• September 23, 2014

Heights backs signing letter of opposition to Senate bill

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Posted: Tuesday, March 25, 2014 11:35 pm

HARKER HEIGHTS — Council members on Tuesday voted in favor of Mayor Rob Robinson signing a letter of opposition to a Senate measure that would grant increased latitude to the Army Corps of Engineers.

The letter opposes Section 2014 of Senate Bill 601, which would grant the Corps unprecedented discretion to adjust reservoir operations without congressional authorization or the involvement of the nonfederal sponsor.

With Texas reservoirs at only 64 percent of capacity, reservoir protection is critical, according to the Texas Water Development Board.

“As our state’s population increases, so does the need to effectively and efficiently manage our water supply,” City Manager David Mitchell said.

“The fear is that things can fall by the wayside without local control,” Mitchell said.

Since 2007, Texas law has established a process that provides for a basin specific assessment, review and recommendations by interested stakeholders. Currently, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality — the nonfederal sponsor — oversees this process of studying reservoirs and by working with stakeholders to balance environmental flow needs with other public interests, including the need for water for industry and municipal purposes.

Granting the authority to the Corps would place Texas reservoirs under federal control, which city officials feel would effectively trample on the existing state and local input.

“We believe this language, if enacted, will place Texans’ water supply in jeopardy,” according to the letter to Sens. Barbara Boxer and David Vitter and Congressmen Bill Shuster and Nick J. Rahall II.

“As you may know, Texas endured the most intense drought in recorded state history in 2011, and has yet to bounce back fully as water levels at a number of reservoirs remain significantly low.”

Given the potential negative impacts of such a policy, city officials are requesting that Section 2014 be eliminated from the final version of the bill.

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