July 16, 2008

Entities Asking Groundwater District for Permission to Use Water for Recreation

By Kelly Young, Jacksonville Daily Progress, Texas

Jul. 16--Back in April, for the first time in their history, the board of directors of the Neches and Trinity Valleys Groundwater Conservation District allowed an applicant to use the district's groundwater to build a recreational surface lake. On the agenda for the July meeting, the board will have to determine whether or not to allow a second applicant to do the same.

"Like the situation in April with Elmwood Bradley Oaks, Cherokee Tree Farm is seeking to make a change to their operating permits to allow for a couple of ponds," said Roy Rodgers, general manager of NTVGCD. "They have operating permits for irrigation, and they want to add recreation to the permits as well. When you change the purpose of a well it requires a new permit."

When a permit was issued to Elmwood Bradley Oaks, which is located in Anderson County near Bradford, the district set a number of conditions on the agreement; including a requirement that meters be put on the wells and that the water can be paid for. They also reserved the right to end the recreational use of the water if it is determined to be in the public interest to do so.

According to Rodgers, Cherokee Tree Farm, in northwest Cherokee County, has objected to similar stipulations being placed on their operating permit.

"We would want to do an agreement with conditions to it, just like we did in the last situation, and they don't like that. We are saying they can do it, but we would want to have better control of the wells and we would want to make sure it's a non-exempt well so they have to pay for the water, and that's what they are objecting to," he said.

Cherokee Tree Farm has applied for permits with the state for the new lakes, but their applications have been held up until they receive approval from the district. They have indicated to Rodgers that their attorney will be present at Thursday's meeting.

Rodgers said East Texas is able to allow some of its groundwater to be used for recreational purposes because of the current abundance of water in our area, but he said the district needs to be able to restrict the water's use in times of need.

"In this area right now we have a lot of groundwater. In West Texas they don't have the water to allow it to be used in lakes, but in East Texas right now we do," Rodgers said. "So since we have the water now, we are letting people use it as long as there are restrictions so we have the right to curtail it if we ever need the water."

The directors will also hear updates from their attorney, John Stover, regarding two pieces of legal action the district is undertaking. Rodgers claims the Pine Mountain and Caddo Creek subdivisions, in Anderson and Henderson counties respectively, and Lake Palestine Associates, located near Bullard, have failed to obtain the necessary operating permits and haven't been paying their fees.

Two public hearings will be held regarding drilling applications by Moore Station Water Systems Council and Aqua Texas Inc. for public water supply wells. The former is seeking water for the Moore Station community of Henderson County and the latter would place their well just east of Bullard.

"We are required to give public notice to surrounding property owners and all well owners within a quarter-mile of the proposed well, to give them an opportunity to express opposition to the well if they choose," Rodgers said.

Some citizens have already submitted written opposition to one of the wells, but they did not indicate whether they would attend the public hearings or not.

Other agenda items include:

--approval of the minutes from previous meetings;

--paying the bills; and

--discussion of district reports.

The NTVGCD board of directors regularly meets at 1:30 p.m. on the third Thursday of each month, at their offices at 212 S. Main St. in Jacksonville. All meetings of the NTVGCD are open to the public.


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