Bill grants water agency eminent domain powers

A bill signed by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott last week could pave an easier path for the future water needs of municipalities in the region.

Senate Bill (SB) 1198, which relates to the conversion of the Hays Caldwell Public Utility Agency (HCPUA) to the Alliance Regional Water Authority (ARWA), was signed into law Thursday.

The bill, co-authored by State Sen. Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo) and State Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels), and sponsored by Rep. Jason Isaac (R-Dripping Springs), grants ARWA the power of eminent domain and provides them with the authority to impose fees. It also allows the ARWA bonding power, which could assist the authority in funding major water projects in the future.

According to the Texas Legislature website, the controversial bill passed through the House and the Senate before making its way to the governor’s desk on May 28.

Kyle Mayor Todd Webster said the bill “simplified operations” for the new water authority, which will be acting as its own entity, instead of working as a proxy through the cities partnered with the authority.

“The eminent domain authority was exercised by the cities involved, but now it can be done through the entity itself,” Webster said.

Previously, the HCPUA called upon member cities, such as Buda and Kyle, to assist with funding for projects, which includes a proposed 40-plus mile pipeline that could bring water from the Carrizo-
Wilcox Aquifer to the area.

Buda Mayor Todd Ruge agreed the new law turning the water agency into a full-fledged water authority would be more like cutting out the middleman. He said the bill could make things easier for the authority to do its job of acquiring water for the region.

“It gives them a clearer path moving forward,” Ruge said. “Each city involved with the entity still has representatives on the Alliance Regional Water Authority Board so even though they don’t have to go through city council we still have representation there.”

Ruge and Webster maintained that residents won’t really even notice the change, but said the work the authority is trying to do would not have changed if the bill had not been passed.

“The passage of this bill doesn’t change the outcome,” Webster said. “The work that they’re (ARWA) doing is going to bring us the water that the people in the region will be using for the next 50 years.”

Webster, who previously worked for Governor Rick Perry for five years, said residents “shouldn’t read anything” into the two-plus week long delay for Abbott to sign the bill.

Webster said Abbott likes to read all the proposed bills himself instead of relying on staff, which was the reason for the delay.

The Hays Free Press reached out to Graham Moore, executive director of the ARWA, for comment, but was unable to obtain a response prior to press time. 

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