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Victoria Groundwater Conservation Board wants to leave groundwater law as is

By BY DIANNA WRAY
Feb. 28, 2011 at 9:04 p.m.
Updated Feb. 27, 2011 at 8:28 p.m.

The Victoria Groundwater Conservation District board members listen as local landowners discuss Senate Bill 332. The VGCD passed a resolution urging the senate to keep groundwater law unchanged.

The Victoria Groundwater Conservation District board members listen as local landowners discuss Senate Bill 332. The VGCD passed a resolution urging the senate to keep groundwater law unchanged.

After a special meeting on Monday night, members of the Victoria Groundwater Conservation District are headed to Austin on Tuesday to tell the state legislature to do nothing to existing water laws.

On Monday evening, VGCD board members met for a specially-called meeting to hear discussion on groundwater rights issues and vote on a proposed resolution on Senate Bill 332.

The bill is being heard by the Senate Committee on Natural Resources on Tuesday and, if passed, it may significantly change the law on groundwater rights in the state.

Landowners say the bill will reaffirm their property rights to their groundwater, giving them vested rights to the water beneath them, while those against the bill say that it will weaken groundwater districts, who regulate rule of capture and issue permits for water use.

The water district board's resolution urges the Senate to leave the law alone.

During the meeting, VGCD general manager Tim Andruss gave a brief background on the issue, noting that about six to eight months ago, groundwater districts across the state began hearing about proposals to revise the law concerning groundwater rights.

The movement is led by landowner associations, including the Texas Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, the Texas Farm Bureau and the Texas Wildlife Association, Andruss said.

After more than an hour of discussion, during which the handful of landowners in attendance were given the chance to ask questions, the board voted unanimously to approve the resolution that calls for leaving the law unchanged.

Bob McCan, a local landowner, urged the board to support changes to the law, noting that while the current board is made up of fellow landowners who understand his concerns, future board members - who may not be landowners - may not be so sympathetic.

Landowner Walter Womack, of McFaddin, echoed McCan's thoughts.

"My concern comes that y'all may not live forever and my daughter's going to come along, and I don't want her to have to face a board with opposite views," Womack said, while the others nodded in agreement.

Victoria resident Bill Richter said he believes the proposed changes would pit groundwater districts and landowners against each other. Changes like this can also have more impact than people expect.

"These things can have tentacles that can reach pretty far," Richter said.

Andruss and VGCD board president Mark Meek plan to submit the resolution to keep the current law unchanged during the hearing on Tuesday, VGCD board president Mark Meek said.

"The reason my recommendation to the board is to maintain the current situation is because we don't have this problem in Victoria County to my knowledge," Andruss said.

Meek agreed that it seemed wiser to leave the law alone for now.

"I think it opens a Pandora's box of what-ifs, and I think, personally, that it can do a lot more harm than good," Meek said.

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