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UTGCD proposes transition period; Counties could allow wells on 3.5-acre lots in update

By Richard Greene | Published Wednesday, January 23, 2019
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The Upper Trinity Groundwater Conservation District is proposing a 5-year transition period that would allow commissioner courts to approve the drilling of water wells on lots of at least 3.5 acres in its latest update of proposed rule changes.

UTGCD will hold a public hearing on the updated proposed rules at 4 p.m. Monday at its office, 1859 West Texas 199 in Springtown. The district is looking to pass the rule changes in February.

The district has proposed increasing the minimum tract size requirement for a well from two to five acres. UTGCD General Manager Doug Shaw said in a submitted article about the updated rules that the driving factor for the changes was to ensure that water availability into the future.

“Currently, a large number of new developments depend on private water wells at each lot as the sole source of water,” Shaw said. “This has led to more water wells being drilled in the UTGCD than in any other part of the state each year for at least the last decade. Our board meetings each month are filled with homeowners who are experiencing troubles with their water wells because of falling water levels in our aquifers.

“The idea behind the proposed change is to help mitigate the impacts of large numbers of water wells clustered together in these types of subdivisions, which can have immediate impacts to the aquifer within the boundaries of the development and regional impacts over a longer period of time.”

The transition period suggestion was added after the UTGCD two previous public hearings and information meetings in Hood, Parker, Wise and Montague counties.

“It was one of the things that came out of the discussions to give the transition period,” said Tracy Mesler, the president of the UTGCD board.

Commissioners in each of the district’s four counties could elect to put in the transition period and allow the drilling of wells on the 3.5-acre lots. Wise County Judge J.D. Clark said in his dialogue with Shaw on the update that it could be a case by case basis or a blanket action to allow the 3.5-acre exemption.

Clark said Shaw will meet with commissioners 1:30 p.m. Tuesday during a workshop to give an update on the rule changes.

“Our groundwater spacing needs to be science based,” Clark said. “We need to make sure we rely on what the science says about what our groundwater usage needs to be. Is 3.5 sustainable? Does the science say it needs to be 3.5, 5 or 10?

“We want to make sure we’re relying on the scientists and the professional opinions of the hydrologists and water experts. We want to make sure we have the best information available to us, while protecting the landowners.”

Under the proposed rules, the UTGCD will allow developers to submit preliminary plats until Sept. 1 to fall under the current 2-acre minimum.

Current two-acre properties that do not have water access from a public water system will not be affected by the rule changes. Replacement wells will also be allowed on two-acre properties.

Developers can get an exemption to the 5-acre requirement in the future with a site-specific groudwater study that proves the long-term water sustainability for the smaller lots.

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