Mineral Wells Area News

Legislation to Establish Regional Utility Authority to Give Palo Pinto, Parker and Stephens County Bigger Voice in Fight for Water Getting Closer to Reality;Local Water Reps Seek Language Clarification & Imminent Domain Concerns; Rogers Pens Op-Ed Concerning Water Utility

Legislation to Establish Regional Utility Authority to Give Palo Pinto, Parker and Stephens County Bigger Voice in Fight for Water Getting Closer to Reality;Local Water Reps Seek Language Clarification & Imminent Domain Concerns; Rogers Pens Op-Ed Concerning Water Utility
April 25
11:19 2023

By Amy Bearden / Mineral Wells Area News

Water problems in the region are getting closer to having a larger voice in the fight to secure funding for protecting access to water and building water infrastructure in the area.

Local State Representative Glenn Rogers has filed HB 5406 to create the Cross Timbers Regional Utility Authority and the bill was heard at today’s April 25th meeting of the House Natural Resources Committee.

“Dr. Rogers presented the bill at this morning’s meeting,” said Roger’s Representative Gary Norman. “The bill is currently in pending status with the Committee and they should vote it out tomorrow. The next step is the bill will move to the House Local and Consent Calendars for scheduling for the House floor.”

Rogers has been working for months with officials regarding the importance establishing this authority and the benefits it can bring to the area in securing water resources in the future. The lawmaker sought letters of support for the bill from each county wanting to join the regional authority. Parker and Stephens County submitted letters, giving Representative Roger’s twenty support documents for the bill. Palo Pinto County’s support was the only missing piece he needed.

Local Water District Attorney Seeks Clarification on Bill

Rhett Warren, Counsel for Palo Pinto Municipal Water District #1, spoke to Palo Pinto County Commissioner’s Court concerning language in HB 5406 that will establish a regional utility authority

Yesterday the Palo Pinto County Commissioners were to sign a letter of support for the legislation, but first had to hear from local leaders who support the bill, but have concerns regarding the language in the legislation. They claimed that it’s too broad and opens the door for a possible “land grabbing” opportunity and possibly opening up imminent domain legal situations for existing water entities and existing land owners who are in possession of private water wells. They were also concerned with language of ground water and surface water and sought clarification. A Commissioner brought up the power that such an authority could wield in other utility areas besides water was concerning too.

General Manager Howard Huffman of the Palo Pinto County Municipal Water District #1 and the organization’s Attorney, Rhett Warren, spoke to the court during public comments to voice their opinions on the regional authority. Following their input, as well as that of Glenn Roger’s Representative Jeff Hinkson, the Commissioners tabled the letter of support until reconvening later in the afternoon to clear up any concerns.

Hinkson explained to the Court that the language could still be adjusted before the final bill is signed. With that knowledge, Commissioners eventually voted in support of the Cross Timbers Regional Utility Authority and provided a support letter.

Jeff Hinkson, Rhett Warren and Howard Huffman addressed the Court regarding HB 5406

Here is footage of the exchange between PPMWD#1 officials and the County Commissioners voicing concerns just prior to the Court’s approval of the new regional utility authority. The video is the entire 11 minute discussion between the Water District, County Commissioners and Jeff Hinkson.

Roger Pens Op-Ed for Establishing the Cross Timbers Regional Utility Authority

Cross Timbers Regional Utility Authority

By Glenn Rogers

For generations, water availability attracted people to Parker, Palo Pinto, and Stephens Counties. In 1881, one newcomer to a place now known as Mineral Wells wrote, “There are several hundred people there for the benefit of their health. There is but one well and it does not offer enough water to supply those who are there….Two other wells are being dug.” Just two years later, 125 wells provided the miraculous water that was thought to heal any sickness or ailment to hundreds and hundreds of visitors and people starting new lives. The famed water business boomed and grew until World War II, placing Mineral Wells on every map of Texas.

Ever since, residents in our communities have cherished the lax regulations on drilling water wells. While this can be seen as an advantageous factor to life in our counties, our recent column on the state of water availability in House District 60 warned of a potential water crisis if groundwater is drilled to near depletion or if we face another severe drought.

In an effort to protect our precious water and its availability, our team has crafted legislation to create the Cross Timbers Regional Utility Authority (CTRUA). This multi-county board (made up by members appointed by elected county and city officials) will coordinate water conservation and procurement efforts for the region. This will save time and decrease costs by eliminating duplication of effort, identifying opportunities for cooperation, and leveraging economies of scale.

Bringing forward cooperative, coordinated plans which represent regional issues will give the Cross Timbers Regional Utility Authority a stronger voice as it competes for funding on both the state and federal level. As has been proven across the State, regional authorities are much better positioned to acquire funds from the Texas Water Development Board and other sources. Regional, cooperating authorities are also better suited to assist struggling small water utilities with the technical and financial expertise needed to gain compliance and funding. It is important for readers to know that the CTRUA will not have taxing authority. The bill is still subject to change, however the major implications of this bill will remain the same until it is passed.

Over twenty local organizations and entities support this bill, including the Commissioners Courts of Stephens, Palo Pinto, and Parker Counties, along with numerous other municipalities, water districts, political groups, Economic Development Corporations, and Chambers of Commerce. Our team appreciates every organization that has voiced their support of this effort to ensure the District will always have reliable water sources and will soon publish a full list of supporters. Many constituents have expressed that water is one of their top concerns. Local businesses depend on ample water, including of course, our historic and famous local water sellers and suppliers. In one of the many resolutions passed across the District supporting our legislation, the Stephens County Commissioners Court declared, “Regional communities are stronger together, and cooperation provides the synergy needed to pool resources and combine the interests of all stakeholders; a regional utility is in the best interest of our citizens, our region, and Texas as a whole.”

The time is now to pass such legislation. Our communities are rapidly growing and our prosperity depends on water availability. If a solution is not implemented, the water restrictions that are in place now will only become more severe. Abundant, dependable, safe water is a legacy we owe to our children and grandchildren. Establishing the Cross Timbers Regional Utility Authority is a responsible first-step in creating the plans and obtaining the funding to make sure future water supplies are available to meet future water demands.

HB 5406

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