Senate Natural Resources Committee Meeting Draws Large Audience in Galveston
GALVESTON - The Senate Natural Resources Committee held a public meeting March 8, 2000, at the San Luis Hotel in Galveston. The meeting addressed water and coastal issues in Texas.
Committee members include Senators J.E. "Buster" Brown of Lake Jackson, chair, Ken Armbrister of Victoria, vice-chair, Gonzalo Barrientos of Austin, Teel Bivins of Amarillo, Tom Haywood of Wichita Falls, Eddie Lucio, Jr. of Brownsville, and Bill Ratliff of Mt. Pleasant.
Leroy Goodson of the Texas Water Conservation Association offered welcoming remarks to the committee.
The first topic of discussion was Galveston area water resources. Carolyn Brittin of the Texas Water Development Board testified. Brittin spoke about water use and waste water production at Galveston. One hundred and thirty-six million dollars will be spent on water improvement projects this year in Galveston.
Ron Neighbors, of the Harris Galveston Coastal Subsidence District and Fort Bend Subsidence District, gave a presentation on the state's groundwater resources. He noted the problems with over pumping of groundwater. Neighbors told the committee that over pumping produces higher levels of subsidence and flooding. In the Baytown area over pumping of groundwater has caused homes to collapse, caused water well failures, and has raised water quality concerns. Neighbors emphasized that conservation and education are the two best ways to decrease the current pumping levels of ground water resources.
Jim Adams of the San Jacinto River Authority, Danny Vance of the Trinity River Authority, G.L. Meyers of the Gulf Coast Water Authority, and Marsh Rice of the Trinity Improvement Association discussed the missions and roles of Texas river authorities. These individuals discussed the duties their respective river authorities, and the needs of their specific areas.
Opportunities and challenges facing the Texas coastal region were the next topic. Ashley Wadick of the General Land Office gave a regulatory update. Bill Worsham, also of the General Land Office, discussed coastal erosion planning and response act implementation. He praised the Texas Senate for their passing of the response act.
Hal Osborn, Coastal Fisheries Director, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, then testified. Osborn told the committee that the Galveston area fishing industry is experiencing record high production. Red Drum, Speckled Trout, and Flounder populations are the highest they have ever been in recorded history.
Although Osborn had good news to provide about fish stocks, he told the committee that shrimp populations are dangerously low. From the early 1960's there has been a 300% increase in shrimping around Galveston. If current trends continue, Texas will face a "total collapse of shrimp stocks." A collapse of the shrimp stock would not only create a biological disaster, but an economic one also. One way the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is trying to slow the eradication of shrimp stocks is to buy back commercial fishing licenses and shrimp boats from license holders. So far the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has bought back more than four hundred licenses, at $6,000 each. Osborn hopes to find other means, along with the licensing and boat purchasing program, to help stabilize the shrimp population.
Extensive public testimony regarding the challenges facing the Texas coastal region followed Osborn's testimonial. Individuals from the Surf Rider Foundation, the Galveston Bay Foundation, the West Galveston Property Owner's Association, the Texas Shore and Beaches Association, the Texas Oyster Industry, and surrounding Galveston communities were represented. Following public testimony, the Senate Natural Resources Committee recessed subject to call of the chair.