Central Texas Groundwater Conservation District board directors discuss giving the Tributary Shooting Club an additional 30 days to review an order that would require it to get its groundwater use under control in the coming year. Staff photo by Dakota Morrissiey
Tributary Sporting Club near the confluence of the Colorado River and Lake Buchanan exceeded its permitted groundwater use by 286 percent in 2022, and the Central Texas Groundwater Conservation District wants to know why. The district’s Board of Directors gave the shooting club 30 days to sign an agreed order to get its pumping under control — the second time the board has done so.
Directors voted on the extension during their Sept. 15 regular meeting after holding a second show cause hearing for the club to explain why it went over its permitted water use. Tributary Sporting Club attorneys assured the board the business would come into compliance as soon as possible. The club is on its third set of attorneys brought in to handle the issue.
Tributary has until August 2024 to meet Groundwater Conservation District demands or else face up to $500 in fines per day of violation. The business specializes in shooting sports and recreational hunting on a 21,000-acre ranch in northern Burnet County.
The club’s groundwater permit allows for up to 2 acre-feet of pumping annually. In 2022, it pumped 7.72 acre-feet; in 2021, the total was 3.01 acre-feet.
“I’m willing to give them another 30 days to try and be reasonable about it,” said Precinct 1 Director Kathy-Griffis Bailey during the Monday show cause hearing. “After that point in time, I’m going to be a little less sensitive to (them needing more time).”
Tributary Shooting Club was asked to attend its first show cause hearing on Aug. 21. Five other violators were presented with “agreed orders” at the same time. If signed, the orders gave each violator a chance to either amend their permits or adjust their usage over the next year to prove they could stay within permitted use.
At that time, the shooting club was given an additional 29 days and no other action was taken.
Bill Dugat, the groundwater district’s attorney, seemed hopeful this time around.
“It’s the third lawyer since the saga of this began, but at least we’ve communicated with him,” he said.
Tributary’s representatives are discussing how to mechanically reduce the amount of water pumped so wells would not require a permit, Dugat told directors. In Burnet County, wells that pump less than 17.36 gallons per minute do not need a permit.
The club’s violations come during Stage 4 extreme drought conditions and the first-ever mandatory groundwater restrictions the district has imposed since it was founded in 2005. Stage 4 conditions recommend that all permit holders reduce groundwater use by 30 percent. The mandatory restrictions also reduce allotted permits in the district by 15 percent.