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Myron Hess
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March 10, 2015

Judge Rules Water Conservation Plan Not Adequate for Lake Ralph Hall Transfer

TCEQ approval of interbasin transfer reversed and remanded for action to address water conservation deficiencies

Austin, TX (March 10, 2015) – Yesterday, Judge Scott Jenkins ruled that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) erred in approving an interbasin transfer for the proposed Lake Ralph Hall because the applicant had not demonstrated compliance with the water conservation requirements established by the Texas Legislature. The National Wildlife Federation challenged the permit, which was issued by TCEQ in 2013, in Travis County District Court alleging that the Upper Trinity Regional Water District had not developed and implemented a strong water conservation program as required by state law.

“The judge got it right, but it never should have come to this,” stated Myron Hess, Manager of Texas Water Programs/Counsel for the National Wildlife Federation. “Unfortunately, the District didn’t really make a reasonable effort to comply with what is the most stringent water conservation standard in state law. The District did not even retain a water conservation expert to help it develop its water conservation plan. Equally troubling, TCEQ staff didn’t substantively review the District’s weak plan and its implementation of that plan in supporting approval of the application, despite the Legislature’s explicit direction to set a very high standard,” added Hess.

Under the Texas statute that governs water transfers, like this one, between river basins, TCEQ is required to ensure that the applicant has ‘developed and implemented a water conservation plan that will result in the highest practicable levels of water conservation and efficiency achievable within its jurisdiction.’ The hearing on the District’s application was the first water right hearing in which the state’s most stringent standard for water conservation, adopted in 1997, applied. With the Court’s ruling, the permit is remanded back to TCEQ for action to address the errors identified. TCEQ could decide to direct the District to improve its plan or could appeal the decision.

“As the current drought illustrates, we have to use our precious, and limited, water resources as efficiently as possible. The National Wildlife Federation just couldn’t stand by and let the state’s gold standard for water conservation be cheapened by accepting a plan that is more fool’s gold than the real deal,” explained Mr. Hess. “Texas simply can’t meet its water needs and protect its natural heritage without using every drop as efficiently as possible. Piping water around the state to be used wastefully is bad for all Texans. We can, and must, do better than that,” he concluded.

The National Wildlife Federation is America’s largest conservation organization inspiring Americans to protect wildlife for our children’s future.

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