The Texas Water Development Board has released the proposed rules governing new state water infrastructure funds (know as SWIFT and SWIRFT) that will fund billions of dollars of water projects across the state. These rules are expected to be published by the Texas Register around July 10th which will start the formal public comment period, expected to end September 1st. For a copy of the draft rules, click here.
This summer the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) will hold three public hearings across Texas to receive feedback about these proposed rules. Ashley, our legal intern, addressed the TWDB last week and provided the first of many comments about the draft rules:
“Good Morning, my name is Ashley Croswell. I am a legal intern at Environment Texas, a non-profit advocate for clean air, clean water, and open spaces. There’s a lot at stake in how we write these rules, and this could fundamentally shape Texas’ future. A future we hope will prioritize cutting water waste and protecting our natural resources while meeting the water needs of our communities in a sustainable way. I’ve read through the rules and there’s obviously a lot in here – I just want to highlight 2 things today.
First, we were delighted to read that the percentage requirements for rural and water conservation reporting is considered a floor and not a ceiling by the Board. This acknowledgement shows leadership and sound judgment. The rural, agricultural, and conservation categories will become particularly effective with the regional outreach programs this Board stated it plans to aggressively pursue. Thank you for including these strategies into the proposed draft rules.
Second, Environment Texas proposes that the Board reconsider the way that points are given to a project under subsection L of the prioritization criteria. Subsection L distributes points to a project depending on the level of priority within the applicable regional water-planning group. These points ought not be given solely based on one region’s prioritization if that project also impacts other regional-water groups. All regional-water groups that are directly impacted by a project should be considered when giving points under subsection L, in the interest of fairness.
For example, the proposed Marvin Nichols Reservoir, which would provide water to Regional water group C will primarily affect the economy and environment in Regional water group D. 99.5% of comments received in the recent TWDB comment period were in opposition of Marvin Nichols. Additionally, regional-water group D specifically opposed this project in their own prioritization list. This kind of opposition should be considered when determining the amount of points under subsection L.
Environment Texas plans to remain active during the public commentary period for these draft rules. Thank you very much for giving me time to speak today. I welcome any questions or comments the Board may have.”
We have a historic opportunity to create a more balanced water future that restores our rivers and streams while sustainably meeting communities’ water needs. Environment Texas is urging the TWDB to adopt rules that maximize the investment in water conservation and prohibit use of state funds for water projects that would cause significant harm to the environment. Texas law requires that “the state water plan shall … protect the agricultural and natural resources of the entire state.”
The real key to winning this fight is you. We encourage you to advocate for a strong prioritization process that will reward entities that have a proven commitment to conservation with a low environmental impact. With your support, we can let the TWDB know we’re committed to saving water and protecting our rivers.
Below you’ll find information for the first of three public meetings where the TWDB will ask for your feedback about these draft rules (the other two are tentatively scheduled for San Angelo on August 13 and Arlington for August 21).
Texas Water Development Board Work Session
Thursday, July 24, 2014 @ 1:00pm
Texas A&M University – San Antonio
One University Way
San Antonio, TX 78224
For more information, contact Mehgan Taack at the TWDB
Executive Director, Environment Texas
As the executive director of Environment Texas, Luke is a leading voice in the state for clean air, clean water, clean energy and open space. Luke has led successful campaigns to win permanent protection for the Christmas Mountains of Big Bend; to compel Exxon, Shell and Chevron Phillips to cut air pollution at three Texas refineries and chemical plants; and to boost funding for water conservation and state parks. The San Antonio Current has called Luke "long one of the most energetic and dedicated defenders of environmental issues in the state." He has been named one of the "Top Lobbyists for Causes" by Capitol Inside, received the President's Award from the Texas Recreation and Parks Society for his work to protect Texas parks, and was chosen for the inaugural class of "Next Generation Fellows" by the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law at UT Austin. Luke, his wife, son and daughters are working to visit every state park in Texas.