Reality of drought: Sausages, laws and a water district

Part One of a Two-Part Series – Friday, Mar 29, 2019

From a 1933 textbook “Government in the United States” the author invokes the sage advice of Otto von Bismarck: “The man who wishes to keep his respect for sausages and laws should not see how either is made.”

Never before has this observation rung so true as with our local government. Look at what has happened with Kendall County Water Control and Improvement District, WCID, No. 3 in the two years since this district was introduced through Senate Bill, SB 914, by Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels.

This bill, filed during the 2017 legislative session, was a local and special law intended to create another water district in Kendall County, one of six that exist today. This one was created to develop up to 1,055 acres with more than 2,000 homes. As of press deadline, this law has yet to clear two major hurdles.

First, because it lies in the Extraterritorial Jurisdiction of the City of Boerne, the bill requires the city to consent to the creation of the district.

At the Feb. 26 Boerne City Council meeting Mayor Mike Schultz announced the petitions submitted to the city were “legally insufficient” and therefore, were rejected. This closed the door on consent by the city, but opened the door with an invitation from the city to the developer to continue to negotiate a mutually satisfactory development agreement.

These negotiations could mitigate impacts of the Boernebak development within the guidelines of SB 914. During public comments, the developer stated that he would like to continue those discussions with the city.

Subsequently, the city council voted 4-0 to table the agenda item indefinitely.

Second, the district still requires a source of water, just as it did when it was voted into law – a condition that may sound absurd, but is customary when legislators write and introduce laws like this.

The Trinity Aquifer below Kendall County cannot produce enough water to support this level of development, and the city declined to commit its water system to act as a primary or even a backup supply due to existing growth plans.

So, the developer actively sought water from San Antonio using the San Antonio Water System, SAWS. This utility offered its take of water from Canyon Reservoir, which is available from the pipeline of Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority, GBRA.

This brings me to an experience I want to share with you. I recently spent the day with the Texas House Natural Resources Committee. The purpose of being there was to provide personal testimony during the public hearing on House Bill 1806 by Rep. Tracy King, D-Batesville.

This proposed law is known as a companion bill, which allows identical pieces of legislation to move through both House and Senate chambers simultaneously. My motivation to speak on this bill was actually driven by its twin that was introduced in the Senate – SB 1170 by Campbell, which has yet to be debated.

Both of these pieces of proposed legislation fit on a single page and begin with the caption: “A bill to be entitled an act relating to the use of water withdrawn from the Edwards Aquifer by certain entities.”

Two be continued. Next week, I will reveal what is really behind the title of this bill.

Milan Michalec is board president of the Cow Creek Groundwater Conservation District of Kendall County and director for Precinct 2


Part Two of a Two-Part Series – Friday, Apr 05, 2019

Last time I provided a background history of Kendall County Water Control and Improvement District, WCID, No. 3. Today we will discuss details of why citizens of Kendall County should remain diligent as a new law is proposed by the Legislature.

According to the office of SB 914 author Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, it was written for consumers. It recognizes San Antonio Water System, SAWS, currently has service to some areas of Kendall and Comal County, but can’t include water pumped from the Edwards Aquifer.

Instead of using this water, the utility must use water from other sources, then distribute it to the surrounding outer counties of Bexar County. These two bills, SB 914 and HB 1806, can ostensibly give the utility more flexibility to use existing resources available to SAWS and the distribution infrastructure—existing pipelines and sources of water, such as Canyon Reservoir and the Edwards Aquifer, to lower costs to consumers.

Rep. Tracy King, D-Batesville, who curiously represents constituents of a county far beyond the boundaries of Bexar — Uvalde, explained his bill by framing it as simply correcting disconnects between what the legislature had created in 1993 and chapter 36 of the Water Code. He commented that this is something that he probably would not have supported 25 years ago. Yes, changing this law could mean new water for Boerne.

The Committee Chair, Rep. Lyle Larson, R-San Antonio, concluded with praise of King for being a true water renaissance man, changing as the factors change.

Just like what goes into sausage, there’s much more than meets the eye by this law.

It also conveniently solves the water supply problem for Kendall County WCID No. 3. because changing the existing law—the Edwards Aquifer Act of 1993, would allow Edwards Aquifer water into Kendall County and others that surround Bexar County. Today this is prohibited.

Thus, before the Natural Resources Committee, on the day of this hearing was a way to resolve an issue that began in the legislature that now, as proposed, is to be fixed by the legislature. Not necessarily a law written to protect the Edwards Aquifer, but the one that was written for the benefit of a developer, but to the detriment of the existing residents of Boerne and Kendall County.

My testimony was not made with the intent to bring ill will upon a developer who wishes to develop his private property. Rather, it was given to point out that a better way forward would be for the developer to work with the local community of Boerne rather than the City of San Antonio.

As proposed by this bill, the Austin solution will eliminate local resources that could be provided by local government — City of Boerne and Kendall County — by using capabilities and options that could be revealed through negotiation and compromise.

Bottom line: If you trust the way your sausage is made, then buy it with confidence and enjoy it.

On the other hand, if, after seeing what is really in the government recipe for create a water district — like Kendall County WCID No. 3 — you don’t like what you see, then let your voice be heard up the road in the meeting rooms of the Capitol.

In this way, perhaps your respect for the laws of Texas might be restored.

Michalec is Director, Pct 2 and Board President, Cow Creek Groundwater Conservation District of Kendall County.


Correction – Tuesday, April 09, 2019

Part 2 of a commentary by Milan Michalec that ran on page 4 of the Boerne Star Friday, April 5, included an incorrect number for the bill filed in the Senate The correct number should be SB 1170.

The author views water as apolitical—a non-partisan issue; party affiliations were added by the Boerne Star.

We regret the error.

These articles can be retrieved from the Boerne Star here.