The Sabine River Authority of Louisiana in January was continuing to work through the possibility of selling 600,000 acre feet of water per year from the river system to Toledo Bend Partners, which in turn would market it westward, to Texas customers. The deal would run for 99 years.
However, there are some questions, both locally and in the office of Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal.
The Sabine authority currently has a hydropower generating agreement, which runs until 2018.
The Saline River empties into the Gulf of Mexico, and forms part of the boundary between Texas and Louisiana.
Comment deadline was set for January 6.
Jim Pratt, Executive Director of SRA Louisiana, told KTBS in Texarkana that “We feel like, based on the investigation that moving from the power supply component to the water supply: it would use less water out of the reservoir; it’s worth 25 times the amount of revenue and we can maintain more consistent higher elevations on the lake itself.”
A number of area residents are concerned about the sale, however. The Toledo Bend Citizens’ Advisory Committee was originally formed in opposition to a 2001 proposal to develop an inexpensive sewer system, but has developed opposition to the water sale. Spokesmen said they were concerned about what may happen to Louisiana’s water needs decades hence.
Jindal’s approval, as governor, would be needed to execute the agreement. And so far, Jindal has been reluctant to provide it, noting a number of procedural concerns with the deal. His chief of staff said of the agreement, “I don’t think they have worked through all the complex issues with those stakeholders. They need to do that.”
Louisiana, traditionally a riparian water rights state, long has had some regulation of ground water but virtually none of surface water: If you could find a way to take some, without damaging endangered fish or wildlife and without interfering with navigation, you could do it.
That is changing. A string of attorney general’s opinions have declared that water in the state is a public asset and can’t be sold without some kind of permission. This month, new legislation sponsored by Representative Jim Morris, R-Oil City, calls for some regulation of surface water withdrawals; it is slated for House floor action soon.
The Shreveport Times noted that “while the bill is not industry-specific, it falls in line with the oil and gas industry’s use in recent months of the Red River as source for hydraulic fracturing of Haynesville Shale wells.”
And it quoted Lieutenant Governor Scott Angelle, who also chairs the state Ground Water Commission: “The goal of this bill is to facilitate the orderly use of the state’s abundant surface water resources so as to avoid a negative impact on our groundwater resources . . . Much progress has been made over the year to transition from groundwater to the use of surface water; however, these various opinions have caused folks to pause about their authority of the use of the state’s surface water resources.”
[see the Shreveport (LA) Times, May 19]
Probably the state of Louisiana owns Smithport Lake, but that is just uncertain enough that DeSoto Parish may be entering legal negotiations about the stream of funds associated with it.
A De Soto police jury has ben asked to start negotiations with the state of Louisiana over any proceeds from water right sales.
Assistant District Attorney Gary Evans was quoted as saying that state code is “woefully inadequate in giving clear direction . . . One would think that the state famous for its Napoleonic Code and the only state in all these United States with the civilian tradition of codified law would have addressed this very problem in its civil code long ago. But with water, Louisiana has always had plenty to go around for everyone and it was free — until now.”
[see the Shreveport Times, September 16]
The Louisiana Department of Natural Resources has overhauled and re-launched its Atchafalaya Basin Program website giving it a new look with new tools, making it a more valuable resource for using and learning about the Basin.
The redesign of the site (available online at http://dnr.louisiana.gov/atchafalaya) was spurred in part by the new and proposed changes to the way Basin projects are developed, chosen, and funded.
The site design not only includes new visual elements that better reflect the unique character of the Basin, but has functions that make the site of good use to people working, fishing or exploring the Basin.
One of the new features of the site is the inclusion of a link to the U.S. Geological Survey’s web-based tracking of water levels in the basin. Along with water levels, the site also has up-to-date weather for points in and around the Basin area.
The new look of the site also includes links to parishes and tourism groups with ties to the Basin area and links to sportsman’s web sites.
As additional work is done to the web site, it will be the location to find notices of meetings important to the Basin, such as the Atchafalaya Basin Research and Promotion Board’s regular meetings and the upcoming mid-October series of public meetings to allow citizens and groups to review existing projects and offer new project ideas to improve water quality and reduce sediment in the Atchafalaya Basin.
The public meetings are part of the newly established process for ecosystem restoration in the Basin, including new elements of transparency in planning and efficiency in developing water quality improvement and sediment reduction projects.
The number and size of projects, as well as the length of time needed for completion, will depend on funding—which could be boosted if state voters approve Constitutional Amendment No. 4, re-directing up to $10 million in funds from existing state severance taxes per year to basin projects. The amendment would neither create a new tax nor raise any existing taxes.
The Basin board will submit a draft of its annual plan to the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, which will check the plan for consistency with the state’s Master Plan for Coastal Restoration.
Constitutional Amendment No. 4 would, in part, re-direct up to $10 million a year in existing severance tax dollars from state-owned land in the Basin to pay for projects through the Basin conservation fund. If passed, the amendment would require that 85 percent of that money go to pay for water quality and sediment reduction projects within the guide levees. The other 15 percent could be used for projects to enhance recreation, tourism and other projects consisted with the master plan for the Basin.
October 3; DNR Public Information Office at 225-342-0058.