Historic groundwater case could be nearing end

Bragg v. EAA goes before jury in Medina County

HONDO, Texas – A historic groundwater case may soon be nearing an end in Medina County. Glenn Bragg, a Medina County pecan farmer, took the stand Wednesday in the Bragg v. Edwards Aquifer Authority case, which has been in the court system since 2006. At the crux of the issue are Bragg’s pecan orchards north of Hondo and an additional orchard near D’Hanis.

When the EAA was established in the mid-1990s, permits were denied or partially denied that would allow the Braggs to pump from the Edwards Aquifer. The Braggs would eventually sue.

"It worked its way all the way up (through the courts) and it was found that it was indeed a takings,” St. Mary’s Law Professor Amy Hardberger said.

Hardberger, who specializes in water law, has followed the case closely.

The courts ruled that the EAA owed the Braggs for ‘taking’ away private property, which in this case, was their groundwater. It was the first case in which someone had sued a government entity for taking groundwater and won. Now, one last question has to be answered.

"How much are the Braggs owed? How do you value a partial or total denial of a permit?” Hardberger said.

A trial court originally ruled for a compensation of more than $700,000. An appeals court then decided the math was wrong. Now, a Medina County jury will decide the amount.

"It’s very important because that methodology, if it gets upheld, is the calculus that will be used in any other takings case,” Hardberger said.

The ruling could affect future litigation against the EAA, should there be any. The EAA also has an option to appeal. A decision is expected by Friday.

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