Drip By Last Drop, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality Goes With the Flow

Categories: Schutze
nechesriverbed.jpg
Ron Jackson/Texas Freeway
The Neches River Bridge
In April 2009, I wrote about the court battle between the city of Dallas and people in East Texas over a proposed dam and reservoir on the Neches River. The East Texas people won that one, successfully persuading a judge to kill the planned reservoir. But the Neches River fight was only one skirmish in a statewide war between the reservoir interests and a loose alliance of people who don't want more rivers dammed, including environmentalists, sportsmen, rural communities and commercial fishing interests in the Gulf of Mexico.

That war moved one step closer to the final shoot-out at the O.K. Corral today with the publication of a draft report on something called "environmental flow" rules by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). Bottom line? The two sides are just loading up their guns, buddy. Every little chance you get, try not to stand between them.

"Environmental flow" is a technical term for the water in the river. How much is there? How much does there need to be? Obviously if you divert all of it, there is no more river. But there's also no more a lot of other stuff -- forests and ecosystems, downstream agriculture and then a raft of complicated wetland areas and stages essential to the spawning of saltwater species important to commercial fishing.

The TCEQ is going through a process to come up  with some kind of consistent overall scheme: We need to know how much water in Texas rivers it will take to preserve natural resources and what kind of damage will occur if the water levels go lower.

But it ain't easy getting there.

The process for coming up with these rules is typical Texas. They didn't just turn it over to the scientists. Oh, no, we couldn't have pure science decide. They had to set it up so that the reservoir interests have their own committee and their own equal vote on what the rules should be.

So guess what today's big report says on the process so far? The two sides can't agree on anything. And guess what the ultimate solution to that will be? Turn it over to the political appointees on the commission. You know -- the guys who think cement dust is good for you and if you can light your kitchen faucet on fire with a match you ought to pay extra.

Why didn't they just save everybody the effort and turn the whole thing over to a Gypsy to begin with? (Sorry. A person of Roma origin with purported psychic powers.)

Anyway, it goes on from here. Public hearing November 3. I have a call in to the TCEQ to find out where and when. They'll probably tell me to file an Open Records Request. I will. In fact, I'm going to file an Open Records request for the best way to get to Austin from here.

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