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Charges mount for Beard in pipe yard incident

May 21st, 2015 under Top Stories

By SASHA von OLDERSHAUSEN

ALPINE – Rancher Tom Beard, a Brewster County Groundwater Conservation District board member and co-chairman of the Far West Texas Regional Water Planning Group, was charged with a Class 3 felony in connection with an alleged assault of a peace officer. The charge stems from an incident that occurred last week, during which Beard was arrested on grounds of criminal trespassing.

Beard’s arrest occurred at the site of Pumpco Inc.’s 23-acre equipment yard, located in west Alpine. Pumpco Inc. is the construction company tasked with building the Trans Pecos Pipeline.

Tom Beard, center, at the Pumpco pipe yard in Alpine last week.

Tom Beard, center, at the Pumpco pipe yard in Alpine last week.

According to eyewitness Suzanne Bailey, Beard allegedly approached the site to inquire about the company’s use of a groundwater well located on the property.

During a regularly scheduled meeting of the groundwater district earlier that morning, Bailey had alerted Beard and others on the board to the fact that Pumpco workers had retrofitted an electric pump on the well and were filling their trucks with water from it. Bailey lives adjacent to the property owned by Pumpco.

“They were very interested and curious,” Bailey said. “Several of them wanted to come out and look at the site.”

Bailey said that she and three of the groundwater conservation district reps that included Beard, Virgil Clark and Conrad Arriola, drove to the site, where they toured around in an attempt to locate the project manager.

“Tom Beard kept saying he wanted to see the guy in charge, and someone said they had called him and he would be there soon. It took two-and-a-half hours for the person to show up,” Bailey said.

She added that the Pumpco representative who finally did arrive refused to give Beard his name. “The Pumpco guy called the sheriff, and Brewster County deputy sheriff Doug McIntyre showed up. McIntyre proceeded to tell Tom to get off his property. Tom Beard maintained that as a board member of the water board, he had the right to inspect a well that they thought was illegal, and if necessary, issue a fine,” Bailey said.

Finally, according to Bailey, Clark allegedly told Beard that they could identify the Pumpco rep from his license plate number, which Clark had written down. Beard agreed to turn around and leave, at which point McIntyre proceeded to arrest Beard.

According to an affidavit of probable cause for arrest, provided to The Big Bend Sentinel / The International via a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, sheriff’s deputy Mauricio V. Cordova – who was also present at the scene – wrote, “Beard was behind the property line when he decided to step over the boundry [sic] of the property, attempting to get into his personal vehicle. Deputy McIntyre asked Beard to stop moving, Beard then froze up and refused to place his right arm to his back. I stepped in and grabbed Beard’s arms and forced it back so that Deputy McIntyre could cuff him. While doing this Beard turned at me and used his right foot to stomp on my foot twice with his heel and sole of his cowboy boots. I remained until Deputy McIntyre affected the arrest and I stepped away. The heel of Beard’s boot did cause some pain to my right foot. Beard was advised he would be charged for the assault on me.”

Shortly after 1:30pm, Beard was ushered to the county jail. He was released at around 7pm on a personal recognizance bond – meaning he did not have to pay bail – issued by Justice of the Peace Gilbert Valenzuela.

Arriola, the manager of the groundwater conservation district, who had left the scene prior to Beard’s arrest said of the occurrence, “We went out there to see if we could find a project manager to get information so that we could send them a letter. They’re operating a well that does not have a permit on it. We’d like them to first register the well and obtain a permit.”

He added, “If it was a residential well, even though ownership has changed, if it’s now for commercial use, they need a new permit for that.”

Additionally, Arriola said that all “non-exempt wells” – that is, wells that are capable of producing more than 25,000 gallons per day, or approximately 17 gallons per minute – require a meter for operation. He added that it was possible the well at the equipment yard site was indeed a non-exempt well.

“We found some information from when the well was drilled in 1994, and we believe it could produce up to 40 gallons per minute,” Arriola said. “We don’t know if that’s changed or not. But we would ask them to do a pump test.”

If Pumpco doesn’t comply with the groundwater conservation district’s formal request, they are subject to fines of up to $10,000 per day. Furthermore, the groundwater conservation district is entitled to take additional punitive measures.

“If they’re not complying, we could get a sheriff out there and shut it down until they came,” said Arriola.

But, he added, that is the last resort. “We want to work with them and be professional about it.”

But in an unlikely turn of events, it was the groundwater conservation district that was penalized.

According to Brewster County Groundwater Conservation District rule 13.4, first cited by the Alpine Daily Planet, Beard indeed had the right to remain on the Pumpco, Inc. property.

The rule states: “An agent or employee of the District may not enter private property without the permission of the landowner or the landowner’s agent except to inspect a permitted well and to ensure compliance with the District Rules. If a landowner or a landowner’s agent refuses to allow District agents and employees to enter the property to inspect a permitted well and to ensure compliance with the Rules, the Board may revoke any permits held by the landowner previously issued by the Board or deny any permits pending before the Board.”

Alpine attorney Liz Rogers, who is representing Beard, said, “Mr. Beard had authority to be on the property in his position as a member of the Brewster Groundwater Conservation District. He looks forward to his day in court to contest these charges.”

With regard to the assault charge, Rogers declined to comment but remarked, “None of us have been able to see the videotape.”

Beard’s court date has not yet been set. Pumpco could not be reached for comment.

Story filed under: Top Stories

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