Liquid Assets: The State of Texas’ Water Resources
Region I Plan
East Texas Region (I)
Region I, also known as the East Texas region, is located along the Louisiana border extending between Beaumont, Tyler, and the Trinity River, and comprises 20 counties (Exhibit 26). Large portions of the Sabine and Neches rivers and a smaller portion of the Trinity River are located in the area. Major industries in the region include petrochemical, timber and agriculture.
In order to meet the region’s projected water demands in 2060, the East Texas Planning Group recommended 19 water management strategies that would provide more water than required to meet future needs. In all, the strategies would provide 324,756 acre-feet of additional water supply by 2060. The total projected capital cost of providing additional water in the region exceeds $613.4 million. The region’s water management strategies fall into four general categories: conservation, groundwater, surface water and water reuse (Exhibit 27).68
Status of Major Water Projects and Strategies
Exhibit 26: Map of the East Texas Region (I)
The state has committed about $15.6 million for the development costs of the Lake Columbia reservoir, currently in the pre-construction phase. Before starting construction, the project must gain a 404 permit, a permit certifying that the region meets governmental standards restricting wastewater discharge into bodies of water, from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Project planners are working with the Angelina & Neches River Authority and a private consultant to review comments and address all concerns related to the 404 permit. The region will request an additional $48 million from the state in January, contingent on obtaining the 404 permit.69
According to the TWDB, if the strategies listed above are not implemented it could cost residents of Region I $141 million in income and 1,860 full- and part-time jobs by 2010 and nearly $1.7 billion in income and almost 23,000 jobs by 2060. In addition, state and local governments could lose $17 million in annual tax revenue by 2010 and some $236 million by 2060.70
Regional Challenges and Successes
The East Texas region continues to face and overcome challenges associated with water strategy implementation. Designation of unique stream segments presents a problem for the region as water planners must balance future needs of land rights owners with the interests of developers, future public works projects and environmental concerns. Regional planners also face challenges associated with implementing environmental flow, the amount of water necessary for a river, estuary or other freshwater system to maintain its health and productivity, mandates from Senate Bill 3. Environmental flow planners must consider a range of competing interests, from national security to economic development and environmental welfare.71 For instance, efforts to deepen and widen Sabine Lake require creative ways of mitigating saltwater and brackish water inflows from the Gulf of Mexico. Possible solutions include pumping freshwater into the lake or construction of marshes.
East Texas Region (I) Water Management Strategies
|Description||Capital Costs||Water Gained in Acre-Feet||Average Capital Cost per Acre-Feet|
Note: Capital cost figures do not include administrative, programmatic or other costs that may be required to implement water management strategies.
Source: Texas Water Development Board.
In addition to these issues, the region’s chairman identified solutions for two planning and regulatory issues. Water demand projections are based on Texas State Data Center population projections in conjunction with TWDB. According to the East Texas Region’s Chairman regional planners must adhere to these projections even if regional planners have better insight on local population trends. Water planning could improve if local consultants became responsible for population projections. According to TWDB, regional planners can amend population projections if they have more accurate demographic data to support these charges.
Also, levels of water consumption used for regional planning differ from levels specified in TCEQ statutes. The region’s planning group chairman prefers TCEQ levels, since they more closely align with needs of the region during a drought of record. These two levels could be reconciled based on scientific criteria to create one standard that accommodates both regional planning and TCEQ needs. Funding presents another obstacle for the region. To meet water demand in the northern and southern areas, the region must develop a costly water transportation infrastructure. In addition, rural areas of the region lack the customer base to support large water projects. The East Texas region’s greatest success is the designation of Lake Columbia as a unique reservoir site. Several participants from the surrounding area of the future reservoir site continue making progress toward project construction.72
- 68 Texas Water Development Board, Water for Texas 2007 (Austin, Texas, January 2007), Volume II, pp. 61-66, http://www.twdb.state.tx.us/publications/reports/State_Water_Plan/2007/2007StateWaterPlan/CHAPTER%202_REGIONAL%20I_FINAL%20112706.pdf. (Last visited January 2, 2009.)
- 69 Email communication from Kenneth Reneau, general manager of the Angelina & Neches River Authority. Lufkin, Texas, November 20, 2008.
- 70 Texas Water Development Board, Water for Texas 2007, Volume II, p. 251.
- 71 Interview with Kelley Holcomb, chair, East Texas Region I Water Planning Group, Lufkin, Texas, November 4, 2008.
- 72 Interview with Kelley Holcomb, chair, East Texas Region I Water Planning Group.