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Practice Areas - Water Rights
Water rights and the development of water resources shave been sources of conflict in all areas of Texas and throughout the history of the state. Water issues have affected landowners, city dwellers, and the governments and businesses that provide water. Bickerstaff, Heath has substantial experience in developing and implementing comprehensive water supply strategies and water management plans for municipalities, water districts, river authorities, and water utilities. We have represented public and private entities in the acquisition and development of surface water and groundwater rights permits as well as major surface water and groundwater supply facilities needed for production, such as reservoirs, pipelines, water treatment facilities, and salinity control facilities. In addition, our attorneys have served as bond counsel for the financing of these major transactions. Our expertise in the areas of water rights law and strategic water planning enables us to assist clients with the development and distribution of their water resources, whether groundwater or surface water, and to guide them through the myriad of local, state, and federal laws and regulations that affect water rights. Our Water Rights and Water Development practice includes:
Our firm successfully represented the Brazos River Authority, the City of Houston, and the Texas Water Development Board in their joint effort to obtain a water rights permit for the construction and operation of the Allens Creek Reservoir, including appeals by the opponents all the way to the Texas Supreme Court. The permit, which included an interbasin transfer between the Brazos-San Jacinto Coastal Basin and the San Jacinto River Basin, was the first reservoir construction permit to be issued in the past decade by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) for the construction of a reservoir. Currently, the Brazos River Authority owns and operates three reservoirs (Possum Kingdom Lake, Lake Granbury, and Lake Limestone) and has water rights in 10 other reservoirs.
We are experienced in obtaining, amending, and protesting permanent and temporary water rights permits, indirect reuse permits, and interbasin transfers on behalf of clients before the TCEQ. We have assisted numerous river authorities, municipalities, and other public and private clients in obtaining and protesting water rights permits for reservoirs and river basins throughout the state. For example, our attorneys represented the Lavaca-Navidad River Authority in the first full interbasin transfer permit to be approved by the TCEQ after the Texas Legislature amended the interbasin transfer requirements in 1997 with Senate Bill 1.
We assist clients in obtaining or amending groundwater permits and complying with or challenging regulatory requirements of groundwater conservation districts. We are experienced in negotiating acquisitions and sales of groundwater rights. Recently, we represented the Canadian River Municipal Water Authority in the acquisition and financing of over 100,000 acre-feet of groundwater rights from landowners in Roberts County and other nearby counties. Our attorneys were also responsible for regulatory compliance issues for the Canadian River Municipal Water Authority's existing $83-million groundwater supply system in Roberts County in the local groundwater conservation district. We assist groundwater conservation districts in drafting, adopting, and enforcing their rules, and represent our district clients in the permitting of new and existing groundwater wells.
We advise clients on water management issues and assist them in the development of water management plans. We also help clients develop comprehensive strategic plans designed to maintain existing water supplies and identify and acquire additional supplies from sources, including groundwater, desalination, aquifer storage and recovery, reclamation and reuse, new reservoir construction, interstate water marketing, intrastate water transfers between basins, and conjunctive use. For example, we represented a North Texas city and a water district in examining and exploring various sources of water from Oklahoma. Our attorneys have also represented the Lower Colorado River Authority in successfully amending its Water Management Plan.
We assist clients in the sale and transfer of surface water and groundwater rights. We advise both sellers and purchasers in drafting and negotiating leases and acquiring of groundwater rights and related easements for use of the surface. For example, we represented the Lavaca-Navidad River Authority in the sale of 30,000 acre-feet of water to the City of Corpus Christi as part of a $100-million project, which included the construction of a pipeline from Lake Texana to the City of Corpus Christi. Our attorneys over the years who have worked in the area have negotiated the sale or transfer of more than 400,000 acre-feet of water and water rights for various public and private entities, including one sale worth $100 million.
We assist clients in the acquisition of water facilities and associated real property, such as reservoirs, reservoir sites, flood easements, dams, diversion facilities, water transmission pipelines, utility easements, groundwater wells, and surface easements. We negotiate and prepare all necessary contractual documents in coordination with the financing of the project. Our attorneys represented the Lavaca-Navidad River Authority in acquiring the Lake Texana Dam and Reservoir and the Canadian River Municipal Water Authority in acquiring the 322-mile Canadian River Aquaduct System, both from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
We represent river authorities, municipalities, water districts, utility districts, and water supply corporations in identifying and obtaining financing for various types of water supply projects, such as reservoirs, and water transmission, distribution, and treatment systems from a variety of financing sources, including the Texas Water Development Board, the Texas Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the private sector. We also assist clients in financing the acquisition of water rights and other water-related projects and serve as bond counsel. For example, we served as bond counsel for the Canadian River Municipal Water Authority for the issuance of bonds totaling over $17 million for the acquisition of the Canadian River Aquaduct System from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and for the issuance of bonds totaling over $52 million for the Authority's groundwater conjunctive use project.
Attorneys who practice Water Rights