Talking TRUTH About The Farmers Branch Creek Dispute

 Talking TRUTH About The
Farmers Branch Creek Dispute
By Susan M. Halpern
Former Addison Councilmember (1992-1999)

Farmers Branch has decided to take the creek dispute in an unfortunate direction, terminating a number of longstanding, unrelated agreements with Addison. I guess there is a contingent in Farmers Branch that believes that using libraries and access to senior centers as pawns will somehow cause Addison to capitulate to Farmers Branch’s demands.  Addison has reacted by staying above the fray and sticking to its guns.  As well it should.

The dispute involves a creek that flows through a neighborhood south of the Vitruvian development. Addison takes water in from Farmers Branch on the east side of the Vitruvian pond, and ultimately sends water downstream to the south on the west side of the pond, back into the creek at issue.  One of the requirements of Addison’s TCEQ permit for the Vitruvian development is that Addison must send downstream to Farmers Branch substantially the same amount of water that it takes in on the east side.  This includes replacing water that evaporates as it sits in the Vitruvian pond.

To meet this requirement, the TCEQ permit authorized Addison to drill a well into the Trinity Aquifer. Addison’s initial plan was to also use this water for irrigation.  When Addison’s irrigation plans changed, Addison sought permission to drill its well into the Woodbine Aquifer.  The change was inconsequential, so it was no surprise that the TCEQ told Addison that this would be fine.  Significantly, the TCEQ also told Addison that it did not need to amend its permit in connection with this change.

Then the TCEQ changed its mind. Told Addison it would need to amend its permit.  Told Addison that it should have amended its permit.  Even though the TCEQ had previously told Addison the exact opposite.  And, even though the TCEQ readily acknowledges that it told Addison the exact opposite.  You read all that correctly.  It is completely unfair to Addison.  Nonetheless, Addison filed an application to amend its permit and has pursued the amendment ever since.

Looking back, the consultant receiving the direction about drilling into the Woodbine Aquifer should not have believed the TCEQ. Nor should the lawyers have believed the TCEQ.  They should all have assumed that the TCEQ would later change its mind.  They should have incurred the expenses associated with amending the permit, even though they had been told that it was unnecessary to do so by none other than the TCEQ itself.

Oh wait. That all sounds crazy.  Who would needlessly spend taxpayer money that way?  No one, of course.  The fact is that Addison had no way to anticipate the turn of events that has now brought it to its present circumstances, most notably the TCEQ’s complete change in position regarding the need for Addison to amend the permit.  Anyone who claims otherwise is ignoring reality.

Nonetheless, those who seek to divide our community are now characterizing the issue by saying that Addison “dug in the wrong aquifer.” That is a clearly incorrect and misleading statement, including because the TCEQ was informed of and approved Addison’s plan to drill into the Woodbine Aquifer.

So, what is Farmers Branch’s part in all this? Well, Farmers Branch is opposing Addison’s efforts to amend its permit.  If Farmers Branch is successful, that will force Addison to drill a new well into the Trinity Aquifer, at significant expense to Addison.  So, with that possibility dangling over Addison’s head, Farmers Branch is making demands, presumably in exchange for withdrawing its opposition to Addison’s efforts to amend its permit.  Farmers Branch’s opposition relies on its claim (without support) that the quality of the water drawn from the Woodbine Aquifer is inadequate.  Addison disagrees, and the fact remains that the water that is sent downstream into Farmer’s Branch meets all the requirements of the TCEQ permit.

Farmers Branch has now escalated the matter. Last week they sent a series of letters to Addison (one per day for dramatic effect) terminating longstanding agreements relating to libraries and senior centers and other matters totally unrelated to the creek. And, for good measure, they have falsely told Farmers Branch residents that Addison is polluting their creek despite an “official ruling.”  Both propositions are patently false.  Misinforming citizens for perceived political gain does nothing to help either community.  Trust Addison on this, it endured this tactic for six years at the hands of our ex-mayor and every last bit of it was unhelpful, divisive and toxic.  It is disappointing at best to think that a neighboring community would employ such tactics.

Inexplicably, the negative spinners claim that this is all news to them. If it is, they haven’t been paying attention.  This issue arose during the tenure of their own ex-mayor, and it has been discussed countless times by Addison’s council since then.  In executive session.  The present council inherited the situation and has continued to meet about it, in exactly the same manner as the councils before them met: in executive session.  So, the efforts to cast aspersions on the current council based on clearly authorized, proper executive sessions are inappropriate and without any basis in reality.

The negative spinners have also taken their usual pot shot at former City Manager Ron Whitehead. These attacks are utterly unjustified and they disrespect the history of our town.  Ron Whitehead’s dedication to Addison for 32 years is responsible for almost all of the beauty and amenities that make Addison so special.  Look around you and admire the parks, the trails, the health club, the conference and theater center, the airport, the restaurants, the special events, and…  I could go on for a long time.  Ron Whitehead and his staff are responsible for all of it.  Their vision, their innovative thinking and their hard work MADE ADDISON.  It is beyond disgraceful that these people – bent on misinforming and dividing Addison – continue such inappropriate efforts to try to besmirch all that Ron Whitehead accomplished for Addison.

It’s a shame that the creek matter wasn’t resolved when the chance was there. But that’s the past, and we must deal with the present.  If Farmers Branch sees fit to employ the tactics we’ve just witnessed, then perhaps it’s time to take their leverage out of the equation.  If Addison has to drill into the Trinity Aquifer because the TCEQ changed its position and Farmers Branch won’t join Addison in finding a reasonable solution, then so be it.  It’s completely unfair, but that’s where we are with it.  Addison needs to move forward.

And in moving forward, Addison needs to present a united front. That is the Addison Way.