A jury has awarded $2.5 million – plus $1.5 million in interest – to a Hondo pecan farmer after a court ruling that found the Edward Aquifer Authority had trampled on his rights. Make no bones about it: This is a major victory for property rights over groundwater districts that put cities and industries over farmers’ water rights. The EAA must pay the judgement itself, not the State of Texas.
Glenn Bragg will ultimately receive around $4 million, but only after a 10 year fight that saw his farming operation nearly destroyed by the agency’s rulings. Bragg, a retired Ag extension agent, bought the land for his pecan farm with his life savings, and planted over 3,000 trees on two parcels of land totaling 100 acres. After the Edwards Aquifer Authority was created, it imposed rules on the Braggs that denied their historic use of aquifer water, cutting their usage by 50 percent on one property and 100 percent on another.
The company, which at one point owned a storefront and shipped pecans to all 50 states and overseas, was forced to cut back its operations and almost went bankrupt.
“This is a classic case of government overreach,” said John Melvin, executive director of the Brazos Valley Groundwater Rights Association.
“The groundwater regulator essentially denied the property owner the right to use his own property. If a regulator does that he’s got to pay for the property that he’s taken from the property owners.
“EAA thought they could push the little guys around,” Melvin said.
“Well, this was one little guy who didn’t back down, and he won. That should send a message.”
A San Antonio appeals court ruled in Bragg’s favor in 2013 last year the Texas Supreme Court refused to modify that ruling. The case was sentback for the jury to determine the damage done to the business through the denial of its rights.
‘The Brazos Valley Groundwater Rights Association welcomes this verdict, and we sincerely hope that other groundwater management agencies in the State of Texas take notice and start treating farmers and ranchers as partners in the management of this valuable resource, not as enemies,” Melvin added. The Brazos Valley Groundwater Rights Association is a non-profit corporation committed to protecting the groundwater rights of Texas landowners, farmers and ranchers.