Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Water profiteering on the backs of rural landowners

If you are in the Eastern Williamson/Travis area, another project to be aware of is the new water pipeline of Cross County Water Supply Corp. This project was covered by the Statesman on November 10: “Pipeline nearing approval to deliver water to Manor area—Project is part of race to bring water for development near Texas 130.”


At the time this article was written, approval by the Travis County commissioners had not yet been secured, but they have since approved the project. Up to $40 million in tax-exempt bonds would be used to build a 52-mile water pipeline from Burleson County through Lee and Williamson counties to the Eastern Travis County area. Please click on the link to the article to see a map.

The Statesman notes that the project “is part of a lucrative race to serve the semirural area around Texas 130. . . [T]he transformation of the land into subdivisions and shopping centers is contingent on the shipment of water, and whoever delivers it could profit handsomely.”

Cross County is set up as a non-profit. However, behind Cross County are for-profit entities hoping to “profit handsomely” on the backs of rural property owners. The Statesman says, “Cross County counts as its customer Blue Water Systems, run by Austin real estate investor Ross Cummings, which has developed wells in Burleson County, said Pat Reilly, a director of Cross County. Blue Water, in turn, has a deal to sell water to publicly traded Southwest Water Co., Reilly said.”

Burleson County landowners Terry and Linda Ausley have been sued by Cross County because they would not give permission for the company “to perform topographical, environmental and geotechnical surveys on their land as a prelude to acquiring an easement for the water pipeline.”

The Ausleys have countersued, saying that Cross County “was formed . . . as a Texas nonprofit corporation for the sole purpose of fraudulently providing a mechanism for obtaining easements below market rate via threat of condemnation for purposes of securing a pipeline location . . .”

Fraud is already connected with this project. The Statesman notes, “The water would come from groundwater leases in Burleson County originally acquired by Metropolitan Water Co., whose president and founder is William Scott Carlson. In 2004, Cummings put up $1 million to cover Carlson's bail after he was jailed for violating the terms of his probation in a fraud case.”

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