Friends of the Brazos asks for help in water rights fight

 

Friends of the Brazos' annual river cleanup day is set for April 11. Photo courtesy Friends of the Brazos

Friends of the Brazos’ annual river cleanup day is set for April 11. Photo courtesy Friends of the Brazos

Special to the Current

Friends of the Brazos, a nonprofit formed in 2005 mainly to try to block the Brazos River Authority’s unprecedented water rights application to take water out of the Brazos River, needs your help.

One of the group’s first actions was to file for a contested case hearing to block the water rights application. That legal and scientific battle has entered a new and expensive phase. (See the history of the water rights fight at the end of this report.)

Friends of the Brazos has spent roughly $220,000 to date in this effort. Probably 70 percent of that is legal fees and the other 30 percent is to fund the scientific studies and testimony of FBR’s science team, according to Ed Lowe, president of Friends of the Brazos.

BRA might well have received approval to own all of the Brazos River water rights from Texas Commission on Environmental Quality had FBR not contested their legal and scientific claims, he said.

Friends owes its legal and science team about $25,000. “That is a small price to pay to ensure that wildlife and people can continue to share the river with industrial users,” Lowe said in a prepared statement.

BRA has probably spent many millions of dollars, and FBR’s team of opponents together over $500,000 (including FBR’s $220,000), he estimated.

“BRA – Goliath — didn’t think we – David –would have the funds or the grit to stay in this fight as long as we have,” Lowe said.

He added that any donations would be “greatly appreciated and is essential to continue our fight to protect the Brazos River for present and future generations. Other FBR board members are Adam Eyres, Jane Vaughn and Larry Wilson.

“The reason we have taken this on, and stayed in the fight, is so that we can keep enough water flowing in the Brazos to preserve the complex ecosystems from the headwaters to Freeport,” Lowe explained. “We are doing this for both wildlife and people. For wildlife, it’s a matter of survival. For us, it’s to preserve a beautiful piece of river that we all love.”

To donate, please send checks to Friends of the Brazos River, 6336 Goliad, Dallas, TX 75214. You may also go to www.friendsofthebrazos.org and use the “Donate” button.

“Every dollar helps us keep up the good fight to keep the Brazos flowing,” Lowe said.

The annual Friends of the Brazos river cleanup day will be held April 11. Meet at 9 a.m. at Tres Rios. Canoes are still available with early reservations. More information is available at www.friendsofthebrazos.org.

Brief description of the history of Friends of the Brazos and the water rights application

Courtesy of Friends of the Brazos

In 2004, the Brazos River Authority (BRA) filed an application for the almost all the water left in the Brazos River Basin from Possum Kingdom Reservoir to the Gulf. It is asking to add one million acre-feet of water per year to its existing 700,000 acre-feet per year water right.

To date BRA has rarely used or sold more than 400,000 acre feet of water in any one year. (One acre foot of water is the amount of water to cover an acre of land to a depth of 1 foot or 326,700 gallons.)

 

After the initial two weeks of trial (contested case hearing at the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH)) in the spring of 2011, the two judges recommended to the governor appointed Commissioners of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality that they either deny the permit or require BRA to go back and try again by providing much more information.

 

Much of the judge’s recommendation was based on testimony by FBR’s expert Joe Trungale that BRA was just trying to grab all the rest of the water without having plans or even a good guess at who might use the water and where in the future.  So BRA could not prove how it would affect the flows in the Brazos River Basin.

 

The commissioners chose to let BRA have a second chance, and a hearing on the “improved” application was restarted in 2013. It was postponed again almost immediately, because FBR convinced the Judges that the application still did not have the proper environmental evaluation and use of the Senate Bill 3 Environmental Flows Standards. FBR played a significant role in assuring that these standards contained significant protection for the Middle Brazos.

 

BRA again revised its application, and the latest hearing was scheduled for two weeks, starting Feb.17, 2015.  FBR, joined by Dow Chemical, the City of Granbury and others, will continue to argue through Trungale and other experts that BRA has still not provided the information and analysis required by Texas law, including that required to protect flows in the Brazos River.

 

 

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