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Bills filed to stop controversial Hays well project

State Rep. Jason Isaac on Thursday filed three bills aimed at stopping the controversial Electro Purification water project in Hays County.

The wells are being drilled in an area that allows the Houston-based company to pump water without having to answer to local water control districts, three of which are in the area. Isaac, R-Dripping Springs, filed one bill that would expand the territory of the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District to include the well field and another to do the same for the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District.

The third bill would limit the eminent domain powers of the Goforth Special Utility District, a Niederwald-area water provider that has contracted to buy up to 3 million gallons of water per day from the project and to acquire right-of-way for a 13-mile pipeline needed to transport the water. The bill would prevent the utility from using its power of condemnation outside of its service area.

“We just need to send a clear and resounding measure to these utility districts that they can’t just go outside of their service area and condemn other people’s property for the benefit of a private company,” Isaac said.

State Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, joined Isaac in making the announcement and will carry the legislation in the upper chamber.

Electro Purification has contracted to deliver up to 5.3 million gallons of water per day to Buda, Goforth and a planned subdivision near Mountain City. The wells are in an unincorporated area off of RM 3237 between Wimberley and Kyle. Although the project has been in the works for years, nearby residents who fear it will harm their private wells became aware of it in late 2014 and are outraged that the company is operating without oversight. The well dispute has also turned neighboring towns against each other.

The wells are in the Edwards Aquifer Authority’s area, but the water is being pumped from the Trinity Aquifer, making the authority unable to regulate the project. It is just outside the territory of the two conservation districts Isaac’s bills addressed.

Isaac has previously filed a bill that would create a five-mile buffer zone around state-designated priority groundwater management areas in which commercial well operators would need permission to drill. The bill on Goforth, he said, could be the most important because it would prevent the project from delivering the water.

Leonard Dougal, a lawyer for Goforth, said the district has never used eminent domain outside of its service area and is only considering that option now to meet the pressing needs of its 20,000 customers.

“We believe the legislation relating to Goforth, as drafted, would have a detrimental effect on Goforth’s ability to provide adequate and reliable water to our customers, and we look forward to working with Representative Isaac to find a solution to his concerns while also ensuring customers of Goforth continue to have reliable and cost-effective water service,” Dougal said.

Electro Purification also released a statement Thursday saying the company has not had a chance to review Isaac’s legislation.

“We began this project over 5 years ago because Hays County is growing and cities and communities have made it known for more than a decade they need dependable, reliable solutions to their water needs,” the statement said. “The bottom line, where government couldn’t provide, EP delivered.”

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