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Decision on Briggs-area subdivision on hold over aquifer worries

Burnet County Precinct 2 Commissioner Damon Beierle

Burnet County Precinct 2 Commissioner Damon Beierle at a previous meeting of the Commissioners Court. Beierle said he will spearhead a project approved by commissioners at their Oct. 10 meeting to livestream future meetings. Staff photo by Dakota Morrissiey

The Burnet County Commissioners Court on May 23 put a preliminary plat approval for a subdivision near Briggs on hold due to water concerns. Area groundwater studies show that shallow wells might not reach satisfactory 30-year outlooks, and county officials want more data before moving forward.

The Estates at Dominion Ranch, a prospective 996-acre subdivision made up of 210 lots of 4-6 acres each, is located a few miles north of Briggs within Precinct 2, which Commissioner Damon Beierle represents.

“I would like to go and meet with some of the surrounding landowners and try to get some stronger answers,” Beierle told the developers during the Tuesday meeting. “At the end of the day, (the people of my precinct) are 100 percent who I represent. I just have a lot of very scared constituents that I represent, so I’m treading lightly.”

A study conducted by the county’s geological consultant, Intera, shows multiple and complex layers of the Trinity Aquifer beneath the proposed subdivision. The shallower portions of the aquifer, known as the Glen Rose Formation, might not be able to sustain the number of proposed wells and would likely fail in less than 30 years, according to the study. The deeper portion of the aquifer, the Travis Peak Formation, could support wells for 30 years or more.

“We don’t have the data to understand the impacts that pumping the lower Travis Peak will have on the Glen Rose,” Mitchell Sodek, general manager of the Central Texas Groundwater Conservation District, told commissioners. The district manages groundwater in Burnet County.

Sodek suggested building a well that solely pulled from the deeper Travis Peak formation and conducting a pump test to see if it would impact wells that were in the more shallow Glen Rose formation. Both of these portions of the Trinity Aquifer might be connected, meaning water pulled from one could affect the other to an unknown extent, he explained.

“What’s not known is how impermeable the layer in between the two (formations) is,” Sodek said. “Our anecdotal knowledge of it is that it leaks, so those two layers are connected.”

Civil engineer Lisa Chtay assured commissioners the developers have water conservation in mind. Deed restrictions will be in place to guarantee wells are dug into the deeper Travis Peak rather than Glen Rose, she said. 

Also, xeriscaping practices will be mandatory, lawns and turf will be limited, and lot sizes cannot be subdivided in the future. A homeowners’ association and a contracted management company would enforce the restrictions, said Chtay, who was hired by developers.

“What we are looking for today is a preliminary approval,” she said. “This is just the overall layout of what we’re looking at. We still have a lot of work to do for a final plat. We will be working very closely with the county and with everyone who needs to be involved to make sure that all of the restrictions and details are addressed properly.”

The Burnet County Commissioners Court tabled the agenda item and will address the preliminary plat approval at a future meeting.