Fort Worth meeting Thursday to focus on state water projects

08/20/2014 3:27 PM

08/20/2014 3:29 PM

Now that Texas has dedicated funds for water projects, state officials must decide how to dole out those dollars.

In November, voters approved Proposition 6, which created two funds to finance projects in the state water plan.

During their last session, legislators approved taking $2 billion from the state’s Rainy Day fund to set up a revolving pool of money.

As part of a series of meetings across the state, the Texas Water Development Board will hold a work session Thursday night in Fort Worth at the University of Texas at Arlington Research Institute to discuss the proposed rules that will determine how projects are ranked around the state.

“The whole idea is how will we prioritize projects,” said board spokesman Andy Saenz. “How we will weigh things so that we get everything right.”

Since the program will provide low-interest loans that will be paid back to the water development board, it is intended to be a revolving pool of money for water projects. The board believes it fund can fund $500 million to $800 million worth of projects each year over the next decade, Saenz said.

At a meeting last week in San Angelo, the board heard concerns about agricultural needs taking a back seat to urban areas. There has also been a big push from environmental groups to encourage funding go toward conservation and reuse programs.

“Overall we think the rules are pretty good,” said Luke Metzger of Environment Texas, a nonprofit advocacy group.

The board has said at least 20 percent of the funding should go toward conservation and reuse.

“The actual rules make it very clear that it’s a floor not a ceiling,” Metzger said.

For water providers in the Dallas-Fort Worth region, which are all part of the state’s Region C Planning Group, the funding could provide a way to fund massive projects at a lower interest rate. It could also allow the possibility of financing costly projects like reservoirs over a longer period of time, said Jim Parks, chairman of the Region C Planning Group.

“You could get away from the problem of having to pay for something today that is going to benefit your children and grandchildren 10 or 20 years from now,” Parks said. “There is a potential that this program could save ratepayers on the financing of the project millions of dollars over the lifetime of the project.”

Bill Hanna, 817-390-7698

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