% of the property owners along the canal system purchase water from the BMA. She said that it takes four acres of water to deliver one acre of water to the farmers downstream. She exhorted the Board to help with the problem by providing a better way to provide farmers with water in a less wasteful manner.

Community leader and businessman Johnny Boyle spoke about raising the minimum lot size and asked about any studies that would determine if 10 acres or more would create more sustainability. He explained that he was not against growth but said that the County should think in the long term when making these decisions.

A letter from Gordon and Anita McBride was read into the meeting minutes. They stated that they were in favor of only 10 or more acres of lot size in any new subdivisions in Bandera County.

After public comment ended, President Sloan began the regular agenda of quarterly meeting of the BCRAGD. The Board accepted the minutes of the called meetings on May 19, 2022; on June 2, 2022; and on June 20, 2022.

General Manager David Mauk spoke about the Chapter 36 rules changes that would address any new subdivided lot as of September 1.

If the county did approve a subdivision and the lots come in at 5 acres, residents would have to apply for a permitted well that would have to be approved by the Board, as well as monitored and restricted, and be brought under “drought restrictions.” The Chapter 36 changes also took out a loophole about pumping water in recreational lakes or ponds.

The updated BCRAGD Groundwater Management Plan was adopted with minor changes. The Board approved a contracted agreement with Bandera County to conduct a routine election in November 2022. Two residential water well permits were approved. Both lots were just slightly under the five-acre limit.

The Board accepted the quarterly budget report presented by General Manager Mauk. He also gave an informational presentation on the drought stage, water conservation handouts and rainwater harvesting. He noted that the well permits are tracked on average with numbers from 2021. The meeting adjourned at 10:40 p.m.