The Seco Sinkhole, located in western Medina County. Photo courtesy of the Edwards Aquifer Authority.
The Seco Sinkhole, located in western Medina County. Credit: Courtesy / Edwards Aquifer Authority

The Edwards Aquifer Authority will interview four applicants to fill a vacant seat representing parts of north-central San Antonio.

The EAA will narrow its slate of applicants for Bexar County’s District 3 on its 17-member board. The district stretches roughly from U.S. Highway 90 and Interstate 35 west of downtown northward to some neighborhoods just outside of Loop 410.

The Texas Legislature created the EAA in 1993 to manage the Edwards Aquifer, a vast limestone rock layer that holds the largest source of drinking water in the San Antonio region. Its jurisdiction includes all of Uvalde, Medina and Bexar counties, and parts of Atascosa, Caldwell, Comal, Guadalupe, and Hays counties.

The District 3 seat has been vacant since former director Rebekah J. Bustamante resigned late last year. The position’s term expires in December 2018.

The applicants to replace Bustamante include a former World Bank natural resource manager, a civil engineer, a groundwater hydrologist, and a former board member who served more than 20 years.

“We’re fortunate to have four qualified candidates,” Board Chair Luana Buckner said.

Jim Smyle

The applicants include Jim Smyle, an independent consultant who previously worked on environmental issues across the globe for the World Bank for almost 20 years.

Smyle currently serves on the board of the Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance, an environmental advocacy group. He’s also known for his critique of the financial workings behind the San Antonio Water System’s Vista Ridge pipeline project.

The EAA board will also consider Abelardo “Abe” Salinas III, an engineer serving as project manager for LNV, Inc., with experience in water rights permits, computer modeling to predict water availability, water conservation, and flooding, among other issues.

Abe Salinas
Abelardo “Abe” Salinas III

Salinas has also served on a City of San Antonio bond committee addressing flooding and drainage and on the Alamo Area Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Bicycle Mobility Advisory Committee.

The board will interview independent groundwater hydrologist George Rice, who previously represented the EAA’s District 3 from 2002 to 2010.

George Rice
George Rice

Rice is known for studying groundwater contamination below a former military base in Southwest San Antonio as a member of the Kelly Restoration Advisory Board. In 2015 he produced a report about the adverse impact he said SAWS’ Vista Ridge pumping would have on aquifers in Central Texas.

Susan Hughes, who represented District 6 from 1996 to 2017, serving at times as board vice-chair and as chair of the Research and Technology Committee, is also being considered.

Susan Hughes
Susan Hughes

Hughes works as a freelance writer and editor and a jewelry designer. She’s been in leadership roles with multiple environmental organizations, including Green Spaces Alliance of South Texas, Texas Master Naturalists, and the National Audubon Society.

Buckner said the board will conduct interviews and vote on the applicants on March 13.

Most of the board – Districts 1, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11, 13, and 15 – will be up for reelection in November.

Brendan Gibbons is a former senior reporter at the San Antonio Report. He is an environmental journalist for Oil & Gas Watch.