Commentary

Water saga

Decisions by POSGCD will write next chapter in controversy

So, what’s next after a passionate, and sometimes contentious, meeting last week in which Alcoa’s application to drill 24 new water wells, and increase pumping from 32 existing ones, was thoroughly discussed in Milano.

First, there will have to be some decisions made by the Post Oak Savannah Groundwater Conservation District (POSGCD) board.

The board recessed last week’s session without voting on the permit application because one land owner filed as an “affected party” to the permit and district rules say that issue must be resolved between the permit applicant and the affected party before any action.

While there were plenty of fireworks at the meeting—one side sees Alcoa’s request as reasonable and supported by science, the other as a piratical raid on property supported by computer-game guesses—it’s interesting that a possible compromise materialized virtually under the radar.

More than one land owner came to the microphone and suggested if some form of mitigation could be written into the permit, they would be much more amenable to letting Alcoa (or someone) pump away.

The permit does not currently provide for any kind of mitigation, the pumper “fixing” wells which would be affected by a drawdown in the water table.

Although it was in pre-water district days, there’s a precedent for such mitigation. At the meeting it was reported that during a dewatering permit from 1988 to 2000 Alcoa replaced 125 wells and lowered, or otherwise modified, another 330.

Once the “affected party” issue is satisfied, mitigation or not, the permit must go back to the POSGCD for a vote.

What’s interesting is that, whether that vote is yes or no if Alcoa’s sale of Rockdale Operations property to LCRA goes through, the river authority will have to come back before the POSGCD and start over if it wants to pump and transport water from the property.

Then the whole thing starts all over.—M.B.


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2012-09-20 digital edition



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