Texas’ New Environmental River Flows Process (Posted By Mike Mecke)

Experts, states and federal agencies have long recognized that river systems are crucial to many important natural services, while providing life-giving drinking water for people, livestock and wildlife; irrigation water for our food and other products; groundwater recharge and recreation for people.  Healthy creek and river flows are crucial to maintaining the vital green belts along them called “riparian zones”.  Riparian zones are important for quality livestock grazing, wildlife habitat, water filtration and storage, stormwater/ flooding reduction, maintenance of streamflows, aquatic system health and recreational values.  (See http://www.texasriparian.org/  for riparian information.)

But, all that fancy terminology is not “new information” to most of you rural Texans, farmers and ranchers - the original “stakeholders and conservationists” who have been taking good care of Texas’ watersheds, creeks and rivers for hundreds of years!  You already knew how important that spring and creek in the valley pasture was to you, your livestock, the wildlife on the place and to the river it flows into.  But, many present day Texans are “new Texans” or have been in towns/cities so long they have been disconnected to the world around them.   Many think food comes from grocery stores and water appears magically at their faucets.  This process will try to assure that all of us are going to pay enough attention in the future to those vital springs, wetlands, creeks, rivers and bays – from now on – making sure that our kids, grandkids and all others will have their many benefits forever.

 Environmental Flows processes were created by the 80th Texas Legislature in recognition of the importance that the ecological soundness of our riverine, bay, and estuary systems and riparian lands has on the economy, health, and well-being of our state. Thru SB-3 legislation the major river basins and bays of Texas will be carefully reviewed, studied and environmental flows data and guidelines will be developed by several committees and groups.  Expert science teams for each basin will support each basin’s group of stakeholder’s committee along with technical support from state agencies and academic institutions. 

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is the primary state agency charged with this mission.  This is a crucial process, which not only will affect Texas’ rivers and bays, but the springs and creeks which feed our rivers and wetlands providing so many life-supporting services for Texans.

 The Environmental Flows program in Texas began with the Sabine/Neches Rivers & Bay; the Trinity/San Jacinto Rivers & Galveston Bay; the Colorado/Lavaca Rivers & Bays, and this fall, the Guadalupe River Basin & Bay system.  Each major river basin will also have its own Science Advisory Committee made up of qualified, knowledgeable experts in several different sciences necessary for flows study and development.

 Each basin will have citizen stakeholder groups representing all key interests along the rivers and on the Gulf such as: Ag Irrigation, Livestock, Recreational Water Users, Towns & Cities, Soil & Water Conservation Districts, Industry, Commercial Fishing, Public Interest Groups, Groundwater Districts, River Authorities and Environmental Interests. 

The author is a member of the Guadalupe River Basin & Bays Stakeholder Committee and will try to keep you magazine and blog readers aware of the status of the process.  If you have good comments, questions or information of value to the Guadalupe basin, please send them to me and they will be considered.

Your local newspaper and other media should keep you updated on meetings in your river basin and of key issues discussed and resolved.  If your newspaper is not carrying this information, contact the Editor and ask that they obtain the news releases from TCEQ or your local River Authority.

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