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Q&A: Rice farmer talks of reviving groundwater district

By ERICA RODRIGUEZ
June 15, 2010 at 1:15 a.m.

Mike Skalicky, president of Texana Groundwater District

IF YOU GO

WHAT: Texana Groundwater District meeting

WHEN: Thursday, 1 p.m.

WHERE: Jackson County Services Building kitchen in Edna.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Contact Mike Michael_skalicky@me.com.

Texana Groundwater District board members:

Mike Skalicky

Jim Revel

Bowen Malek

Ray Brundrett

Robert Martin

GANADO - Mike Skalicky, a 34-year-old Ganado native, rice farmer and rancher, is the new president of the revived Texana Groundwater District.

The district was nearly defunct after 10 years of operating with without a funding source and four failed attempts to secure an ad valorem tax.

The county is one of only two in the area that do not have a groundwater district, Skalicky said. He believes interest has been revived in lieu of controversy surrounding the Palemetto Bend Stage II project, which could involve damming the Lavaca River.

Skalicky and the five-member district were appointed by outgoing members. They held their first meeting in May but hope to be part of a formal election in November.

Until then the board is working on its first project, which involves submitting a management plan to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality by November.

Q: Why did the district almost become defunct?

A: Lack of funding. Basically we had a water district that had no money to function ... They had tried four times to get an ad valorem tax passed. It was always a close vote, but it always ended up being defeated. At that time there were threats of San Antonio coming and pumping water . There was a lot of news about saving your groundwater and future so everybody was gung-ho about keeping your groundwater. Later on, after all that kind of settled down, people just kind of lost interest.

Q: In a nutshell what does a groundwater district do?

A: Mainly, we want to regulate wells so we know where they're at and we know what size they are. Some of our rules entail well spacing ... Another thing is the purging of old, abandoned wells to keep from contaminating the aquifers - monitoring the water aquifer level, checking water quality.

Q: Do you have someone to do this now?

A: What we'll probably end up doing is hiring a water manager . and they kind of take care of all the monitoring and record-keeping. And of course we'll need a secretary.

Q: If a tax was approved, what would the money go toward?

A: The salary of the general manager and the salary of the secretary and whatever we would need it for. We as a board would decide that. It would go directly to benefit the county. Of course, all the board members are voluntary positions. We don't get paid for anything. It takes away from family time, but I feel it's important enough to secure groundwater for my kids in the future.

Q: What has revived this interest in forming the district?

A: Mainly, I think it would be the Stage II. There were some people that were landowners in that area that decided to try to re-interest the public in saving your water and conserving your water and at the same time we knew that the old water board was defunct in its management plan. It was kind of an 11th-hour deal. We decided we had a little interest and decided to give it one more shot.

Q: What are some local concerns against forming the district?

A: I know one was the eminent domain power that the groundwater district has. I was even concerned with that. Why does a groundwater district that deals with something that's under the ground . why would eminent domain be needed? . (The focus is) getting that removed from our founding documents. Another thing, of course, is the tax. You know, people don't want another tax but what people don't realize is we're asking for a cent per $100,000 evaluation . That's $10 a year. That's a burger and fries, and I get to protect the water that's under Jackson County.

Q: What's the biggest misconception of a groundwater district?

A: The citizens are paying for agriculture water needs being that they're the biggest users. What people don't realize is every city in this county uses water. Everybody. You can't live without water.

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