FORT STOCKTON, Texas (May 9, 2023) — Belding Farms, a 60-year-old pecan farm in Fort Stockton, has taken legal steps to halt renewal of a groundwater permit to export water out of Pecos County to protect its water rights and those of all others and to ensure sustainability of the aquifer.
The permit is held by Fort Stockton Holdings, which is owned by the Williams Family, and originally was issued by the Middle Pecos Groundwater Conservation District in 2017. The Texas Water Code requires that construction of the project begin within three years of issuance, which hasn’t happened - thus invalidating renewal.
If renewed, the groundwater would be exported from Pecos County to the cities of Midland, San Angelo and Abilene.
“Our concern is that the District underestimates the impacts to the aquifer from pumping nearly 55% more water and the risks to sustainability of the Edwards-Trinity Aquifer for all users,” said Ernie Cockrell, chairman of Cockrell Investment Partners, which owns Belding Farms. “We are not opposed to water exports as long as rules are in place to protect historic levels for the benefit of everyone relying on the aquifer.”
On March 31, 2023, Cockrell Investment Partners filed a lawsuit and application for temporary injunction in Pecos County District Court in a bid to stop the Middle Pecos GCD from renewing the export permit when it is considered this summer. A hearing on the injunction is likely to be scheduled soon.
“The best gauge of the aquifer’s health is Comanche Springs, it’s the canary in the coal mine,” said Cockrell. “The springs only flow for a few months a year because the aquifer is already stressed – and we certainly would not want the flows to stop.”
Belding Farms uses groundwater to irrigate its pecan orchard and has invested millions of dollars to increase the efficiency of its water usage.
“Sustainability of the Edwards-Trinity Aquifer is as critical for all other water users as it is for us,” Cockrell said. “The cities planning to import water from Pecos County need reliability and sustainability as much as we do.”
ABOUT BELDING FARMS
Belding Farms (beldingpecanfarms.com) is owned by Cockrell Investment Partners, LP, and has operated for more than 55 years in Pecos County. The farm produces an average of 5 million pounds of pecans a year on 2,200 acres of land. The operation invests $2 million annually in employee payroll and processing plant and has invested millions of dollars in irrigation efficiency over the years. Belding Farms is one of the oldest commercial establishments in Fort Stockton.
Belding Farms Contact:
Zachary Swick, General Manager
Ryan C. Reed, Partner
Pulman, Cappuccio & Pullen, LLP
Water Policy Contact: