Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, December 9, 2002
CONTACT: Doris Sanchez
Phone: (512) 463-0127

Sen. Lucio proposes Rio Grande Regional Water Authority
Requests Bill Draft for Key Proposal

AUSTIN, TX - State Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr. (D-Brownsville) will be filing legislation shortly to create a regional water authority to serve communities along the Rio Grande.

Working with willing partners, the Rio Grande Regional Water Authority (RGRWA) would operate under the Rio Grande Valley Partnership, to assist with water conservation and management activities on a regional basis. The proposed Authority would encompass all counties below Amistad Reservoir, including Cameron, Willacy, Hidalgo, Starr, Zapata, Webb and Maverick.

The area currently has a population of over 1.1 million residents, and the Rio Grande is the only major river in Texas that does not currently benefit from river authority status.

"Given the serious drought conditions of South Texas and the need to find and protect water sources, I will be filing a very sound measure with great promise for our area," said Sen. Lucio. "The board would be appointed by the Governor and be composed of all key players, including irrigators, farmers, ranchers, as well as the municipalities and counties.

"I want to reassure everyone, especially our irrigators and irrigation districts, that they will be at the table each and every time so that any proposals or decisions not only include their input, but also their needs and approval," added the Senator. "The Authority will be able to work as a cohesive body to apply for state and federal grants that would fund 'regional' projects by submitting applications for more than one entity."

The Authority could act as a clearinghouse for identifying and funding water conservation and water resource management. Through its ability to plan, finance and build projects, multiple communities would realize significant savings through economies of scale and by building projects that would otherwise not be feasible without several participants.

"I envision the RGRWA taking the lead in building a desalination project in the Rio Grande Valley, another measure that I will be pushing this upcoming session," explained Sen. Lucio. "The RGRWA could be the local sponsor of such a project with power to fund, construct and operate the plant.

"We can no longer rely on Mother Nature or treaties to ensure our future water sources," he added.

The Authority, which would be revenue-based and not tax-based, could also assist in obtaining and coordinating delivery of water from Mexico to water rights holders. It could also coordinate, fund and even construct agricultural conservation projects and serve as the "neutral broker" for transactions on these projects for future municipal and agricultural demands.

"Establishing a Rio Grande Authority is very important both to the ability to bring economic development to the Valley, and to maintaining and improving the long-term quality of life of Valley residents," said Mr. Bill Summers, President/CEO of the Rio Grande Valley Partnership.

River authorities in Texas are created by the Legislature pursuant to Article XVI, Section 59 of the Texas Constitution. The Texas Constitution declares it to be the policy of the state to provide for the conservation and development of all the state's natural resources. The creation of a river authority serves as one means through which the Texas Legislature has provided for meeting this obligation with regard to the surface water resources of the state.

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