Environmental Flows Under Texas Senate Bill 3:
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Environmental Flows Under Texas Senate Bill 3: Did We Leave Enough Water for the Fishes? . Kirk Winemiller, Dept. of Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences, Texas A&M University. • Texas Senate Bill 1 (1997) established regional water planning groups.

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Environmental Flows Under Texas Senate Bill 3: Did We Leave Enough Water for the Fishes?

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Environmental flows under texas senate bill 3 did we leave enough water for the fishes

Environmental Flows Under Texas Senate Bill 3:

Did We Leave Enough Water for the Fishes?

Kirk Winemiller, Dept. of Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences, Texas A&M University


Environmental flows under texas senate bill 3 did we leave enough water for the fishes

• Texas Senate Bill 1 (1997) established regional water planning groups.


Environmental flows under texas senate bill 3 did we leave enough water for the fishes

• Senate Bill 2 (2001) mandated environmental flows research by natural resource agencies (TWDB, TPWD, TCEQ)

– established the Texas Instream Flow Program


Environmental flows under texas senate bill 3 did we leave enough water for the fishes

• Senate Bill 3 of the 80th Texas Legislature (2007) mandated formation of basin stakeholder groups and expert science teams to make environmental flow recommendations using best available information.


Environmental flows under texas senate bill 3 did we leave enough water for the fishes

The focus is future water rights permitting.

Most rights were issued prior to 1985 and have no environmental protection.

Of the estimated 7500 rights, fewer than 15% include environmental restrictions.

So ….. the burden falls to post-1985 rights to protect environmental flows.


Environmental flows under texas senate bill 3 did we leave enough water for the fishes

For the past 40 years, the state has relied upon simple desktop approaches for evaluating flow needs of rivers, streams and bays (Lyons Method, 7Q2, etc.).


Environmental flows under texas senate bill 3 did we leave enough water for the fishes

The goal is to conserve the timing, magnitude & durationof flow components that are essential features of the natural flow regime.


Environmental flows under texas senate bill 3 did we leave enough water for the fishes

Texas SB 3 Process for Establishing Environmental Flows

Lt. Governor- 3

E-flow

Standards

Speaker- 3

Governor- 3

TCEQ

Environmental Flows Advisory Group

9 members

Appoint

Environmental Flows Science Advisory Committee

9 members

Advise

Basin and Bay Area Stakeholders Committee

17+ Members

Appoint

Basin and Bay Expert Science Team


Environmental flows under texas senate bill 3 did we leave enough water for the fishes

Texas SB 3 Process for Establishing Environmental Flows

Speaker- 3

Governor- 3

Lt. Governor- 3

TCEQ

Environmental Flows Advisory Group

9 members

Appoint

Environmental Flows Science Advisory Committee

9 members

E-flow

Standards

Basin and Bay Area Stakeholders Committee

17+ Members

Advise

Appoint

Basin and Bay Expert Science Team


Environmental flows under texas senate bill 3 did we leave enough water for the fishes

  • Basin and Bay Expert Science Teams

    • shall develop environmental flow analyses and a recommended environmental flow regime for the river basin and bay system through a collaborative process designed to achieve a consensus


Environmental flows under texas senate bill 3 did we leave enough water for the fishes

  • Basin and Bay Expert Science Teams

    • shall develop environmental flow analyses and a recommended environmental flow regime for the river basin and bay system through a collaborative process designed to achieve a consensus

    • the science team must consider all reasonably available science, without regard to the need for the water for other uses


Environmental flows under texas senate bill 3 did we leave enough water for the fishes

Science Team Biology Subcommittee

Environmental Flows Recommendation

Village Creek near Kountze, USGS gage 08041500

  • Subsistence flows: 83 cfs Winter

  • 61 cfs Spring, Summer, Fall

  • Base flows:

  • Dry year: Winter 240 cfs, Spring 106 cfs, Summer 70 cfs, Fall 89 cfs

  • Average year: Winter 424 cfs, Spring 189 cfs, Summer 91 cfs, Fall 138 cfs

  • Wet year: Winter 672 cfs, Spring 335 cfs, Summer 135 cfs, Fall 236 cfs

  • High flow pulses*:

  • 2-per-season: Winter 2,010 cfs, Spring 1,380 cfs, Summer 341 cfs, Fall 712 cfs

  • 1-per-season: Winter 2,070 cfs, Spring 2,070 cfs, Summer 814 cfs, Fall 2,070 cfs

  • 1-per-2 years: 12,400 cfs

  • * high flow pulses have estimated volumes & durations; frequencies may not be attained every year.


Environmental flows under texas senate bill 3 did we leave enough water for the fishes

SB3 Accomplishments for the Sabine & Neches Basins

Flow Pulses for the Neches River at Evadale

5

4

3

Pulse/yr (acre feet x 105)

2

1

X

0

Science team

TCEQ draft standard

TCEQ final standard

Stakeholder committee declined to propose

Stakeholder committee late submission


Environmental flows under texas senate bill 3 did we leave enough water for the fishes

SB3 Accomplishments for the Trinity & San Jacinto Basins

Flow Pulses for the Trinity River near Romayor

5

4

3

Pulse/yr (acre feet x 105)

2

1

X

X

0

Science team-

regime group

Science team-

conditional group

TCEQ final standard

TCEQ draft standard

Stakeholder committee (regime)

Stakeholder committee (conditional)


Environmental flows under texas senate bill 3 did we leave enough water for the fishes

SB3 Accomplishments for the Colorado & Lavaca Basins

Flow Pulses for the Colorado River at Wharton

5

4

3

Pulse/yr (acre feet x 105)

2

1

0

Science team

TCEQ draft standard

TCEQ final standard

Stakeholder committee


Environmental flows under texas senate bill 3 did we leave enough water for the fishes

SB3 Accomplishments for the Guadalupe & San Antonio Basins

Flow Pulses for the Guadalupe River at Victoria

5

4

3

Pulse/yr (acre feet x 105)

2

1

0

Science team

&

Stakeholder committee

TCEQ draft standard

TCEQ final standard


Environmental flows under texas senate bill 3 did we leave enough water for the fishes

SB3 Accomplishments for the Brazos Basin

Flow Pulses for the Brazos River at Richmond

1,019,000

617,000

5

4

3

Pulse/yr (acre feet x 105)

2

1

?

0

Stakeholder Committee

TCEQ standard

Science team


Environmental flows under texas senate bill 3 did we leave enough water for the fishes

SB3 Accomplishments for the Brazos Basin

Flow Pulses for the Brazos River at Richmond

1,019,000

617,000

5

4

3

Pulse/yr (acre feet x 105)

2

pulse required to connect a young oxbow in the region

1

?

0

Stakeholder Committee

TCEQ standard

Science team


Environmental flows under texas senate bill 3 did we leave enough water for the fishes

Arguments for setting environmental flow standards lower than those advised by science teams and stakeholder committees:


Environmental flows under texas senate bill 3 did we leave enough water for the fishes

Arguments for setting environmental flow standards lower than those advised by science teams and stakeholder committees:

• Water project X has been planned for my region, so the standards need to be low enough to allow that to go forward.


Environmental flows under texas senate bill 3 did we leave enough water for the fishes

Arguments for setting environmental flow standards lower than those advised by science teams and stakeholder committees:

• Water project X has been planned for my region, so the standards need to be low enough to allow that to go forward.

• We can’t be sure these are the exact values that will satisfy environmental needs, but we know for sure we will need more water for municipal and industrial growth.


Environmental flows under texas senate bill 3 did we leave enough water for the fishes

Arguments for setting environmental flow standards lower than those advised by science teams and stakeholder committees:

• Water project X has been planned for my region, so the standards need to be low enough to allow that to go forward.

• We can’t be sure these are the exact values that will satisfy environmental needs, but we know for sure we will need more water for municipal and industrial growth.

• It doesn’t matter if we set them too low, because, except during prolonged drought, it is impossible to divert all of the water from a river.


Environmental flows under texas senate bill 3 did we leave enough water for the fishes

Arguments for setting environmental flow standards lower than those advised by science teams and stakeholder committees:

• Water project X has been planned for my region, so the standards need to be low enough to allow that to go forward.

• We can’t be sure these are the exact values that will satisfy environmental needs, but we know for sure we will need more water for municipal and industrial growth.

• It doesn’t matter if we set them too low because, except during prolonged drought, it is impossible to divert all of the water from a river.

• We don’t have to worry if we set standards too low right now, because we can adjust them later under the adaptive management plan.


Environmental flows under texas senate bill 3 did we leave enough water for the fishes

SB3 definition of environmental flow regime:

“A schedule of flow quantities that reflects seasonal and yearly fluctuations that typically would vary geographically, by specific location in a watershed, and that are shown to be adequate to support a sound ecological environment and to maintain the productivity, extent, and persistence of key aquatic habitats in and along the affected water bodies.”


Environmental flows under texas senate bill 3 did we leave enough water for the fishes

Saltwater barrier

on Lower Neches

River

Big Thicket Preserve

Lower Cypress Tract

MeadeWestvaco

paper mill effluent

receiving pond

City of Beaumont


Environmental flows under texas senate bill 3 did we leave enough water for the fishes

Conclusion:

• SB3 seemed like a reasonable attempt at a stakeholder-driven, science-based process to produce improved standards for environmental protection during water rights permitting.


Environmental flows under texas senate bill 3 did we leave enough water for the fishes

Conclusion:

• But the process broke down at nearly every step as powerful economic/political interests leveraged their positions to ensure that environmental flow protections were set as low as possible, thus having more water available for future appropriations.


Environmental flows under texas senate bill 3 did we leave enough water for the fishes

Conclusion:

• Certain stakeholders invoked adaptive management as an insurance policy –– mistakes can be corrected as new information comes forth.


Environmental flows under texas senate bill 3 did we leave enough water for the fishes

Conclusion:

• However, the promise of adaptive management also can be used to justify bad decisions that can result in severe and long-lasting impacts.


Environmental flows under texas senate bill 3 did we leave enough water for the fishes

Rio Grande at Big Bend National Park


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