Out of 10 positions on the Edwards Aquifer Authority’s board of administrators that have been open for election in 2018, solely two will probably be on the November poll due to a scarcity of candidates operating for workplace.
The authority manages groundwater pumping permits and different duties associated to the Edwards Aquifer, an enormous limestone rock layer that holds the most important supply of consuming water within the San Antonio area. General, the authority’s jurisdiction consists of all of Uvalde, Medina and Bexar counties and elements of Atascosa, Caldwell, Comal, Guadalupe, and Hays counties.
Of the 15 voting positions on the authority’s board, districts 1, three, 5, 6, 7, eight, 9, 11, 13, and 15 have been up for election in 2018. However solely districts 7 and 9 could have aggressive races this yr, authority officers confirmed final week.
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District 7 represents elements of San Antonio’s West and Far West sides stretching from neighborhoods between downtown and Loop 410 out west to Loop 1604. District 9 consists of giant swaths of southern Comal County and northern Guadalupe County.
The District 7 race pits third-term incumbent Enrique Valdivia, an environmental lawyer, towards challenger Gilbert Stanley-Medford, a retired banker.
In District 9, retired New Braunfels Utilities government Roger Biggers is difficult Ron Walton, a retired U.S. Geological Survey geologist and Realtor who’s in his second time period.
In interviews with the Rivard Report, all 4 candidates mentioned their backgrounds and the way they view the problems dealing with the Edwards Aquifer area.
Stanley-Medford, 71, has lived within the San Antonio space almost all his life. After a 27-year profession as an agricultural banker, then a business banker, he retired in 2010 as CEO of the previous St. John’s Federal Credit score Union in San Marcos.
He first discovered of the significance of groundwater and maintaining it clear when financing farmers and ranchers who relied on groundwater wells to irrigate their properties, he stated.
Stanley-Medford stated an important concern dealing with the Edwards Aquifer is the specter of air pollution as extra houses and companies unfold throughout its delicate recharge zone. Water flowing into the aquifer “isn’t the identical high quality because it was 40 years in the past, principally due to limitless progress,” he stated.
Whereas the authority does have some jurisdiction over chemical storage tanks over elements of the aquifer, water high quality in Texas is usually the purview of the Texas Fee on Environmental High quality (TCEQ), the state’s environmental regulator.
Stanley-Medford stated he understands how the authority points nicely permits and may situation cutbacks on pumping throughout drought however is “not sure beyond that what the authority can do.” He recommended reaching extra of the general public “by way of the media, having a audio system bureau, one thing like that, saying, ‘This is what is happening in your area, this is what is happening to your groundwater, you need a voice in protecting it.’”
Valdivia, 59, an environmental lawyer for Texas RioGrande Authorized Help, serves on the chief committee of the Alamo Group of the Sierra Membership and was a founding member of the Higher Edwards Aquifer Alliance.
He stated his 12 years of expertise on the authority’s board has “broadened my view of what’s possible” in reaching consensus on troublesome environmental issues.
“I started out as an activist, and it’s been a continuation of my passion in a different context,” Valdivia stated. “You get to make a little policy instead of complaining about it. … It’s put me in a situation where I really have to try to understand points of view and work with people who don’t share my background.”
Within the time he’s served on the board, the authority has seen the event and implementation of the Edwards Aquifer Habitat Conservation Plan to guard endangered species that rely upon aquifer-fed springs. The extreme drought of roughly 2010 to 2015 additionally examined the authority’s effectiveness in retaining the springs flowing by implementing pumping cutbacks when aquifer ranges dropped.
“We had the driest year in Texas history in 2011, and we managed to keep the springs flowing and the irrigators raising their crops,” Valdivia stated. “They were some tough times, and I think it shows what we’re trying to do at the [authority] is working.”
Valdivia stated the authority might do a greater job informing the general public about its position in defending the aquifer, which he stated is “kind of a subtle story.”
“I think we can do more with the education programs,” he stated. “I feel we’re going to wish to get along with entities like [the San Antonio Water System] … the precise water level of contact with individuals locally, and sort of clarify that we’re all working collectively.”
Earlier than shifting to Texas, Walton, 78, labored as a geologist for the U.S. Geological Survey’s workplace in Denver and volunteered his experience when new developments threatened to have an effect on individuals’s water wells in his residence group of Evergreen, Colorado. Comparable points are affecting Comal County, the place Walton has lived for the previous 10 years.
“I want to see all of our constituents who live in the county … outside of the city limits, to be well-represented,” Walton stated “There are county issues that are much different than city issues.”
For instance, Walton identified how the State of Texas delegates points like land use planning, zoning, and constructing codes to cities, not counties. He stated that is related to his space as new developments, quarries, roads, and different byproducts of progress put growing strain on the Edwards and different aquifers.
Although he acknowledged that the Edwards Aquifer Authority has little energy over issues like land use and zoning, Walton stated he needs to see county residents’ views represented when the authority negotiates with entities that do have extra regulatory energy, comparable to cities, the Texas Legislature, and the TCEQ.
He additionally contrasted his expertise with that of his opponent, Biggers, who Walton stated is a “lifetime city resident and lifetime employee of the City who is not experienced or well-informed about the county issues.”
Biggers stated he “doesn’t want to get into a shooting match with Ron,” but the “Edwards Aquifer obviously goes out a lot further than the City of New Braunfels.”
“If you’re protecting the Edwards, you’re protecting the Edwards, whether it’s inside the city limits or outside the city limits,” Biggers stated.
Biggers, 65, a licensed engineer, labored for New Braunfels Utilities for 35 years, more often than not as government director for water providers. He now works on a part-time consulting foundation. Earlier than stepping again from his full-time position, he labored on public relations and legislative points.
“That’s a lot of what I was doing anyway with water,” Biggers stated. “You’re dealing with the Edwards Aquifer Authority, the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority, the TCEQ.”
A fifth-generation New Braunfels resident, Biggers stated he “grew up on the Comal River,” whose headwaters are fed by the Edwards Aquifer. He’s watched firsthand as most of the grand conflicts and compromises over the Edwards unfolded over the previous three many years.
“My experience will work great with the board, having been on the regulated side, as well as knowing the inner workings,” he stated.
Biggers stated most of the water amount and drought points dealing with the Edwards have been resolved, although he described a legislative answer that might permit entities like New Braunfels Utilities to save lots of water in salty elements of the aquifer utilizing a know-how generally known as aquifer storage and restoration. He referred to as it “a way to stretch the resource” by storing water throughout wet occasions.
“But how do you preserve [water] quality in the area?” Biggers stated. “I think that’s the biggest priority. … [The authority has] a lot of power, and they need to work jointly with San Antonio and all the cities that rely on the Edwards to make sure we have the right building codes and all that goes into protecting the recharge zone.”
Candidates for the remaining eight districts have been confirmed by the authority’s board at its Sept. 11 assembly, the authority’s public coverage analyst Julia Carrillo stated in an e-mail. Six of them are incumbents; two are new board members.
Candidates confirmed on the assembly:
District 1: Carol Patterson (reappointed incumbent)
District three: Abelardo “Abe” Antonio Salinas III (new appointee)
District 5: Ron Ellis (reappointed incumbent)
District 6: Deborah Carington (reappointed incumbent)
District eight: Kathleen Tobin Krueger (reappointed incumbent)
District 11: Rachel Allyn Sanborn (new appointee)
District 13: Luana Buckner (reappointed incumbent)
District 15: Rader Gilleland (reappointed incumbent)
The shortage of contested races for the Edwards Aquifer Authority just isn’t an uncommon state of affairs. Valdivia stated some board members have by no means confronted an election.
Requested why extra individuals don’t run for authority positions, Valdivia, Stanley-Medford, and Biggers stated most individuals within the area don’t know a lot concerning the authorities entity that manages their consuming water. Walton stated it’s as a result of director positions are unpaid and typically time-consuming.
“The work that goes through the [authority], a lot of it isn’t upfront or top-of-mind, as in, say, a city council position or county commissioner position,” stated Roland Ruiz, the authority’s basic supervisor since 2012. “Every election cycle, there are more prominent, higher-profile races that kind of dominate the public discussion.”
Ruiz additionally steered that voters might merely be happy with the illustration they’re getting from incumbents.
Walter Wilson, a political science affiliate professor on the College of Texas at San Antonio, pointed to a philosophy in Texas of diluting government authority by having elected officers serve some roles that in different states are crammed by appointment.
“Whether you’re looking at the state government … or here in town with so many judicial posts and so many boards of this, that, and the other, the result is that people don’t really know what these offices do,” Wilson stated.