The report of the November meeting of the Neches and Trinity Valleys Groundwater Conservation District (NTVGCD) in the Athens Review and Jacksonville Daily Progress was very disturbing as one considers the direction the district is heading.

The general manager of the district was quoted in the Jacksonville Daily Progress as follows: “Wells on golf courses are commercial wells, they are not exempt wells. They have to meter and report their pumpage, and they have to pay three cents per thousand on all their water pumps.”

“The board voted to assess them minimum penalties of $120 per well, if they file for operating permits and do all their paperwork by Nov. 30. If they don’t have that done by Nov. 30, then the Board authorized our attorney to file the violations in court. Under our current rules, the penalty assessed if taken to court would be $9,940.”

It is interesting how time changes things. On October 6, 2003, the Athens Review, quoting the NTVGCD board member who is now the general manager: “At the time Rodgers said the district had no desire to police the wells, but he also added that when unregistered wells are discovered, fines can be levied for as much as $10,000, according to state law. We’re obviously not going to do that, he said (emphasis added).”

Along the same line, an October 24, 2003, statement from the office of Senator Todd Staples; “As a conservative, I believe government must be efficient, address citizens’ needs and protect our rights. Water is a precious natural resource, and its protection is vital. Identifying wells within the groundwater conservation district is an important step in protecting our water. In no way should the district infringe upon the rights of private property owners. The best way to insure this does not occur is to have owners of private property involved every step of the way.”

In reporting on a meeting involving Senator Staples the November 4, 2003, the Athens Review had this to say: “Staples made several other points of interest to the audience. Among them;

• Water wells will not be metered in this district (emphasis added), though they are metered in some districts in Texas where there is a shortage of water.”

Probably it was said best by former Texas Water Commissioner Cliff Johnson as reported by Wayne Stewart of the Palestine Herald-Press: “If you’re not careful (the groundwater district is) just like any government agency ... sometimes you can forget the original intent when you create it and it gets out of hand.”

“Johnson said Anderson and the other counties in the district have an abundance of groundwater and the intent of the legislation establishing the groundwater district was to protect its water from outside users possibly selling the area’s water to large metropolitan areas.”

“I’m not saying we don’t need the district, I’m just saying ‘guys, you need to be aware of what this does and how you’re doing it,’” Johnson cautioned. “When you start going on people’s properties and registering their wells, is the next step metering? Is the next step saying you can’t have it? Is the next step saying you can’t have a well?”

“If anybody wants to take water out of Anderson County then by golly they need to meter it and they need to pay for it,” Johnson continued. “In county, you shouldn’t be messing with people’s wells.”

It seems un-American, or at least un-Texan, for a landowner who has paid thousands of dollars to put in a well, to then have to pay to use the water he already owns.

Jerry Thornhill

Athens

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