Texas voters OK massive water plan: What’s next?

Posted Wednesday, Nov. 06, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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It’s called a rainy-day fund, but should it be spent on water?

In a way, that’s what Texas voters were asked to decide Tuesday.

Voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition 6, a plan to take $2 billion from the state’s rainy-day account to create a water implementation fund.

The money could be used on a variety of projects identified in the state's water plan, which is administered by the Texas Water Development Board with input from local leaders in each region of the state. One example could be construction of Lake Ralph Hall, a proposed reservoir that would be built north of Greenville and would serve a large swath of Denton County.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality in September approved a water rights permit this week for the lake, which would be named in honor of the long-time congressman in that area. It will likely be the first major new water supply to be approved in the region in nearly 30 years.

Supporters say Proposition 6 would ensure the state has a good water supply for the next 50 years. The proposal has broad support from elected leaders such as House Speaker Joe Straus.

“Water is something Fort Worth and Dallas can agree on. It's also something Democrats and Republicans can agree on,” Straus, R-San Antonio, said during a September news conference at the Westin Galleria in Dallas.

But opponents say Proposition 6 is little more than an attempt to steer subsidies to investors and real estate holders - all the while feeding off Texans' fear of drought and a dwindling water supply. Texas already has $6 billion of bonding authority for water projects that was approved by voters in 2011 and hasn't been used, said Linda Curtis, director of Independent Texans, a watchdog group based in Bastrop.

“You have to scratch your head and wonder why we need more money when we haven't touched the $6 billion revolving bank fund passed in 2011,” Curtis said. “Water speculators and real estate interests want better terms, when they already have the best credit and borrowing ability of anybody pretty much in the state of Texas right now.”

This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.

Gordon Dickson, 817-390-7796 Twitter: @gdickson

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