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Texas water board eyes water from Toledo Bend

11:36 PM, Mar. 2, 2012 Written by Vickie Welborn

TOLEDO BEND — Another entity has its eye on waters that flow through Toledo Bend Reservoir.

This time, it’s another river authority in southeast Texas that wants a standby water supply for use during drought or abnormal conditions in the Neches Basin.

The Lower Neches Valley Authority has written a letter to the Sabine River Authority of Texas requesting a regional water supply partnership that could result in the diversion of up to 200,000 acre-feet from the Sabine River.

“We’re just looking at the feasibility of it now,” SRA-Texas spokeswoman Ann Galassi said Friday.

It was two months ago that more than 300 people filled Cypress Bend Resort to protest the SRA-Louisiana board’s plans to submit a contract for water sales to Texas to the governor for review.

A group of private investors wanted to reserve up to 600,000 acre-feet of water for sale to parts of water-starved Texas.

It would have meant more than $50 million in revenue annually. However, community members grew increasingly alarmed at the effect on the reservoir, which reached a historic low level in November.

Commissioners suspended plans and have taken no further action. The Toledo Bend Citizens Advisory Committee, however, this week forwarded a suggested resolution to state Rep. Frankie Howard for introduction during this months’ legislative session seeking introduction of legislation to ensure “wise use and distribution of all surface and ground water resource within all river basins throughout our great state, especially Louisiana’s share of water within the Sabine River Basin and Toledo Bend Reservoir.”

Louisiana and Texas have equal rights to almost 1 million acre-feet each of water in the reservoir. Louisiana sells the most to various municipal and independent water systems in DeSoto and Sabine parishes.

With less than 3 percent of the water contracted, Texas’ half of Toledo Bend is the largest source of surface water in Texas. About 40,000 acre-feet is supplied to industrial customers in Orange County, Texas, during drought or abnormal conditions, according to the SRA-Texas.

LNVA’s plans are only conceptual at this point, Galassi said, but the goal would be to divert water in the lower Sabine River below the Toledo Bend Reservoir spillway.

Water would be distributed by pipe or partially through an existing canal system into Newton or Orange counties, then to the Neches River.

Galassi stressed LNVA’s request is the first step in a long process that will involve many opportunities for public input. The SRA-Texas board will consider whether to proceed with talks when it meets at 10 a.m. March 15 at the John D. Wyndham Civic Center in Center, Texas.

The meeting is open to the public, and residents will have the chance to address the board.

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