In the ongoing battle between the Trans Pecos Pipeline and those who oppose it, the opposition gained a small victory on Tuesday morning when the Brewster County Groundwater Conservation District denied a commercial well permit that would allow Pumpco Inc. to operate a well on its property.
The groundwater conservation district gathered for its regularly scheduled meeting, during which it held a public operating permit hearing pertaining to an application submitted by JAR Capital Investments – the firm that umbrellas Pumpco, better known as the construction company tasked with building the Trans Pecos Pipeline.
According to the permit application, which was submitted on May 21, the well would withdraw 17.3 gallons per minute – about 24,912 gallons per day and 8.9 million gallons per year. Under “proposed use of the well,” the permit applicant stated, “Dust control and water for offices.”
The well in question was the very same well that drew controversy when members of the groundwater conservation district turned up at the 23-acre Pumpco site in west Alpine weeks ago, upon learning that the company might be operating the well illegally and without a viable permit. Since the well was previously designated a residential well, the groundwater conservation district maintained that Pumpco would need to obtain a commercial permit to use the well.
However, the attempt to question representatives of Pumpco about the well culminated in the arrest of groundwater conservation district board member Tom Beard, for allegedly trespassing private property. Beard was also charged with assault of a public officer after he allegedly “stomped” on the foot of a Brewster County deputy sheriff, who tried to arrest Beard, according to an affidavit acquired with a Texas Open Records request.
At the hearing, members of the public were invited to comment on the permit proposal. Several area residents – many of whom are vocal opponents of the proposed pipeline – remarked on concerns associated with granting Pumpco’s use of the well, but the discussion ultimately turned into bigger issues of water consumption by the pipeline company.
Val Beard remarked, “The Sunny Glen area has been a point of contention in regard to water issues for many years, way back into the early 70s. You may recall that when Doug Lively was city manager there were some problems with the operation of wells in the Sunny Glen area that led to a number of problems because of over-pumping at those wells. We got into a pumping war.” Beard is the former Brewster County judge and spouse of Tom Beard.
She added, “I would like all the directors to please remember that pumping war in Sunny Glen was a large part of why you’re here. You’re not going to be dealing with new issues, you’re dealing with longstanding issues and now you have the tools and the framework to address what might become a contentious situation.”