Groundwater Conservation District hosts contentious hearings

0
20

Public hearing attendance concerning groundwater permits in Culberson County

Photo by Lisa Morton

By Adrian Gilmore

             The Culberson County Groundwater Conservation District (CCGCD) held two public hearings last week with an impressive turnout of citizens, farmers and local permit holders from Culberson and surrounding counties.  The District received administratively complete applications for two permits.  CCGCD General Manager, Summer Webb, posted the hearings for public comment and possible action. More than 45 guests attended, with a vast majority of them there with the hope to help determine the outcome of both applications.

             The Dahjur Permit application presented by their representatives was opened to the floor. Although hearing Officer Steve Mitchell imposed a time limit of 5 minutes per person for public comment, the hearings lasted over three hours.  More than a half dozen people commented publically, and seven more, including some attorneys, were sworn in and gave testimony.  Most of the concerns expressed were in regard to the volume of water being withdrawn over such a short period of time, that could have serious impacts on subterranean flows to the San Solomon Springs, originating at Balmorhea State Park, Phantom Springs and other area springs.

             One application requested permission to produce groundwater in the District from the Wildhorse Flat Aquifer within the West Texas Bolsons Aquifer system, in an amount not to exceed 1,613 acre-feet.  The application was recommended for approval by Mrs. Webb, and approved at the Regular scheduled meeting that followed the hearings

             The second application submitted by Dahjur, L.P., and Hughes Apache Ranch, LP, was to authorize drilling for groundwater in the District from the Permian formations, including Capitan Reef Complex, and export such groundwater to a place of use outside the District boundaries, for industrial use through their agent Agua Grande, LLC.  The application requested permission to withdraw 6,000 acre-feet of “non-potable” groundwater per year for the next three years for use in oil and gas drilling.  An additional recommendation by Webb to approve an application for Dahjur, LP, for a total of 6,000 acre feet of water for industrial use, was tabled.  The Hearing Officer asked that all Public Comment be put in writing and sent to the CCGCD no later than 4:00 p.m. on June 19, with the hearing set to resume June 20 at 1:00 p.m. to be followed by a vote on the application.   

              The Dahjur Permit application presented by their representatives was opened to the floor for public comment. Although hearing Officer Steve Mitchell imposed a time limit of 5 minutes per person for public comment, they lasted about three hours.  More than a half dozen people commented publically, and seven more, including some attorneys, were sworn in and gave testimony.  Most of the concerns expressed were in regard to the volume of water being withdrawn over such a short period of time, that could have serious impacts on subterranean flows to the San Solomon Springs, originating at Balmorhea State Park, Phantom Springs and other area springs.

              According to Trey Gerers, Board President of the Big Bend Conservation Alliance, in an email distributed on June 14, his concerns claim that as it is now, water will be contaminated with VOC’s solvents, heavy metals, silica, used in fracking operations, then removed from the hydrological cycle forever by injection into deep well disposal fields.