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PRESS RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: IMPARTIALITY OF MPGCD CALLED INTO QUESTION AS CITY OF FORT STOCKTON WITHDRAWS PRODUCTION PERMIT APPLICATION FOR THE EMERGENCY BACKUP WATER SYSTEM AFTER LACK OF GENERAL MANAGER RECOMMENDATION, MPGCD BOARD SUPPORT AND DENIAL OF SOAH RIGHTS (PLEASE SEE THE POWERPOINT GIVEN BY THE CITY DURING THE HEARING AND HEAR THE OFFICIAL RECORDINGS FOUND ON THE CITY’S WEBSITE FOR MORE INFORMATION)
MPGCD Preferred City Lack Production Permit, Lose Rights, Violate Statutes, & Mandates
The Middle Pecos Groundwater Conservation District’s (MPGCD) preferred course of action would rather the City of Fort Stockton (the City) knowingly reduce its water rights, violate Texas statutes and legislative mandates instead of simply granting a production permit for the emergency backup water system on a registered well serving the citizens, business, governments, and hospitals (the Community) since 1930.
In early April 2016, the City working with the MPGCD determined it was relying on two registered wells to serve the Community in emergency situations. However, the registered wells did not have water production permits due to a clerical error made by the City in 2005. Immediately, the City submitted a general water production permit to be able to legally access the City’s water rights established in 1930.
During the hearing, it was clear the majority of MPGCD board members would not approve the permit application, the City requested a State Office of Administrative Hearing (SOAH) which was denied by the MPGCD. The rules and procedures of the MPGCD impose certain requirements on both applicants and on the MPGCD Board. Throughout the course of the preliminary hearing on the City’s permit application, it was never clear if the MPGCD was following their own mandatory procedures. Following the City withdrawing its application, Weldon Blackwelder stated “bring it back and shoot straight with us but if you are after marketing water it’s not going to fly… I have an email in my pocket that says that Republic is going to buy 4000 a-f from you.” The City does not have any agreement or contract to sell water to Republic Water Company or any other company.
This statement above calls into question MPGCD’s position and compliance with the State of Texas Open Meeting Statutes related to the City’s permit for emergency use application. The above email was never discussed during the open portion of the hearing prior to the City withdrawing its application. Further, John Dorris MPGCD board member can be heard on the official MPGCD open meetings recordings whispering to either other MPGCD water board members or their water attorney “somebody needs to tell them why they are not getting a permit, just tell them.”
The City Council is unwilling to jeopardize the long-term needs of this Community for an immediate loss of production permits, water rights, and intentional violation of Texas Statutes, and Texas Legislative mandates. The City Council demands an explanation from the MPGCD Board and Staff, as John Dorris suggest to tell the Community why WE are not getting a permit for the emergency backup water system. The MPGCD’s lack of support and transparency for the use of the City’s wells and water rights is unconscionable and likely illegal according to Texas state law.
Without MPGCD Board Majority Support or SOAH Rights, Production Permit Withdrawn
The permit application for 960 a-f public use for the emergency backup water system and 30 a-f industrial use is in addition to the 8,081 a-f historic and existing (“HE”) permits for the Belding well field. This Community has depended on these two registered wells and water rights, covered under this permit application, since the 1930s. The City realized the two wells did not have production permits and applied for them earlier this month. During the preliminary hearing on the permit application, the City and the Board of the MPGCD could not reach an agreement after the MPGCD General Manager would not make clear a recommendation. The City believes, based on actual historic growth data, the water requirements of our Community will exceed 8,081 a-f by 2030. This belief is supported by actual historic and economic data, which exceeds the projections relied upon by MPGCD that were shown to be historically inaccurate. During the preliminary hearing, the MPGCD indicated a desire for the City to merely incorporate the two wells into the existing HE permits. Such an action may not be supported by the MPGCD rules since it incorporates a change of use of 30 a-f. These two wells are over 9 miles away from the Belding well field and are not considered replacement wells. The City requested a State Office of Administrative Hearing (SOAH) according to MPGCD rule 11.10.e as the General Manager did not recommend the permit application for the emergency backup water system as a whole, not in parts, to the Board of the MPGCD. MPGCD refused to acknowledge the City’s right to a SOAH. Since the parties could not agree, the City withdrew its permit application.
Blackwelder’s Email and Dorris Comments Calls into Question MPGCD’s Motivation
Prior to the City withdrawing its permit, John Dorris whispered to other members of the board or the water attorney “somebody needs to tell them why they are not getting a permit, just tell them.” Weldon Blackwelder, Board Member of the MPGCD, said immediately after the City’s withdrew the application that he had an email in his pocket stating that the City was going to be a water marketer and sell 4,000 a-f to Republic Water. The City has not received from MPGCD the mentioned specific email he has referred to immediately after withdrawal of the permit application. The City was not made aware of any emails that would affect our permit application prior to withdrawing the application. Any action taken by the City on such an agreement would have to be included on an agenda for a City Council meeting open to the public. As detailed in the City’s presentation, the City is focused on repairing the Community’s infrastructure which is seriously deteriorated, significantly past its’ useful life, and must be replaced. The City made an open records request for the email or any electronic communications and is convinced the email impacted the MPGCD position on this permit application. It is clearly not proper for the MPGCD to rely on an email from a third party that is not made a part of the public record in determining how to proceed on the City’s application.
The City would not accomplish the Texas Legislature’s mandate to develop a 50 year water plan which is the City’s responsibility not the MPGCD Board.
The City Council is unwilling to jeopardize the long-term water needs of this Community for the immediate loss of production permits, water rights, accomplishing legislative mandates, and violating the Water Code. This Community has witnessed issues caused by the City having to make short term decisions which greatly impact the long-term stability and viability of this Community.
If the City Council had agreed to the MPGCD demands the following losses would have occurred:
- Instead of acquiring additional production permits now, the City would have to come back in 10 years and hope available a-f exist in the Edwards Trinity Aquifer (already over allocated by MPGCD);
- If the City pumps the wells without a production permit, then the City would knowingly violate the Texas Water Code; and
- The City would be effectively reducing its water rights at Belding and within the City by incorporating these two wells into the preexisting HE permit if such incorporation is even allowed by law since the wells are 9 miles from the Belding well field and would include changing the historic use of 30 a-f for Industrial use;