in Bastrop and Lee counties plan to appeal a decision denying them the
right to party status in a contested water case.
decision against a group of four landowners — including Environmental
Stewardship — was issued Sept. 25 in the contested case involving water
marketing company End Op’s application for well registration, operating
permits and transfer permits in the State Office of Administrative
landowners had petitioned the Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation
District for party status — or legal standing and the right to legally
participate — in a disputed groundwater pumping permit hearing involving
End Op, Aqua Water Supply Corp. and the LPGCD, which asked the SOAH to
rule on the request.
to Environmental Stewardship’s Steve Box, the decision has broad
implications throughout Texas for landowners wanting to protect the
groundwater in place under their land.
a news release about the decision, Box noted the Texas Supreme Court
affirmed the ownership of groundwater in place as real property and that
this decision by the SOAH upholds the rule of capture, saying basically
whoever gets the resource first owns it.
action of this administrative order, if left to stand, will establish
the conditions for party status in contested case hearings held before
groundwater conservation districts throughout the state and will
severely limit the ability of landowners to protect their groundwater
property rights by severely limiting their ability to argue the merits
of their case,” he said in the release.
to Box, the question the landowners are posing to the LPGCD board in
the appeal is whether ownership of real property above and within an
aquifer, where the groundwater drawdown will occur as a result of a
groundwater permit allowing the pumping of tens of thousands of
acre-feet of water per year, constitute a legally-protected ownership
interest? And, Box added, can a landowner defend that against those who
wish to pump away the property?
said Environmental Stewardship is currently helping work on legal
arguments and finding and preparing expert witnesses to take before the
LPGCD and the administrative law judge.