Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Wimberley Adopts Resolution to Protect Jacob's Well

Jacob's Well, Wimberley Texas

Members of Wimberley's City Council met Tuesday and voted unanimously to adopt a resolution supporting the development of a Specific Groundwater Management Area for Jacob's Well, the resolution will be read into the record by council member Steve Thurber at the Texas Water Development Board meeting this Thursday.

Council had discussed the idea of an SGMA for Jacob's Well and the Wimberley Valley at length in their regularly scheduled meeting earlier this month, and they directed City Administrator Don Ferguson and city staff to write a resolution that expressed their collective ideas. The resulting resolution states that the City of Wimberley "encourages the creation of a SGMA utilizing an adaptive management strategy to keep the creeks, streams and rivers in western Hays County clean, clear and flowing and to avoid a calamity to the prosperity of Wimberley and the surrounding area in Hays County."  In addition, the resolution "requests the use of an open public process, involving all affected government entities, including the City of Wimberley, utility providers and local stakeholders when creating a SGMA for Jacob's Well and determining its boundaries, goals and rules."

Wimberley resident Malcolm Harris thanked city council for its leadership in putting together the resolution. Wimberley Valley Watershed Association President Jack Hollon said, "Cypress Creek is central to the history of the settlement of Wimberley and shapes the culture and arts and the very identity of living in Wimberley. It is also central to the biological health of the riparian area. If we lose the creek, we also lose the centuries old cypress trees there too."

Councilman Steve Thurber made a motion to accept the resolution as written and Councilman Tom Talcott seconded the motion. City Council voted unanimously to approve the resolution as written. Mayor Bob Flocke said, "I think that this resolution puts Wimberley firmly on the side of conservation of our natural resource. It's a resolution that doesn't call for a specific drawdown rate, it leaves it to science to determine an appropriate rate for the aquifer that feeds Jacob's Well, Cypress Creek and the Wimberley Valley."

The TWDB meeting will be held at 9 am on Thursday, March 1st in the Stephen F. Austin Building, 1700 N. Congress Avenue, Room 170 in Austin, Texas.   
Residents are encouraged to attend the hearing to offer their support for protecting spring flows in the Wimberley Valley and the Texas Hill Country. Public comments will be allowed following the WVWA presentation. Emails can be sent to the board directly at boardmembers@twdb.texas.gov. Letters should be addressed to the Texas Water Development Board, Melanie Callahan, Executive Administrator at P.O. Box 13231, Austin, Texas 78711-3231. Please ask Melanie to distribute your letter to the individual Board members before the meeting for their preparation and consideration.  




WHEREAS, the City of Wimberley, Texas (the "City") is committed to the conservation, preservation and protection of the Trinity Aquifer in western Hays County; and

WHEREAS, the availability of groundwater from the Trinity Aquifer is essential to the quality of life for thousands of people who reside in western Hays County and rely solely on public and/or private groundwater wells in the Trinity Aquifer for their water supply; and

WHEREAS, spring flows from Trinity Aquifer springs, such as Jacobs Well, which sources Cypress Creek and the historic Wimberley Blue Hole, help provide clear, flowing surface waters for the creeks, streams, and the rivers that give western Hays County its unique sense of place; and

WHEREAS, these creeks, streams and rivers are the economic engines driving eco-tourism and increasing property values in western Hays County and require continued spring flows to maintain permanent, year-round surface water flows; and

WHEREAS, the Groundwater Management Area 9 ("GMA 9") recently adopted a Desired Future Condition ("DFC") for the Trinity Aquifer that authorizes an average thirty-foot decline in the aquifer over the next fifty years; and

WHEREAS, the City and many citizens of western Hays County believe that a thirty-foot decline of the Trinity Aquifer would threaten springs, such as Jacobs Well, property rights of landowners, their property values, and cause harmful impacts on well owners, surface water rights holders and businesses in Wimberley and the surrounding area of Hays County area; and

WHEREAS, the City understands the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District (the "HTGCD"), as an alternative to the GMA 9 DFC, has the ability to utilize an adaptive management strategy and create a Specific Groundwater Management Area (the "SGMA") to address local groundwater issues, such as those relating to western Hays County, more specifically Jacobs Well; and

WHEREAS, the HTGCD should involve all affected governmental entities, utility providers and others in an open, public process, if and when, creating a SGMA for Jacobs Well and determining its boundaries, goals and rules.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the City Council of the City of Wimberley, Texas:

1.  Encourages the creation of a Specific Groundwater Management Area forJacobs Well (the "SGMA"), utilizing an adaptive management strategy, to keep creeks, streams, and rivers in western Hays County clean, clear and flowing and  to avoid a calamity to the prosperity of Wimberley and the surrounding area inHays County.

 2.Requests the use of an open, public process, involving all affected governmental                          entities, including the City of Wimberley, utility providers and others, when creating a SGMA for Jacobs Well and determining its boundaries, goals and rules.

RESOLVED this ___ day of February, 2012.
                                                                                                City of Wimberley
                                                                                                ____________________                                                                                                                    Bob Flocke, Mayor                                         

Cara McPartland
City Secretary

Read the Mayor of WoodCreek's  Letter to TWDB   


Example Letter of Support  

PO BOX 2905

February 29, 2012

Ms. Melanie Callahan, Executive Administrator
Texas Water Development Board
PO Box 13231
Austin, TX 78711-3231

Re: Item #20 - TWDB Agenda, 3/1/2012 - Appeal of GMA 9 DFC

Dear Board Members and Staff:

In 2010, the newly elected members of the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District voted by a 3 to 2 majority to endorse the 30' DFC adopted by the GMA 9. Citizens from throughout western Hays County gave impassioned testimony asking the HTGCD to select a lower DFC so that area wells, springs, and creeks would not go dry. The Citizens Alliance for Responsible Development (CARD) circulated a petition opposing the 30' DFC. The petition was signed by 615 citizens (copy attached).

In November 2011 at the hearing conducted by the TWDB in Wimberley to hear the appeal of the 30' DFC, over 200 citizens and CARD attended the hearing and sent over 160 certified letters and petitions to the TWDB as evidence of their concern with the 30' DFC and its long-term detrimental effects.

On February 15, 2012 the Steering Committee of CARD adopted a Resolution (copy attached) which expressed CARD's continuing opposition to the 30' GMA 9 DFC and supported the creation of a Specific Groundwater Management Area (SGMA) for Jacob's Well and its tributary formations. This Resolution was presented to the Wimberley City Council which has also adopted a Resolution supporting the creation of a SGMA for Jacob's Well.

While CARD has studied the TWDB staff response to the WVWA appeal of the GMA 9 DFC, we do not agree and find it short sighted. There is certainly a responsibility of the TWDB to support growth, but there is an even stronger responsibility of the Board to protect existing homes, business, ranches, farms, and others who are totally dependent on a sustainable supply of groundwater. In the HTGCD, because of the unique legislation which enabled the District, only the large non-exempt pumpers will benefit from this DFC. All others will suffer, property values will decline due to lack of reliable groundwater, and area springs which feed creeks and rivers and support wildlife will go dry.

As a partial solution to the problem caused by the 30' DFC, CARD supports the creation of the SGMA for Jacob's Well and its tributary formations and urges the TWDB to recommend that GMA 9 and the HTGCD work together to create such a management area.

We appreciate the opportunity to address the Board and look forward to a continuing working relationship with Board members and your staff. We request that a copy of this letter and the attachments be distributed to each Board member at the March 1, 2012 meeting.


James R. McMeans, CARD Chairman

                                                Donate Now
hca boys jumping in Jacob's Well

Become a Friend of Jacob's Well Today

Monday, February 27, 2012

WVWA Urges Public Comment to TWDB to Support Spring Flows and Local Economy

On March 1st the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) takes final action on the Wimberley Valley Watershed Association (WVWA) appeal of the adopted Groundwater Management Area 9 (GMA-9) Desired Future Condition (DFC) for our Trinity Aquifer. The TWDB Staff has recommended that the Board find the 30 ft average drawdown DFC is "reasonable" and shifts the "reasonableness of the DFC"  to the local groundwater districts in the way they manage the aquifer. WVWA believes Jacobs Well, Cypress Creek, and Blue Hole will dry up from the increased pumping that will be allowed under this DFC.

At the public hearing on the WVWA appeal last November in Wimberley, part of GMA-9 testimony suggested mitigating current and future demand in the Jacobs Well area through the development and implementation of district rules specific to the area that recharges Jacob's Well spring. WVWA agrees that a special groundwater management district is necessary and is asking the TWDB to pass a motion recommending that GMA-9 and Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District develop a Specific Groundwater Management Area (SGMA) for Jacobs Well with a DFC tied to spring flows for monitoring and management at the March 1, 2012 meeting.               

Cypress Creek Sep. 2011
While the WVWA continues to urge a reconsideration of the 30ft aquifer decline as unreasonable for all of Texas Hill Country area in GMA-9, the WVWA and local elected officials strongly urge the creation of the Jacobs Well Specific Groundwater Management Area as a minimal but necessary action in order to protect our local economy and property values. WVWA is also requesting technical and financial assistance from the TWDB to help develop the SGMA. This will not only protect Jacob's Well, Blue Hole, and Cypress Creek, but will provide transferable spring management practices to other areas in GMA-9 and the state.

We need your help. The TWDB meeting will be held at 9 am on Thursday, March 1st in the Stephen F. Austin Building, 1700 N. Congress Avenue, Room 170 in Austin, Texas. Residents are encouraged to attend the hearing to offer their support for protecting springflows in the Wimberley Valley. Public comments will be allowed following the WVWA presentation. Emails can be sent to the board directly at boardmembers@twdb.texas.gov. Letters should be addressed to the Texas Water Development Board, Melanie Callahan, Executive Administrator at P.O. Box 13231, Austin Texas 78711-3231. Please ask Melanie to distribute your letter to the individual board members before the meeting for their preparation and consideration. 

Saturday, February 18, 2012

RVI Unveils Preliminary Master Plan for Jacob’s Well Natural Area

Stakeholders of the Jacob’s Well Natural Area and Hays County staff met Feb. 15 at Camp Jacob to review RVI’s preliminary master plan (the most recent phase in site planning for the historic spring). Presentations from the landscape architectural consultants from RVI gave  stakeholders an overview of the “Preliminary Plan” that incorporated community input from the January open house and addressed key questions and concerns including: 
  • How to best preserve and restore the site to  demonstrate land and water stewardship
  • Best way to provide safe public access and ensure protection of the sensitive natural landscape
  • Whether or not to permit overnight camping 
  • Restrictions on bicycles & dogs in the preserve
  • How to manage fencing, signage and boundary identification
  • Managing access while making the property as open as possible
  • Methods to protect and rehabilitate the wetlands and the riparian area along the creek
  • How to restore the area around the spring and manage access to Jacob's Well
  • Entry points, impervious cover restrictions, parking capacity & location
The vision for the JWNA master plan are to preserve the site as a place for the community to connect with nature and inspire environmental stewardship. The historic spring provides a perfect place to  educate area youth and demonstrate land and water conservation practices.

The Wimberley Valley Watershed Association , with the help of Hays County, has removed nearly four acres of impervious cover from the site.  RVI landscape and architectural planners, Chris Lalitch and Barbara Austin, are assessing the need to remove existing impervious cover before any new structures or parking areas are added.  Site restrictions on  impervious cover will limit what is built in the future. All structures will incorporate rainwater harvesting and energy efficient design; every effort is being made to use natural pervious materials for nature trails and parking areas to allow water to seep back into the aquifer.

Lalitch and Austin summarized the open house presentation and introduced some new sketches of how buildings might be designed with approximations of where the structures may be located. They also confirmed that there will be two, possibly three, entry points for the preserve.  The preliminary plans allow for a total of 32 parking spaces and three school buses.

There are not plans to fence around the entire property. Lalitch said that currently there are plans to fence approximately 3,000 feet of the property around the riparian area designated as zone 9 (the southernmost section in the flood zone) and there will be some restricted use. Boundary markers made out of cedar, recycled materials, stone and native plantings may be used along Mt. Sharp Road.

JWNA consists of nine distinct planning “zones” – from the mostly wild, upland area (about 35 acres) in zone one all the way down to Jacob’s Well and the riparian area around Cypress Creek.  Each one of these zones is being planned for restoration according to its unique characteristics. Zone one is expected to be left largely undisturbed with some trails, a possible bird tower and a wildlife viewing areas to accommodate bird watchers, wildlife researchers and visitors walking from local neighborhoods. 

The main entrance will be off of Mt. Sharp Road and will lead to a bluff in Zone 2 with wide unobstructed views and an overlook. RVI envisions a partially enclosed “Stewardship Center” here, nestled into the hillside. It will be energy efficient and facing southwest for natural ventilation in the summer. The indoor and outdoor environments in this structure will be knitted together and the estimated size of the structure is 3,400 square feet which includes a covered terrace.  There will also be two adjacent indoor restrooms, a storage area, office space, kitchen & catering facilities and possible retail space.

The “Stewardship Center” will act as the central hub for visitors to the natural area and serve as a center for community education and watershed research.  The structure will be surrounded by educational kiosks with natural outdoor seating, beehives, bat houses and “play trails,” an innovative concept that encourages kids to explore along a trail. The “Playscapes” themselves will be nature-oriented with organic rather than man made materials.

Winton Porterfield, of Wimberley Springs Partners, expressed his desire for exhibits to illustrate the  unique historical and cultural history of the area and think creatively about how to present the water  education exhibits. David Baker, executive director for the Wimberley Valley Watershed Association, also suggested an archeological assessment of the Native American artifacts on the property in order to incorporate additional information of historical significance; the other stakeholders present agreed with the suggestions made.

RVI also envisions a large, covered picnic and educational area lower in the property in the former RV park area.  This area, north of the existing educational center building at Camp Jacob (which remains in the plan),  is a flat, prairie-like habitat that is accessible by trail from the north and south entrances.  All structures will use rainwater collection systems and geothermal and solar energy with the goal of “net zero” energy and resource use. The runoff from the parking areas will be captured in filter gardens for conservation and educational purposes.

Hays County legal counsel Mark Kennedy said the property will be handicap accessible, according to ADA standards.  Currently, the county is leaning towards a sun-up to sun-down policy for the preserve.  The southern entrance at Camp Jacob will remain open during the day to accommodate local residents and will have a few parking spaces and bike racks. Biking to the preserve is encouraged; in order to preserve the trails and wildlife, biking will not be permitted within the natural area. Mayor of Woodcreek, Eric Eskeland, mentioned the need for more planning to connect trails for the residents from Woodcreek who enjoy walking to the well. Stating a vision for one day connecting the Winters Parkway Trail from Blue Hole to Jacob's Well.

Hays County has established a web site to track the progress of the Jacob's Well Natural Area master plan.  http://www.co.hays.tx.us

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

What do you envision the Jacob’s Well Natural Area to be? Let Master Planners RVI hear from you!

RVI, a landscape planning consultant firm located in Austin, is in the process of creating a Master Plan for the Jacob’s Well Natural Area. Their task is to interpret the community’s vision for the site. RVI recently held a forum at the Wimberley Community Center that welcomed public input on the development and management of the property. With the addition of interviews of stakeholders such as county and WVWA staff, JWNA volunteers, and a committee of local representatives, RVI has created the first phase of the plan.   You can follow the progress on the Hays County’s website: http://www.co.hays.tx.us/jacobswell.

This ongoing and open dialogue has generated some considerations that WVWA would like to share. After years on the ground, WVWA can offer parameters that fully represent the best of our ongoing work and research. But no matter what your ideas or concerns may be, please take the time to add to this vision.

WVWA feels that in light of the current water climate and growing population pressures, the decision to restore the 100 acres back to a perfectly balanced ecosystem is an idea whose time has come. Jacob’s Well has long been a site of great beauty and wonder, and a place held sacred by past cultures that have lived on its banks. Today it still is at the heart of the Wimberley Valley.

We would like to see the site identified and developed as a natural heritage site, maintained as a nature preserve and not a recreational park, and function as a place where both children and adults can connect with nature. Although we all enjoy camping, dogs, sports, and bicycling, these are high-impact activities and are not recommended as they will overrun the site’s sensitive resources. The conservation easements currently in place will help insure that land and water conservation comes first.

The focus of visitors to Jacob’s Well should be one of immersion in nature, which inevitably leads to joy, and is naturally followed by a sense of stewardship. Access by trails would invite discovery in an unstructured style that sparks the imagination. The Children in Nature movement has pointed out that American children are averaging 7 minutes a day in time out-of-doors, which has led to a host of stressed behaviors. The same is true for adults - time spent in nature serves to alleviate a deeply seated sense of disconnection we feel with the natural order of things.

WVWA envisions the only new structure to be a stewardship center, to share the extensive knowledge we have gained from living so close to the aquifer. Built with the green building practices of wind and solar energy, rainwater harvesting, water re-use and waterless toilets, the building would not only sit lightly on the land, but serve as a model for sustainable design. There would be no additional structures, not even kiosks, but in fact further “undeveloping” of the site by lessening the current amount of impervious cover and removing any buildings in the flood plain.

The site has been severely impacted by development and over grazing in the past and is need of restoration. Priority should be placed on enhancing plant diversity, aquifer recharge, protecting water quality, and creating wildlife habitat.

Facilities and funding should be provided for the valuable scientific research that happens at the site. It is this research that has enabled us to make these specific recommendations. Partnerships with local organizations, volunteer groups, schools, and universities should also be supported, as with developing a formal relationship with Texas State’s River Systems Institute. All partners should be actively involved in developing a groundwater management program that protects not only the flow of Jacob’s Well, but all Wimberley Valley aquifer springs, even in times of drought.

Please write, call, or email your comments to:

RVI Planning Team
712 Congress Ave, Suite 300
Austin, Texas 78701

Barbara Austin

Chris Crawford

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

TWDB to Decide “Desired” Future of Trinity Aquifer on March 1st

The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) was scheduled to review two challenges and decide on the reasonableness of the Desired Future Conditions for the Trinity Aquifer in the Texas Hill Country at their February 1st board meeting.  At the request of WVWA, the Board President granted a continuance yesterday and moved the agenda item to the March 1st scheduled board meeting.  TWDB is expected to rule on a protest to the Desired Future Condition (DFC) goal adopted by GMA 9, a goal that some argue is not sustainable.  The proposed DFC allows for an average of 30 feet of additional groundwater decline over the next 50 years (an average of 19 feet across Hays County). 

Due to the fact that it takes only a 2 to 3 feet drop in aquifer level above Jacob’s Well to cause the spring to stop flowing, WVWA appealed the ruling to the TWDB on the grounds that this level of decline is unreasonable and unsustainable as it fails to protect the flow of water to individual well owners and to the springs and creeks that are the economic engines of the Hill Country.  Read more about WVWA’s appeal.

The impacts of this action threaten not only public treasures like Jacob's Well, but the productivity of private and public drinking water supply wells and natural springs across the region.  The WVWA is not alone.  Public comments recorded at numerous meetings throughout the Hill Country over the past five years showed the public's overwhelming desire to set Desired Future Conditions with a goal of zero drawdown on the aquifers.  One hundred and sixty interested parties filed 777 pages of notarized statements with the TWDB in support of WVWA’s appeal.

In addition to the appeal by WVWA, TWDB will also consider and rule on an appeal of the DFC petition that was filed by the developers of the Flying “L” Guest Ranch, Ltd in Bandera County.  In their appeal, Flying L appeal argued that the proposed DFC allowed for too little drawdown and would make it difficult for groundwater districts to guarantee existing permitted uses. 

TWDB staff released a 65 page briefing memo on January 25 that outlines the two petitions and recommends that the proposed 30 ft DFC is somehow reasonable, even though it  will allow a large increase in aquifer pumping and most likely cause Jacob’s Well spring and other springs across the region to stop flowing for longer periods of time.  The full text of the memo can be read here.  The staff memo bases its argument of “reasonableness” mainly on the fact that the process that GMA9 followed to adopt the DFC was administratively complete and met all of the legal requirements in terms of what was considered in its adoption. The TWDB report notes that “the statutes do not contain a requirement that the DFC ensure the aquifer is managed sustainably.”

What the memo does not adequately address, however, is the massive amount of technical information and scientific evidence presented by WVWA that demonstrates the many negative impacts that such a large drawdown in the aquifer will have on the Wimberley Valley, its economic base, and its natural resources. 

Such negative impacts include domestic (privately owned) wells going dry more frequently under even short periods of dry weather, not just with severe droughts; Jacob’s Well and Cypress Creek flowing only intermittently, except in wet years; a reduction in income for businesses throughout the Hill Country that rely on a flowing river to draw people to their doors; and a reduction of sub surface flows from the Trinity to the Edwards Aquifer, recharge that sustains Barton Springs during times of severe drought.

In their recommendation, TWDB staff state that ”the reasonableness of the DFC with respect to socio-economic impacts, environmental impacts, and the exercise of personal property rights will depend on the way in which the Districts incorporate the MAG into their management plans and rules and make related decisions regarding permit authorizations and administration.” The report does not seem to consider the significant impact that the DFC and the associated large increase in pumping will have in an area that is already experiencing groundwater decline under current pumping.  

Local Groundwater Conservation Districts are the State’s preferred method of groundwater management, but it is important that state and regional planners  provide much-needed leadership for balancing the very complex issues involved in groundwater management. The WVWA encourages the TWDB members to consider advising GMA 9 to revise the DFC in Hays County to address the needs of private landowners and businesses reliant on flowing springs and rivers.  The current board of the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District (HTGCD) has not proven itself trustworthy in the task of balancing these competing needs.  They have continued to issue new permits in the absence of an approved MAG (including a new golf course next to Jacob’s Well), and voted for an aquifer drawdown that will ultimately compromise the economic security of the Wimberley Valley and its future water supplies. 

Regardless of how the TWDB Board rules on March 1st, their decision is not binding on the GMA 9 or the local Districts.  This makes it imperative that residents and landowners hold their District accountable for managing our groundwater in a sustainable way and oppose aquifer mining.  Board members of local GCD’s must understand the limitations of the Groundwater Availability Model and take responsibility for impacts of their decisions on the economy, environment, and private property rights of their constituents.

TWDB is scheduled to hear arguments and rule on the DFC appeals at their board meeting March 1st at 10:30am.

WVWA  encourages residents and concerned citizens across the region to attend the meeting on March 1st to show support for adoption of a new DFC that will sustainably manage the Wimberley Valley’s precious groundwater resources, one that protects local drinking water supplies, Jacob’s Well, Blue Hole and the future of Cypress Creek.  If you cannot attend the meeting, please email the TWDB at boardmembers@twdb.texas.gov with your comments. 

The meeting is scheduled for Thursday, March 1st, at 10:30am. Stephen F. Austin Building, 1700 N. Congress, Room 170, Austin.