Serving Kerr County with a Conscience

Flood Protection Inadequate in Kerr County

If you are new to Kerr County, and even if you have lived here for some time, you may not know that you live in “Flash Flood Alley”—an area that has some of the worst flash-flood prone land in the world. In the past 83 years, Kerr County has had some truly horrifying floods. The one most remembered for our area, for the deaths and the property devastation, was the August 2, 1978 flood—but other major floods occurred in 1932, 1946, 1952, 1987, 1991, 1997, and, the last big flood, in 2002.

While most people believe that they won’t be affected by a big flood, the truth is, they are wrong; if anything, the chance of experiencing a disastrous flood in the Hill Country has increased. Global warming has created extremes in weather, resulting in more severe tropical storms sweeping in from the Gulf of Mexico. The drought that has plagued the Hill Country since 2006—with the terrible, worst year of 2011—has denuded terraces, and swept away topsoil, exposing the bedrock of the ancient seas. Water flows faster across these devastated landscapes.

There are many issues involved in floodplain management, and in the next few weeks we intend to explore these issues and explain why, at the current time, protection from killer floods is not being handled properly in Kerr County. (See “Old River Road RV Park Being Built in the Special Flood Hazard Zone.”)

Altering the floodplain of the Guadalupe River, as well as the floodplains of its major streams, changes the way that water flows and is allowed to drain. Under federal law, FEMA—the Federal Emergency Management Agency—is responsible to insure that citizens have protection from flooding. FEMA enters into contracts with local governments to carry out floodplain management. Kerr County’s floodplain management is carried out by Road and Bridge, and the county hires a part-time engineer, John Hewitt, as the “Flood Plain Administrator” (FPA.) The City of Kerrville has its own FPA, and manages the floodplain within its city limits. Even though there are many issues with floodplain management right outside the city—in the ETJ (Extra-Territorial Jurisdiction), these areas are managed by the county.

Today, more than ever before, the politics of floodplain management place people at risk. It’s all about money. Developers do not want to be told that they cannot build in the floodplain. Cities and counties don’t want to be told that they will not receive tax revenues from a particular land parcel because it is in the floodplain, and should not be developed. Private property owners do not want government interfering and telling them what to do with their land. Sadly, there are corrupt engineers that manipulate the floodplain to allow developers the maximum use of their property—at the expense of the public.

Do you live in an area that has flooded in the past? In the final analysis, you should find out. Subdivision developers won’t tell you, realtors won’t tell you, and most of the time, local government won’t tell you. The lives of your family, your pets, and your property may depend upon taking the initiative yourself and preparing for the next big flood.

Areas that we will be exploring:

  • Why does eastern Kerr County—the Ingram, Hunt, Kerrville, Center Point, and Comfort communities—experience such deadly flash floods? What climatic forces are at work that create record rainfalls in short periods of time?
  • Have we learned from the floods of the past? “Historic Floods in Kerr County”
  • Eyewitness accounts of flood survivors
  • Floodplain Administration: How are floodplains determined in Kerr County? FEMA requires that communities be involved in floodplain determination. This hasn’t happened in Kerr County.
  • As a citizen, what rights do you have, and what access to local government do you have, if you are concerned about flooding around your property?
  • Between Kerrville and Comfort, there are several major streams that flow into the Guadalupe River. In the past, these streams have contributed significantly to death and destruction by floods; yet most of these streams are unrecognized, not studied, and not taken into account when developers want to build in the floodplain.
  • Much of Kerr County has FEMA maps that are old, hurriedly put together in the first place, and are just plain wrong. What can we do to update these maps?
  • As a community, what can we do to insure that floods of the past will not be forgotten, and that newcomers are more aware of the dangers of living in “Flash Flood Alley?”
  • Without adequate scientific information, floodplain decisions cannot be made accurately. How can we all work to insure that confluence water rises, cresting heights, and water inflow from streams are gauged and recorded?

Mary Matthews

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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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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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Kerr County Conscience Meeting, April 21, 2010


Please join us for coffee and dessert, as we enjoy good interaction between folks who are concerned about…
· Protecting our property and families from the adverse affects of runaway development…
· The lowering of single family, private property values…
· Stopping unwise floodplain management that jeopardizes lives and property…
· Preserving rural character…
· Stopping the downward spiral in our Kerr County quality of life.
Our meeting is set for:
Wednesday, April 21, 2010 American Legion Hall, Center Point 7:00 p.m.

Please pass the word about the meeting to interested individuals. Thanks!

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