Wildlife Loses to Big Business Interests in Eastern Texas

Standards fail to provide sufficient water for fish and wildlife

flickr.jere7myIt seems like common sense -- wildlife need a certain amount of water to live.  But last week, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), voted 2-1 to establish river flow standards that could make the rivers in east Texas slow to a trickle -- leaving them with too little water to provide habitat for fish, birds, and other wildlife, and making Sabine Lake and Galveston Bay salty and inhospitable.

For years, human activities have been competing with wildlife for the dwindling supply of water. A few years back, the state of Texas passed a bill to establish a process that would determine how much water needs to flow in the state's rivers and into its coastal bays in order to maintain the balance of nature. Conservation groups were thrilled by the prospect, hoping that this would create meaningful protections for the state's rivers and estuaries.

Scientific teams and stakeholders -- ranging from agricultural industry representatives to local environmentalists -- would work together to develop flow recommendations for each of Texas' bay and river basin systems, which would then be submitted to TCEQ for consideration.  Over the past few years, the National Wildlife Federation and its partners with the Texas Living Waters Project have worked closely with scientists and stakeholders in east Texas to do just that.  

Unfortunately, on April 20th, TCEQ declined to take this opportunity to protect Texas' fish and wildlife. Despite overwhelming support for stronger protections -- including thousands of messages from NWF supporters -- TCEQ Commissioners voted in favor of water-supply interests and adopted standards that fail to provide sufficient water to sustain fish and wildlife in the region.

Texas' wildlife and conservation advocates should not accept this future for Texas' rivers and bays. Stay tuned in the weeks ahead as we redouble our efforts to make sure the rivers, bays and wildlife that depend on them are not forgotten in the middle of Texas' eternal water wars!