Proposed settlement shines light on groundwater battle

Published: Apr. 26, 2017 at 4:33 PM CDT
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A proposed settlement approved by the Middle Pecos Groundwater Conservation District Wednesday afternoon shines light on the groundwater battle taking place in West Texas.

The settlement, approved by MPGCD with an 8-1 vote, now will seek approval from Fort Stockton Holdings, LP (FSH) Republic Water of Texas, LLC (Republic) and Clayton Williams Farms, Inc. before becoming official.

If all parties agree to the settlement presented by MPGCD, it could mean a major move forward in a legal battle over the exportation of groundwater from the district to other parts of Texas. Under the terms, that would be allowed in moderation and with exportation fees.

Attorney Edmond McCarthy Jr. tells CBS 7 that he is cautiously optimistic that they can sign the settlement proposal and move on.

In the settlement the District would allow FSH to use Edwards-Trinity Aquifer water with agreements, including production restrictions and export fees.

Conditions of the proposal include:

-MPGCD agreeing to grant FSH's application for a new operating permit for production and use of groundwater from the Edwards-Trinity Aquifer for municipal, industrial and agricultural purposes within and outside of the district

-FSH agreeing to accept the New Operating permit and to file a request to reduce Historical and Existing Use Permits from 47,418 acre-feet to 28,400 acre-feet.

-FSH agreeing not to file a permit application to produce additional quantities of groundwater from the Edwards-Trinity Aquifer for 5 years and if more water is needed to explore other Brackish Aquifers (Capitan reef).

-Republic to withdraw its own application and pay MPGCD its court costs and fees, a total of $404,990.54.

-Republic agrees not to file a permit in the future to produce from the Edwards-Trinity Aquifer on properties at issue in FSH's application

-MPGCD including a permit condition for FSH that restricts production based on aquifer-level triggers.

-FSH agrees to meter and report water produced from wells for agricultural use and water transported for municipal and industrial purposes off of the property.

-FSH agrees to pay MPGCD an export/transport fee on groundwater produced and delivered outside of the District at a rate of $0.025 per 1,000 gallons.

-FSH agrees to request State Representative Lyle Larson amend his Sunset Bill to remove MPGCD and to not support any legislative efforts referencing MPGCD that could impact or change the current regulatory structure, governance, management and or/funding mechanism of the District

-FSH to look to developing other aquifers before requesting to export additional Edwards-Trinity Aquifer water.