During Thursday’s meeting of the Middle Trinity Groundwater Conservation District (MTGCD), the board of directors voted to call a May 10 election in Erath and Comanche Counties to fill the seats currently held by Ed Dittfurth, Rodney Stephens and Jerry Fronterhouse.

Dittfurth, who was appointed to fill the vacated term of Boyd Waggoner in May 2007, represents Erath County while Stephens and Fronterhouse represent Comanche County. All three incumbents have filed for re-election.

Erath County resident James Gray has filed to challenge Dittfurth in the local election. As of Thursday, no one had stepped up for a chance at either of the Comanche seats.

Meanwhile, Joe Cooper explained in his manager’s report that he will be representing the MTGCD at a March 17 hearing to be held before the Railroad Commission of Texas (RRC) in Austin regarding a proposed oil/gas waste injection well in Erath County. The applicant, Great Northern Energy, Inc., is requesting a permit for a proposed well to be located 7.74 miles southwest of Stephenville, near Dublin in the Newark East Field.

Cooper explained that he has attempted to correspond with the applicant to explain that the MTGCD would remove objections to the application if Great Northern would agree to benchmark water testing.

“I put the offer on the table and they (Great Northern) have not returned the correspondence,” Cooper said.

The agreement would require testing and sampling at the well site prior to injection and every year for the life of the well. In his correspondence, Cooper explained that the company would be required to provide the water testing results to the landowner, the MTGCD and the RRC.

Since Great Northern returned no reply to the offer of the MTGCD, Cooper will make the trek to Austin.

“I will testify against the proposed waste injection well on the basis that the MTGCD doesn’t think it is appropriate to put oil/gas disposal wells within the boundaries of our aquifer,” Cooper explained.

Cooper’s report also stated that at a recent meeting and planning session of Groundwater Management Area 8 (GMA8), which includes the MTGCD, Senator Kip Averitt, who serves as the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Natural Resources, announced his two major prerogatives in reference to water management within the state.

Averitt’s first prerogative is to establish a dedicated source of funding for Texas water projects. Cooper said that currently, funding relies on a budget surplus on the state level, therefore funding is not guaranteed. The most recent session of the state legislature granted funding for the next two years; however, Averitt feels that relying on a surplus is not a reliable means of funding. In exploring funding options, Cooper said the senator had mentioned a potential tax on bottled water and will continue to explore other options.

Secondly, Averitt feels that there is a need to regionalize area groundwater management plans to better protect the water sources within the state. Currently, House Bill 1763, which Averitt feels is not a sufficient consolidation plan, governs management areas. The bill was established during the 78th legislative session and requires that all groundwater districts work together to protect the future conditions of the state’s water sources. Averitt is convinced that the current system is not sufficient. There are 16 established groundwater management areas within the state and to date, GMA8 is the only of the designated management areas that has submitted a desired future conditions plan.

In other business, Field Technician Wes Burris reported that quarterly monitoring of Comanche County wells was complete and things remain in good condition.

“All the wells remain static and up except for one well which is down by about half a foot,” Burris said.

Cooper added that Burris had been extremely busy plugging wells, stating that last week Burris plugged five wells within the district and that about thirty wells are on a waiting list to be plugged.

In his manager’s report, Joe Cooper stated the he and Dittfurth had met with Eastland County Judge Rex Fields in reference to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) recommending that the people of Eastland County petition to join the MTGCD. Cooper said that Fields was very open to the possibility of the county joining the MTGCD and said that the Eastland County Commissioners would be considering the issue.

The meeting with Fields came following a study released by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) stating that Bosque, Ellis, Hill, Johnson and Somervell Counties will most likely be required to implement a groundwater management plan; the study looked at counties that rely on the resources of the Trinity Aquifer.

Although Eastland County was not named as one of the counties, it was suggested that the county join the MTGCD.

Cooper also said that a meeting was recently held with Bosque County Judge Cole Word to discuss the implementation of groundwater management in Bosque County and discussions had also been held will Hill County Judge Justin Lewis.

Cooper later explained that counties that will be required to establish a plan to join the MTGCD and added that there are both pros and cons to joining an established district. “With the costs involved in establishing a district, including the legal expenses, at least from a financial perspective, it would be beneficial to join a district that has already done the legwork and paid the expenses. On the other hand, to join the MTGCD the tax rate and rules of the district must be accepted to join the district - if the do not agree, they can not join.”

The MTGCD meets the first Thursday of every month at 1 p.m. in the Dublin City Council Chambers.