Four Texas River Authorities Undergo Sunset Review Process

By Todd Hunter

33547_144566308920876_1176782_nAs previously mentioned, there are several key state agencies and programs currently under review by the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission ahead of the 2017 Texas Legislative Session. As a reminder, the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission is an advisory organization charged with monitoring the performance of over 130 state agencies and programs. The Commission’s membership is made up of five Texas State Senators, five Texas State Representatives, and two members of the public, as appointed by the Lt. Governor and Speaker of the Texas House. Together with Sunset staff, the Sunset Advisory Commission conducts a comprehensive review of each agency or program to determine its effectiveness and efficiency. Each state agency or program generally undergoes a comprehensive review process every 12 years and, on average, 20-30 agencies are evaluated each legislative session.


In previous weeks I discussed the ongoing Sunset review of the Railroad Commission of Texas (RRC) as well as the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT). As two of the largest agencies in the state, we can expect each agency’s respective sunset review to be quite comprehensive and include a number of recommendations. However, there are also a number of the state agencies and programs currently under review with a much smaller scope than the RRC and TxDOT. This week, I would like to discuss several Texas river authorities, which represent some of the smaller entities currently under review.
River authorities, a type of water district, are public entities established by the Texas Legislature to oversee the development and management of state waters under the regulation of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). These authorities mainly perform water quality, conservation, and supply activities in their respective watersheds. There are currently 24 river authorities in Texas, and there are generally four river authorities reviewed during each Sunset cycle. The river authorities currently under review in advance of the 2017 Texas Legislative Session include the Central Colorado River Authority, Palo Duro River Authority of Texas, the Sulphur River Basin Authority, and the Upper Colorado River Authority.
In reviewing the various river authorities, Sunset staff will often include several recommendations that are applicable to the overall management of all river authorities. These proposed recommendations include changes aimed at improving overall transparency and compliance with state laws as well as finding better ways to operate using limited resources.
However, it is important to note that river authorities across the state vary greatly based on such factors as population size, geographical location, and governance structure. Due to these key differences, it is important that Sunset staff reviews each river authority individually and make recommendations that are unique to each entity. For example, the Central Colorado River Authority (CCRA), located in central Texas, operates in one small county and is solely tasked with managing three small dams in the area. Given the CCRA’s limited duties, evaluating whether or not it should continue to operate or, alternatively, be absorbed by the nearby Upper Colorado River Authority (UCRA) will likely be included in the Sunset recommendations for both entities.
Meanwhile, the Sulphur River Basin Authority (SRBA) includes all or part of eight counties located in the northeast corner of the state. Its close proximity to the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex means the SRBA’s management decisions have the potential to affect the water supply serving a large population of Texans. At times, the SBRA’s board decisions and proposed water projects have created controversy from stakeholders within the region. As such, many of the Sunset recommendations unique to SBRA are focused on making changes relating to the river authority’s overall operations.
Located in drought-prone west Texas, the Palo Duro River Authority (PDRA) also faces unique challenges due to its geographical location. PDRA’s operational area does not include a river, and instead includes only the Lake Duro Creek dam and reservoir. Initially, the PDRA was established with the goal to develop a pipeline from Lake Duro Creek to supply water in the area. However, the lake’s consistently low water levels have made this project too costly to execute, thus making PDRA unable to fulfill its water supply mission. Because of this, one key proposal relating to PDRA included in the initial Sunset report is to change the structure of PDRA into a local water district instead of a river authority.
For additional information about the TCEQ, please visit the agency’s website here: https://www.tceq.texas.gov . You can find a link to the Sunset Advisory Commission report regarding the four river authorities under review here: https://www.sunset.texas.gov/public/uploads/files/reports/River%20Authorities%20Staff%20Report_4-29-16_0.pdf . To learn more on about the Sunset Advisory Commission and the agencies undergoing the sunset review process, you can go to https://www.sunset.texas.gov .
If you have any questions regarding the Texas Legislature or the Sunset review process, please don’t hesitate to contact either my Capitol or District office. My offices are available at any time to assist with questions, concerns or comments (Capitol Office, 512-463-0672; District Office, 361-949-4603).

– State Representative Todd Hunter, District 32

Rep. Hunter represents Nueces (Part) County. He can be contacted at todd.hunter@house.state.tx.us or at 512-463-0672.

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