Hays County water bill resurrected after point of order reversed

News Reporter

A Hays County water bill was resurrected after the House parliamentarian reversed a point of order May 27 that originally killed the proposal.

House Bill 3405 (HB 3405) intends to extend the jurisdiction of the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District (BSEACD) to include the Trinity Aquifer. The bill was proposed after a Houston-based company suggested drilling 5 million gallons a day from the aquifer. City of Buda officials signed a contract with Electro Purification (EP) to prevent a 2017 potential water shortage.

During aHouse debate May 27, Rep. Mary González, D-El Paso, called a point of order based on what the Hays County bill would mean in terms of statewide water policy, said John Dupnik, general manager at the BSEACD.

The revival of HB 3405, authored by Rep. Jason Isaac, R-Dripping Springss, was announced moments before the House adjourned May 28, leaving the representative stunned.

“I just can’t express how much work and time was put into that and to have it crumble at the last minute has been pretty devastating,” said Blayne Stansberry, BSEACD secretary and Precint 2 director, prior to the bill’s revival May 28. “I imagine very devastating to the people of Hays County.”

The bill will now return to the floor of the House.

HB 3405 drew attention from influential parties across the state, making it very difficult to pass, Dupnik said.

He said amendment attached to the bill during a Senate debate made it very clear that HB 3405 was local and did not have statewide implications.

Isaac filed several bills throughout the legislative period with the intention of protecting the wells of residents living in rural hill country communities.

Stansberry said there was much negotiation in an effort to peacefully pass legislation by the people of Hays County.

The Trinity Aquifer will remain subject to the rule of capture should the bill not sign into law, said Bob Larsen, BSEACD Precint 4 director.

Landowners could then petition and vote to join the BSEACD water district, Larsen said.

Stansberry said the only way the EP contracts can be nullified is if the company cannot produce the amount of water agreed upon. BSEACD’s main goal is not to stop EP from drilling into the Trinity Aquifer, but to fulfill the increasing need for water in a growing area, she said.