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Edwards Aquifer News for 2018

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February 2018

City of Uvalde joins lawsuit against EAA

In early February, the City of Uvalde joined the lawsuit described below, which centers on EAA's rule for conversion of agricultural water rights to other uses. The plaintiff's attorney Celina Romero said that Uvalde's participation is "welcome news" and they "look forward to other area governfmental entities joining us in this fight." Uvalde officials said the city's economy would be threatened by loss of agricultural activity and the impact that would have on other businesses, should more water be transferred to other uses.

January 2018

Lawsuit filed over EAA's rule change for transfer of irrigation water

On January 16, the Uvalde County Underground Water Conservation District and George and Carolyn Ligocky filed suit in state district court in Uvalde to challenge rules changes made by EAA that make it easier to transfer irrigation water rights to other uses such as industrial and municipal.

The original legislation that created EAA provided that 50 percent of water rights granted in an initial permit for irrigation "must pass with the transfer of the irrigated land." In other words, farmers could only sell half their water. But there were provisions to allow additional transfers in cases where land could no longer be farmed. In December 2017, the EAA expanded the circumstances in which rights can be converted to other uses by adding categories for land that can no longer be used for agriculture because of rezoning, or acquisition by an entity with power of condemnation or eminent domain.

The plaintiffs contend that EAA has no authority to alter the law in this way. The lawsuit states the amended rules will result in greater pumping from the Edwards, forcing Uvalde county property owners to rely on shallow non-Edwards wells, and it asks the court to permanently prevent EAA from taking actions under the new rules.

Celina Romero, attorney for the District and the Ligockys, said “The state legislature did not empower the Edwards Aquifer Authority to alter a provision of state law and we have a high level of confidence that the courts will agree with us."

State Representative Tracy O. King, who represents the area in the Texas Legislature, also said the EAA lacks authority to make the rule change. “In this legislative district, water is a key resource, and I am unconvinced that the Edwards Aquifer Authority’s rule change is supported by the authority the legislature granted them. Before any of my constituents are adversely affected, or business interests in my district harmed, this issue absolutely needs to be fully vetted,” King said.

EAA had a different take on the matter. Chairwoman Luana Buckner issued a statement in which she stood by "our position that governmental entities are required to acknowledge the private property rights that exist in groundwater as the courts and lawmakers have determined. Our base irrigation groundwater conversion rules, which are the subject of this lawsuit, were developed 17 years ago and have evolved over time as an accommodation of those property rights so that owners of this type of groundwater could continue to exercise their rights if and when economic and market influences changed the nature of their property so that it could no longer be farmed. We look forward to defending this position on behalf of holders of Edwards groundwater rights."

In other words, EAA framed the issue as protecting private property rights, which courts in Texas almost always appear to favor.