Op-Ed from the Office of State Senator Craig Estes, District 30

For Immediate Release
March 28, 2013
Contact: Liz White

Texans Just Got Whooped

Many cities in North Texas and other parts of the state continue to suffer from severe drought conditions. It may be the biggest crisis we face in a decade. A federal judge has ordered Texas to divert more water to the estuaries feeding the Gulf of Mexico for the benefit of whooping cranes. According to the judge, Texas has been in violation of the Endangered Species Act since 2008 by not setting aside enough water from the Guadalupe and San Antonio rivers for a flock of approximately 280 whooping cranes that migrate to the Texas coast every winter. The judge believes that at least 23 of the birds died during the winter of 2008-09 because there's not enough water heading towards the Gulf of Mexico. This may not be the time.

I am not convinced the case was decided based on the impartial analysis of proven scientific facts. The ruling relied heavily on the "fact" that 23 whooping cranes died during the winter of 2008-09. The problem, however, is this was never proven. Only four whooping cranes were actually found dead. Furthermore, on December 5, 2011 the Corpus Christi Caller-Times reported the judge on the case told a group of lawyers in her courtroom that, "[my] husband and I are birders, so we also like the whooping cranes and appreciate what they do for the area." Cases should be decided by impartial judges based on proven facts. That's not what happened here.

However, assuming the judge was impartial and 23 whooping cranes did die, more water would not necessarily mean healthier whooping cranes. Compared to 2008, the winters of 1989, 1996 and 1999 had similar amounts of water flow into the Gulf of Mexico. Yet, during those three winters combined, 74 percent less whooping cranes died than allegedly did in the winter of 2008-09.

Lastly, this ruling is flawed because it dismisses the water needs of people and industry. I love nature and appreciate the desire to want to help the whooping cranes - they are majestic animals. But weighty decisions affecting water rights should not be made unless they consider the interests of everybody, especially families and people that provide jobs. Furthermore, when it comes to water, not only should Texans and their businesses be considered, they should take priority. People - their lives, jobs and needs - are of utmost importance. In a state where water is scarce, we must survive. The needs of people come first; Texans just got whooped.