Serving Kerr County with a Conscience

Quarry to Reservoir Questions

During closed meetings between the Upper Guadalupe River Authority (UGRA) and the Kerr County Commissioner’s, the possibility of converting the Martin Marietta gravel pit on Highway 27 to a water reservoir has been discussed. On February 8, 2016, the Commissioner’s Court voted unanimously to complete the application for state loans to study the project’s feasibility. Commissioner Letz noted, “We have to go $250,00.” If approved, principal and interest will be deferred for eight years after which the county will budget annually to pay off the loan.

Mike Mecke, a Kerrville resident and retired water specialist with Texas A&M University offers the following alternative and comment. Frances Lovett

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February 9, 2016

County: why is the County spending approx. $125,000 of our tax money on a proposal to convert old MM pits into water holding ponds? Where and what makes that part of the Kerr County Commissioner's Court mission and budget? Or even UGRA’s? They are not water purveyors [yet?]. Such an action would potentially save MM hundreds of thousands by taking real property restoration out of the “plan” and make them good guys by donating the pits to hold water for...............? maybe Kerrville [uphill pipeline], Center Point, even Kendall County/Comfort? or other not yet public plans? As a retired natural resources manager and water specialist, I can say that normally gravel and sand pits are the least likely sites to hold water - leak like sieves. And the engineers could go down to the Kerr County USDA offices and get a county soil survey on aerial photo maps and find out what soil materials are in the pit and the area quickly and for free, plus the NRCS would come out and do and on-site review most likely- also free. Both of those water permit desiring agencies should have copies of that Kerr County Soils book on their desk if they are not totally asleep. Almost every county in the USA now has that mapping expertise along with engineering and other advice for each soil found it each county. On many counties, the survey can now be found on-line as well........ courtesy of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), US Dept. of Agriculture. Located across Water Street from our CITY Library, which we county taxpayers can use if we pay and annual fee - but, that is another issue.

If UGRA and the County still insist they need a Quarter of a Million Dollar engineering analysis of the site to tell them a good, mining grade liner will be needed to hold water in those MM pits, then some good public explanations need to be made to all of us dummies out in the county. And then, explain why are these pits the best option - in these locations, losing what NRCS guys? maybe 8 to 10 feet of water a year to evaporation and subject to damage from floods and infusion of flood waters.

I disagree with one answer given in the last meeting that the pit(s) are NOT in the Guadalupe River floodplain. If not, we would not have the rich, deep and easily minable gravel on those sites - laid down by the river and previous floods. I bet the 100 yr. floodplain is up to Hwy. 27 or even on the northside of it. So, publish the floodplain maps too and quit dodging good questions with vague or no answers such as at the Public Meeting. I have never heard upper level managers of such a highly reputable, national company claim to know so little about their issue and their local business operation? Very strange.

Mike Mecke

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Geology of Correlative Rights

Whose water is it? What's it worth? Well owners rights, new laws and the reality of geology. Click this link for the informative article Geology of Correlative Rights.

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Water Availability Studies

Kerr County is the only Texas Hill country County that does not require water availability studies for new developments.

I pulled up a newspaper article from 2006 (wow can't believe I found it) that says a little more about it. Read the articlehere.

Let's hope Bandera County doesn't copy us in this regard as well.

Later,

Mary J. Matthews for Kerr County Conscience
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OVERHEARD

Hill Country Alliance Discussion Session, Oct. 20, 2011, in response to comments by various Kerr County community leaders that downstream metropolitan water usage is the cause of Kerr County's water crisis:

"We in Kerr County can negatively affect downstream by overpumping our groundwater and the river--but, in general, we are not affected by what downstream users do [there may be rare exceptions]. Poor watershed management in our region affects our groundwater and springflows. The effects of overpumping groundwater and/or droughts, depletes our springs, which are the main sources of our creeks and the Guadalupe River."

Mike Mecke,
Native of the area (San Antonio), grew up during the Fifties Drought; a retired Water Planner, San Antonio Water System. Retired Water Specialist TX Water Resources Institute @Texas A&M - covered from Region J (Kerr Co.) and across all of West Texas. Current member of Guadalupe River Environmental Flows Committee and Advisory Board for Hill Country Alliance. Co-founder and Advisory Board, Texas Riparian Association.
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Taxpayers Take Note!


Taxpayers Take Note!
You may soon be asked to pay for the cost of collecting data when developers are drilling privately owned permitted “public” wells in Kerr County. The term “public” just means that the well extends into the Trinity Aquifers. Up to now, the developer of the public well has paid for the data logging equipment usage and a geologists time to collect the data and submit it to the Headwaters Groundwater Conservation Board. Costs can range from $4000 to $6000. I believe both conservative and more liberal thinking citizens can agree that the developer, who will obviously benefit the most from a successful project, should pay for the data collection. Developers pay for other costs including streets, sewer, curb, park space, etc. that they recover from those who buy into or rent portions of their development.

Kerr County has one of the outstanding hydrogeological pictures of the aquifers and well water supplies of any county in Texas. HGCD has monitor wells in place paid for by taxpayer funds. They are monitoring several privately owned wells with the cooperation of well owners. The water in our deep aquifers may take 2000 years to recharge. We may now be in a 30 year drought cycle. Good science can help us manage our water supply. Present and new water users will pay to keep good data collection science in ongoing. Let’s have the developers pay to collect the data for new wells coming on line.

Mark your calendars for October 19(Hearing on Rescinding Rule 8.5) and November 9th(the HGCD Board will vote to Rescind Rule 8.5) I know that about 75% of the voters in Kerr County tend be conservative voters and desire to keep the individualistic entrepreneurial spirit alive. Now is the time to attend the above meetings and let the HGCD Board of Directors know that developers should pay their own way. If a $5000 data collection cost related to developing a $100,000 to $250,000 “public” well would nix a developer’s project then the developer should review the business plan. Spread over a 100 home project the cost is $50 per home. These seemingly minor costs passed to the taxpayer can result over time in less money available for your children and grandchildren’s education. Education in Texas is a better investment right now than providing more financial incentives to developers.

Gary C. McVey, Former Prec. 1 Director, HGCD

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***TAXPAYER WATER ALERT***

A public hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, October 19 to gain public opinion on Headwaters Groundwater Conservation District board member Pratt's proposal to switch the cost of well sample collection and analysis from new subdivision drillers to the HGCD thus the taxpayers of Kerr County.

Attention Private Well Owners: Calls to Kerr County Conscience indicate a continuing pattern of misinformation by the usual suspects i.e. a few unscrupulous developers, realtors and investors in Kerr County. The unfortunate pattern is to convince private well owners the HGCD is trying to meter, regulate pumping or assess fees to current or new private wells. That is not the issue.

The Issue: If Mr. Pratt's proposal passes the cost of well samples and analysis for large well permits (new subdivision/commercial/industrial development) will become the responsibility of the HGCD and thus the county taxpayers. Under current rules the driller/developer pays the cost of collection and analysis.

Background: Development, whether residential or commercial needs to take place where there is an adequate well water supply. Unlike surrounding counties our Kerr County Commissioner's Court does not require new subdivision developers to establish a reliable water source before building. The HGCD is largely dependent upon well samples to determine areas of future sustainable water sources within the county. This information is currently obtained by securing well samples during the drilling of new large permitted wells which are usually for a new subdivision and public water supply for the subdivision. The information collected does not affect the well being drilled but allows for mapping of availability and future planning and wise development within the county. A fee for the collection and analysis of the well sample is $4000 to $6000 currently paid by the driller/developer. There is no such requirement for domestic well drilling only those developments/new public water systems with multiple connections or pumping huge amounts of water.

Questions: 1) Should the county taxpayers bear the expense of well samples for large water systems who will be selling the water for profit to the new subdivision residents thus making a profit from the same taxpayers main water supply--- the Trinity Aquifer?
2) Can you expect private well owners as taxpayers to bear the expense of well samples and also live with the new subdivision residents next door pumping their aquifer to the point of depletion?
3) Do county residents deserve appropriate data collection to assure reasonable growth where there is a reliable water source?

Beware: Board member Pratt has been joined by board president, Gordan Morgan, in suggesting we may not need this information at all. Just stop collecting the samples.
1) Would the absence of any absolute scientific information on groundwater stores in the county lead to the same unplanned growth and water shortages Kendall County is experiencing.
2) Is it fair to sell new county residents property without a reliable water source supported by scientific data?

Taxpayers should attend this meeting to voice their opinions. Developers, realtors, and investors will be there in force and they carry a lot of weight with some board members.

October 19th 1:30pm UGRA building

F. Lovett

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Open Letter to Kerrville Daily Times

Mr. Armstrong,


Thank you and the KDT for your continued coverage of water issues. I hope you will be able to correct a statement in yesterday's edition. Specifically, "restrictions imposed by the state on how much water the city can pull from the Guadalupe River have curtailed the city's safe operating capacity". Actually, there is almost no water in the Guadalupe River to pull. TCEQ only requires the city to maintain the same river flow out of Town Lake that flows into the lake during periods of low flow. During periods of above normal flow the city is required to simply maintain normal flow over the dam. There has been very little flow into Town Lake for months and the TCEQ cannot produce additional river water. The city of Kerrville has free access to all the water in Town Lake they simply must assure that the same amount flows over the dam as flows into the lake.

You should be aware that Charlie Hastings, Director of Public Works, has blamed the TCEQ's watermaster program for Kerrville water restrictions in previous years by promoting the idea that the city is being punished. Your article implies that untruth is being promoted again. The TCEQ (state) does not dictate anything beyond assuring the river continues to flow. I hope you will take a critical look at the facts surrounding river pumping and provide a factual analysis to your readers.

The Kerr County Conscience website provides historical data from the USGS gauges located along the river in Kerr County. I believe a brief check of this data is invaluable to understanding that our current river water situation is indeed a crisis which we cannot blame on the state. Click here to view this data.

Frances Lovett

East Kerr County

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WILL GROWTH AFFECT OUR WATER?

By: Mike Mecke, Kerrville

Natural Resource Manager & Water Specialist – Retired


YES! It seems the destiny of Texas is to grow. We are exploding in population from within, from out-of-state – all together it is a very serious picture. Texas, for the most part, has limited water resources. Much of the growth is occurring along or west of I-35/I-37, which is a region known for frequent and often severe droughts. The semi-arid Central Texas’ Hill Country is where vegetation and climate from the East meets plants and climate from the West and the deserts beyond. And now, where old, largely German or just pioneer-settled towns meets tens of thousands of new comers…… us!

A high percentage of our new Hill Country newcomers came here from wetter regions or out of state. At least, that seems to be true in Kerr, Kendall and Gillespie Counties. Many of our younger or new Texans did not endure the Drought of the Fifties, as many older residents did. That intense seven to ten year drought (depending upon where you lived) was a character builder and a severe trial especially for Texas farmers and ranchers. Some turned to new irrigation afterwards. Many did not make it. You must read our Texas “bible” for those times by the late, great Elmer Kelton “The Time it Never Rained”. Elmer was at his best in that absorbing fifties novel of a family and a boy growing up and existing on a Texas ranch at that time. He makes you feel that hot, dusty drought and see the social conditions - they endure in your mind!

Growth and expanding population, home building and new businesses seem to be the main goals of most city officials, councils and the development community. That viral disease has seized even small town Texas and the Hill Country seems to be a major target area due to its beauty, climate, many rivers, springs and convenient location to major cities. We seem to be in the process of sometimes killing or destroying what we came here to enjoy and appreciate in these quaint small towns with their clear rivers, history and peaceful rural life.

The Hill Country and many areas of Texas cannot handle a lot of growth simply because there are not the water supplies to support higher populations, especially during prolonged, severe drought. Many new residents now want their homes and towns to resemble “back home” with large lush green landscapes, parks and golf courses. Years ago, water was not an issue in most cities and towns. Now it is!

There is little or no understanding of a term that is familiar to ranchers called“carrying capacity”. On a ranch or in a pasture, it means the numbers of animals, including livestock, deer and exotics, which can be maintained without damaging the desired rangeland vegetation. In good years and in drought these numbers will be managed to fit
the conditions. It is always limited by the production of desired forage and by rainfall.

2.
Mecke – Growth & Water


Personally, I think towns, cities, counties and regions also have a sustainable carrying capacity for people. Water is the limiting factor usually. There is a practical and ethical limit to how much water we can beg, borrow, buy or steal from adjoining neighbors without damaging either them or the environment. These issues are now facing Texans from Amarillo to the Rio Grande Valley and from El Paso east to Dallas, San Antonio or Houston.

Many areas of the state are now beginning to realize that our groundwater – aquifers– do not exist on county lines, so geographic groups of counties utilizing the same aquifers are forming Groundwater Management Areas (GMA’s). In Kerr, we are in GMA-9. This is an improvement in groundwater management and protection as people then work together to arrive at plans for water pumping and to derive a view of what they want their aquifer to look like in the distant future……maybe: the same as now, or wells averaging 20 ft. lower, or other standards? It is causing some heartburn for people in neighboring counties or towns with differing goals for their groundwater and their area’s growth. Some of us live in small towns because we like small towns. Others may want unlimited growth or financial rewards and would be happy to see a big city grow up in our Hill Country.

Too much well pumping affects groundwater levels and spring flows. This can be a disaster for our springs, creeks and rivers - especially in a long drought. All Hill Country streams arise from springs. Downstream bays and estuaries would suffer from reduced freshwater flow and nutrients. It is all connected isn’t it?

Excessive growth is becoming more and more important across the state as we continue to grow in often poorly planned or not well organized developments and communities. Get involved locally in water meetings. Texas needs to have smart growth. Water is NOT like any other “commodity” as there is no substitute!

Truly, Water is Life!

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