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Seal of the Senate of the State of Texas Welcome to the Official Website for the Texas Senate
Seal of the Senate of the State of Texas
Welcome to the official website for the
Texas Senate
November 3, 2004
(512) 463-0300

Texas Water Issues Continue

AUSTIN - The Study Commission on Water for Environmental Flows met today, November 3, 2004, to further assess the water conditions in Texas. Pursuant to Senate Bill 1639, the Study Commission was created to review the regulation of the spacing and production of groundwater and the control of instream flows.

The Commission heard testimony from a Science Advisory Committee chaired by Dr. Robert J. Brandes, as well as public testimony. The Science Advisory Committee was itself charged, by the Study Commission on Water for Environmental Flows, with providing a description of the current hydrologic conditions, flow patterns across the state in major river basins, and freshwater inflow patterns for major bay and estuary systems along the coast.

"The question is not whether environmental flows are important and should be protected, but rather, how, when, and where, and in what quantities should flows be reserved for environmental purposes," Brandes said. He also praised the Legislature for changing it's directive on environmental flows in recent times towards a better understanding of flow problems, but stated that "while progress has been made, there is work to be done."

Brandes presented the Study Commission with a 158 page report from the Science Advisory Committee and answered questions. He added that "less consideration should be given to determining 'optimal' levels of freshwater inflow, and more emphasis should be placed on addressing the extreme hydrological events that cause major stresses in these water systems."

The Study Commission on Water for Environmental Flows is co-chaired by Senator Kenneth Armbrister and Representative Robert Puente. Legislative membership includes Senator Todd Staples, Senator Jeff Wentworth, Rep. William Callegari, and Rep. Charlie Geren. Public membership includes Joseph J Beal, P.E., Jerry L. Clark, Joseph B.C. Fitzsimons, David Herndon, E.G. Rod Pittman, Andrew Sansom, Kathleen Hartnett White, W.E. "Bill" West Jr., and Ben F. Vaughan IV. The Study Commission recessed subject to the call of the chair.

Senate Select Committee on Water Policy Meets

AUSTIN - The Senate Select Committee on Water Policy met this afternoon, November 3, 2004, to review issues related to Texas water law, quality, and management. The hearing began with a brief presentation of the report from the Subcommittee on the Lease of State Water Rights by Subcommittee Chairman, Sen. Frank Madla. The report was quickly adopted and the committee began hearing from invited witnesses.

Edmund R. McCarthy, Jr. of Jackson, Sjoberg, McCarthy & Wilson testified on Key Surface Water Policy Issues. "One of the concerns is, not so much the question of 'is somebody going to be making a profit off of the water', but rather that the state will spend a lot of money, efforts, and resources fighting over who owns it," McCarthy stated. "That's something that the legislature should consider before making policy decisions."

Next came a presentation from Lynn Sherman of Water Texas, Inc., on the Application of Historic Use Standards by Groundwater Districts. Sherman offered a challenge to the committee, saying "Where do you move from 100 years of Rule Of Capture as a property right. The public, I believe, is willing to give the legislature some latitude to work on crossing that line."

The final invited testimony came from Ron Kitchens of the Texas Railroad Commission. Kitchens spoke to the issue of State Role in Oil and Gas Permitting. Public testimony followed.

The committee is chaired by Senator Ken Armbrister. Membership includes Sen. Kip Averitt, Sen. Robert Deuell, Sen. Robert Duncan, Sen. Troy Fraser, Sen. Jon Lindsay, Sen. Eddie Lucio, Sen. Frank Madla, Sen. Eliot Shapleigh, Sen. Todd Staples, and Sen. Tommy Williams. The Committee stands recessed subject to the call of the chair.

Session video and all other Senate webcast recordings can be accessed from the Senate website's Audio/Video Archive.