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Water Supply Enhancement Program - Sunset Implementation
SUNSET IMPLEMENTATION STATUS
In accordance with State law, the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission performed a review of the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board (TSSWCB) during 2010. House Bill 1808 was enacted by the Texas Legislature in 2011, continuing the State Board for 12 years. A special purpose review of the State Board’s implementation of Sunset Commission decisions in four years is required. The bill also contains the Sunset Commission’s recommendations aimed at providing processes and systems to ensure that agency programs are effective and accountable.
A significant portion of House Bill 1808 addressed the Water Supply Enhancement Program, formerly known as the Texas Brush Control Program. As such, the TSSWCB has spent much of the last year developing the program processes and procedures necessary to meet the new requirements with the assistance of a Stakeholder Committee comprised of:
- Dr. Ken Rainwater, Civil Engineer, Texas Tech University
- vacant, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality
- Jason Skaggs, Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association
- Jule Richmond, Association of Texas Soil and Water Conservation Districts
- Dr. Robert Mace, Texas Water Development Board
The TSSWCB adopted rules in April 2012, a statutory requirement, addressing many aspects of the legislation. In addition to a name change for the program, House Bill 1808 intensified the program’s focus on enhancing ground and surface water supplies by requiring that the agency establish goals focusing on water yield where there was a conservation need, and where brush control activities were most likely to result in a yield addressing that need.
On July 18, 2013, the State Board approved a revised TSSWCB Policy on Allocation of Grant Funds for the Water Supply Enhancement Program (PDF, 49 kB). This policy was originally approved on March 6, 2013. This policy describes the agency’s Water Supply Enhancement Program purpose and goals, the competitive grant process and proposal ranking criteria, factors that must be considered in a feasibility study, the geospatial analysis methodology for prioritizing acreage for brush control, and how the agency will allocate funding.
The TSSWCB is also relying upon the techincal expertise of a Science Advisory Committee to provide recommendations regarding feasibility studies:
- Dr. Larry Hauck, Texas Institute for Applied Environmental Research
- Dr. David Villarreal, Texas Department of Agriculture
- Dr. Ken Rainwater, Texas Tech University
- Dr. Ruben Solis, Texas Water Development Board
- Dr. Daren Harmel, U.S. Department of Agriculture - Agricultural Research Service
- Dr. George Ozuna, U.S. Geological Survey
On July 18, 2013, the State Board approved a TSSWCB Policy on Brush Control Feasibility Studies for the Water Supply Enhancement Program (PDF, 98 kB). This policy describes the requirements for computer modeling for water yield predictions in feasibility studies and the process to review applications for funding to conduct new feasibility studies.
Program goals, as recommended by the stakeholder group on February 22, 2012, were established to include:
GENERAL PROGRAM GOALS
Enhance domestic and municipal uses, including water for sustaining human life and the life of domestic animals, agricultural and industrial uses, which means processes designed to convert materials of a lower order of value into forms having greater usability, commercial value, and Environmental Flows.
Enhance mining and recovery of minerals, power generation, navigation and recreation and pleasure, and other beneficial uses.
SPECIFIC PROGRAM GOALS
PROJECT PROPOSALS, FEASIBILITY STUDIES, AND RANKING
Another statutory requirement for the program required that there be a competitive aspect to the program so that all areas of the state would have an opportunity to propose a water supply enhancement project for local water supplies. In response, the agency developed an application and a process for entities and individuals to propose the establishment of projects. This process was implemented in Fiscal Year 2012 and 2013.
The legislation also required that a feasibility study, to include a computer model that would estimate the potential water yield for the project, be completed prior to the project being implemented.
The feasibility study and the projected water yield are required so that the agency could use the information to rank proposals according to a set of criteria.
The ranking criteria were established through the stakeholder process with the assistance of the agency’s contracted hydrology consultant. In addition to establishing criteria to rank proposals based on water yield and conservation needs, the agency has established a process through the Science Advisory Committee of the Stakeholder Committee to further refine the program within the scope of an established project. Through spatial analysis of a geographic information system, the agency will identify and target the acreage within project sub-basins that are most likely to result in the greatest water yield.
When funding a project, the agency has established a process whereby an allocation is calculated based on the number of high ranking eligible acres, the desired number of eligible acres the proposal identifies for treatment, the average cost of brush control for each eligible acre, and the amount of time required to treat the number of acres targeted in the proposal. A reallocation process will be initiated on May 1 of each year whereby an assessment will be used to determine if funds should be de-allocated from some projects and reallocated to others in order to maximize expenditure of program funds in the fiscal year. Meetings with project partners will be required to carry this out, and funds will be reallocated to other already-funded projects in order of highest ranking prior to original allocation, or to finance new feasibility studies.
FOLLOW-UP TREATMENT REQUIREMENTS
And finally, House Bill 1808 addressed follow-up treatment. In accordance with agency policy, the TSSWCB will continue to require follow-up brush control treatment on participating lands at no cost to the State, and all water supply enhancement plans will include requirements for status reviews to be conducted within three to five years after initial treatment of mesquite, mixed brush, juniper or saltcedar to determine if the canopy is above 5%. A second status review will be performed eight to nine years after initial treatment. If the producer is found out of compliance, he will not be eligible for another contract for a period of ten years.
All program goals, processes, and results will documented in a state plan for the WSEP as required by statute. The first edition of the state plan is currently under development and is expected to be presented to the State Board for approval in July 2014.
This webpage was last updated on 02/25/2014.
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