STATESMAN.COM – Austin, TX
Opposition grows to Toledo Bend water deal
The Associated Press
Updated: 9:06 a.m. Monday, Jan. 9, 2012
Published: 6:02 a.m. Monday, Jan. 9, 2012
Opposition is growing to the proposed contract to sell water from Toledo Bend Reservoir to a private company in Texas.
The Town Talk reports (http://townta.lk/yndSRP ) more than 500 people have submitted comments to the Sabine River Authority of Louisiana.
The newspaper reports only a dozen lean toward support should the contract get some tweaking. But the rest are adamantly opposed.
Even the Caddo Parish Commission has joined in the discussion with a resolution Thursday also opposing water sales across the state line.
But for those still wanting a voice in the decision, today (Jan. 6) is the deadline.
At issue is the proposal from Toledo Bend Partners LP seeking a commitment of 600,000 acre-feet of water annually for its Texas customers.
It will pay a $4 million upfront payment by July 1, plus an escalating reservation fee for the first 10 years that could generate more than $40 million. Investors agree to pay 28 cents per 1,000 gallons, an increase over the current rate or 15 cents per 1,000 gallons, that could result in annual income of $54 million, in addition to millions more in compensation tied to overall performance of the project.
The contract -- for 50 years, with a 49-year extension -- is among the many worries some have about the plan, in addition to impact to Louisiana should drought conditions in the area continue.
The Caddo Parish Commission's resolution urges the Sabine River Authority to delay any commitment to sell water until completion of a regional utility master plan.
"In the next 10 years, water is going to be gold," Commissioner David Cox said. "If you've got it, you better keep it."
SRA Chairman Robert Conyer was on hand to explain the SRA's plans. Several commissioners questioned the direct impact selling the water would have on Caddo Parish, which Conyer couldn't answer.
"That hacks me off when you don't have to come to the citizens and ask them to vote and approve it," Commissioner Joyce Bowman said. "It's not right to have a board to decide something like that. I think that's something that should go before the citizens."
The Toledo Bend Citizens Advisory Committee began a few weeks ago beating the drum for more time to study the contract before a vote is taken. The group has enlisted its own legal firm to review the document.
"We believe there are major concerns and potential detriments within the (water sales agreement), not the least of which is the fact that once this water begins to flow to Texas, there will be no turning it off, regardless of the lake level or the need for water by Louisiana residents," according to the group's formal position paper. "
The board is poised to consider the contract at its Jan. 26 meeting.
In the end, however, it will be Gov. Bobby Jindal who has the last word should the SRA board approve the contract. Even though the SRA has statutory authority to negotiate water sales contracts, the governor's signature is needed on out-of-state sales.
Information from: Alexandria Daily Town Talk, http://www.thetowntalk.com
January 09, 2012 10:06 AM EST
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