Richmond, Rosenberg, O.K. lawsuit against Fort Bend Subsidence District
By Betsy Dolan
In the ongoing battle over how best to meet groundwater reduction rules by 2016, the cities of Richmond and Rosenberg have decided to sue the Fort Bend Subsidence District (FBSD).
At issue is the district’s recently amended regulatory plan which the cities say limits their options to explore alternative water sources and steers them toward building an expensive surface water treatment plant.
“The FBSD Board has previously been made aware that the cities would pursue legal action if the District’s regulatory plan was amended in such a way that would eliminate available options for alternative water sources,” said Rosenberg Mayor Vincent M. Morales, Jr.
According to Patrick Lindner, the cities’ legal counsel on the item, the purpose of the suit is to “protect the rights of the cities and their citizens and water customers.”
The FBSD had no public comment on the proposed lawsuit.
All large water users in Texas must convert 30% of groundwater usage to an alternate source by 2016, and 60% to an alternate source by 2025.
Richmond and Rosenberg want to hire Houston-based Electro Purification LLC to drill 10 commercial wells in Austin and Waller counties.
But area ranchers, farmers and the city of Simonton are concerned that removing large quantities of water–20 million gallons a day– will increase the threat of subsidence, or land sinking, which can lead to flooding. There are also concerns about a diminished and lower quality water supply.
In addition, the Fort Bend Subsidence District, which oversees compliance with the state mandate, is encouraging the use of surface water. The FBSD amended their 2003 Groundwater Reduction Plan in August by changing their own definition of an “alternative water source”.
“Groundwater withdrawn from any county outside the district does not qualify as an alternative water supply unless the permittee can demonstrate that the groundwater withdrawals will not cause groundwater level declines,” the amendment stated.
The subsidence district’s board of directors in November denied the two cities’ request for rehearing on amendments it made in August.
“The filing of this lawsuit is emblematic of our dedication to our citizens and our communities’ futures”, said Richmond Mayor Evalyn Moore. “We are committed to securing a water supply that will provide for development and independence well into the future.”
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