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Edwards Aquifer News for 2016

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February 2016

Landmark Bragg v. EAA case ends with victory for landowners

On February 22, after hearing closing arguments in the Bragg v. EAA case, jurors spent the afternoon deliberating and found that Glenn and JoLynn Bragg were owed $2,551,490 by the EAA for unconstitutionally taking their private property. The decision marked an end to more than 10 years of litigation. "We're pleased to have it over," JoLynn Bragg said. "We can live with this." Including interest, the Braggs will eventually see more than $4 million in compensation.

Legal experts noted that in the end, additional issues remain and uncertainty continues to exist. Because the Supreme Court let the appellate decision stand and did not weigh in on the issue, there is still a lack of direction from the highest court. As is stands, the appellate court's ruling seems to tip the balance toward landowners when faced with limits to their water use imposed by groundwater districts.

Staff lawyers at Lexology, which provides legal analyses to business professionals, concluded that groundwater authorities should fear that landowners across the state will be encouraged to attack existing regulation on their pumping. They wrote "...landowners now have strong footing in the assertion that regulations limiting their ability to pump groundwater represent a "taking" that deprives them of their property right in the water underlying the land. In application, groundwater authorities could find that current and future regulations restricting a landowner's ability to pump groundwater could require compensation to landowners."

Also, it is not clear if the ruling will apply if property is purchased after the creation of a regulating water authority, or how future denials of pumping permits will be affected. Lexology noted "Until the Texas Supreme Court clarifies these issues, litigation will likely ensue and appellate court opinions could begin to splinter, thereby, further muddying groundwater regulations across Texas."

For the whole story of the Bragg case, see the extended write-up on the Laws and Regulations page.

Bragg v EAA goes to trial

On February 16, mediation failed in the Bragg v. EAA case and a jury selection began. The jury will be asked to determine the amount of compensation owed to pecan farmers Glenn and JoLynn Bragg by the EAA.

January 2016

Mediation scheduled in Bragg v. EAA case

On January 14, William Hoover of the Hondo-Anvil Herald reported a mediation session had been scheduled for January 25 where parties will attempt to agree on the amount of compensation owed to pecan farmers Glenn and JoLynn Bragg by the EAA for unconstitutionally taking their private property. The case was decided in May of 2015 after more than a decade of litigation and marked the first time that a landowner in Texas had a ruling that groundwater rights were taken by a groundwater conservation district. If mediation fails, the case is scheduled to go back to a trial court on February 16. For the whole story of the Bragg case, see the extended write-up on the Laws and Regulations page.

Government Canyon may grow by 230 acres

On January 4, the Express-News reported a 230 acre tract known as Goodhorse Ranch may become the latest addition to Government Canyon State Natural Area. Though the deal is not yet final and would require city council approval, the city and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department are moving forward with purchase plans. This would be the latest acquisition under the city's Edwards Aquifer Protection Program, which is funded by a 1/8 cent sales tax that citizens have voted in favor of four times since 2000.

Government Canyon State Natural Area is currently about 12,000 acres and was the focus of the first major battle over the Edwards Aquifer in the early 1970s. For the complete story see A Water Quality History.