Texas Governor Rick Perry gave his 'State of the State' speech today. While there is much therein worth discussing, one brief passage towards the end caught my attention. From the prepared text (link via Grits for Breakfast):
And we are tired of environmental extremists in the federal bureaucracy undermining our regional water planning process. We support wildlife sanctuaries, but please stop declaring them on land local officials have identified as viable for water reservoirs. Especially when, as in the case of the Fastril Reservoir in East Texas, even better land has been identified for that purpose.
Environmental extremists in the Bush administration?! Exactly what is going on here? That certainly doesn't sound plausible.
From the January 12 Dallas Morning-News, here is some background on a story I only recently became aware of:
The Texas Water Development Board and the city of Dallas are suing the federal government over its creation of a wildlife refuge on land some officials wanted for a reservoir to provide water for the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
Dallas and the water board filed separate lawsuits Wednesday [Jan. 10] over the Neches River National Wildlife Refuge in East Texas. They allege the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Department of the Interior established the refuge this summer without considering its environmental and economic impact on North Texas.
Federal wildlife officials say the marshland is one of Texas' last remaining sites for migratory birds. The area in Anderson and Cherokee counties is vital for waterfowl such as mallards, dabbling and wood ducks. Additional species that will be protected are the bobcat, river otter and multiple species of fish, reptiles and amphibians, including the threatened American alligator, the agency said.
Wildlife officials added that Dallas and state officials have known that they've been considering establishing the refuge for years.
When I first heard about this case a few weeks ago, I laughed. Here is a city suing over land well outside of its boundaries, land that they do not own, but land that they think they want to use in a few decades. The lawsuit appears ludicrous on the surface.
Furthermore, Gov. Perry's and Dallas' apparent clinging to the mid-20th century concept of water-development-equals-big-reservoirs-environment-and-rural-areas-be-damned seems so out-of-touch. Are they not familiar with Los Angeles' experience over the last few decades, as the negative human and environmental consequences of its draining of the Owens River and Mono Lake have come back to haunt them—public opinion in their own city turned, forcing them to restore much of the damage and give back a substantial amount of the water. Closer to home, are they not familiar with the early 1990s story of San Antonio and the doomed Applewhite Reservoir?
Rather than fight this inevitable losing battle, Dallas will need to take a page out of the Los Angeles and San Antonio playbook and get serious about conservation.
Even Dallas' mayor, Laura Miller, understands this. The Morning-News quoted her last month:
"To me, just leaving all your options open is not an answer – it's irresponsible," Ms. Miller said. "We have virtually no conservation program, to the point that we run our own sprinklers in the summertime. Why wouldn't Texas want to preserve one of its last great bottomland hardwood forests?"
For more background on this battle, see this Capitol Annex post from last summer.