At a February 11th rules meeting of the Brazos Valley Groundwater Conservation District (BVGCD), Director Kent Watson wanted to hold up the vote on a rule change because the City of Bryan had expressed some concerns during the public comment period about the proposed rule. This was, of course, after Watson had met secretly with Tom McDonald, the City of Bryan and their attorney earlier that week to discuss just how they were going to stop the passage of the proposed new rule.
Watson wants it both ways. In this case he wants “public comment” to cause the District to stop and review a rule decision. But in May of 2013, when Watson’s employer, Wickson SUD, applied for a permit to pump 400 acre feet of water off of just 1.19 acres of land, Watson had no problem ignoring public’s concern. On that day the board room was filled to capacity with neighbors opposed to his employer’s proposed well permit. Watson not only ignored them, but he failed to file a required conflict of interest affidavit of abstention in violation of Section 171.004 of the Texas Local government Code (a Class A misdemeanor) and voted to approve his employer’s permit.
Why the double standard? Maybe it has to do with the fact that back in 2013 Watson became aware of a rule change plan that would require a well permit application to have enough land to support the proposed well – a spacing requirement. In Wickson SUD’s case, it would have required them to purchase 65 acres of land or negotiate a lease with landowners for the water rights in order to drill their well.
Why was Watson in such a hurry? The simple answer is that because of Watson’s inside knowledge of the water district rule changes, he was able to help his employer, Wickson SUD, fast-track and apply for a well permit so it could be approved on a tiny1.19 acre tract of land. The catch was they had to get the permit approved before the spacing requirement rule change. The Wickson SUD well permit application vote was on the BVGCD agenda just minutes before that rule change – the change that resulted in neighboring landowners to that Wickson SUD well now being required to have 55 times more land to get an equivalent permit (a fact Watson was keenly aware of the day he voted to approve his employer’s well permit).
Watson had no concern for public opinion. Despite the obvious conflict of interest and to the dismay of the landowners in attendance, Watson voted to approve his employer’s well permit. Then minutes later he voted to approve a rule change that prevented those same neighboring landowners from being able to get a well permit like the one he just acquired for his employer.
Even more outrageous is the fact that the lawyer that represented Wickson SUD during their 2013 permit application was part of the secret to derail a recent landowner friendly rule. This time the lawyer was working for the City of Bryan. Bryan representative Tom McDonald, Kent Watson and “their” lawyer worked to take advantage again. This same antiproperty rights lawyer worked years earlier for the “cartel” that failed in an attempt to take water rights from landowners.
Watson, as one of the most unethical BVGCD board members, has participated in secret meetings in violation of the Open Meetings Act, voted for his employer’s well permit in violation of Section 171.004 of the Texas local Government Code, used his board position to advance the position of his employer to the detriment of adjacent landowners and neighbors, ignored the concerns of landowners when it benefited him, was manipulative in dealing with the public about the Wickson well application and consistently works to infringe on the property rights of landowners in Brazos and Robertson counties. John Melvin
Brazos Valley Groundwater Rights Association