orangeleader.com (Orange, Texas)

State News

March 7, 2013

APNewsBreak: Texas board lists top water projects

AUSTIN, Texas — Texas water planners facing mounting scrutiny from lawmakers privately drafted an $8 billion list of priority projects for Republican leaders as the state considers ramping up spending to fight a dwindling water supply, according to records obtained by The Associated Press.

The list from the Texas Water Development Board had not previously been made public. Questions over whether one even existed have triggered contentious discussions in the Legislature and left some frustrated GOP leaders looking to clean house at an agency they complain is slow and ineffectual at a critical time for the state's natural resources.

The list titled "Potential Priority State Water Plan Projects" is not an official document, but does give insight into where state leaders might prioritize spending. It includes at least five large reservoir projects and a variety of plans to move water from existing resources to towns and cities that need it.

Republican state Sen. Troy Fraser, who has become the most vocal critic of the water board, said Wednesday that agency leaders gave him the list a week after he told them he was filing legislation that would make substantial changes to how they operate.

Fraser said he had asked the agency for three years to produce a list. The one they finally gave him in February didn't satisfy him, he said, because the list of about 20 projects isn't ranked and only addresses large urban areas.

"What we keep asking for is a ranking," Fraser told the AP. "It's as simple as if tomorrow we only had the money to build one project, which project should we pursue? Which would be the No. 1 project? We still don't know."

The AP obtained the list through an open records request for agency emails. Most of the projects on the list are designed to get water to the state's largest population centers.

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