Legislature could require Houston to sell rights to new reservoir

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Update: Senate Bill 2846 was signed into law on June 2.

Houston may have to forfeit its rights over the site of a proposed reservoir in Austin County thanks to a bill that passed both chambers of the Texas Legislature and is awaiting final approval from Gov. Greg Abbott.

“Today Texas cities were sent a discouraging message that planning for the future, investing wisely and following the rules are no longer valued in the state of Texas,” Turner said in a statement May 16.

A contract signed in 1999 among the city of Houston, the Brazos River Authority and the Texas Water Development Board granted Houston 70 percent of water rights from the future reservoir and the Brazos River Authority the remaining 30 percent.

Houston was granted a larger portion of the rights under the stipulation that the city would take on responsibility of design, permitting and construction of the reservoir. Senate Bill 2846 would require Houston to sell all rights back to the Brazos River Authority for no more than $23 million.

“We’re not even interested in being paid for it,” Turner said in a report to City Council on April 30. “We want to hold on to our rights.”

Since 1999, Turner said the city of Houston has spent $23 million on design and permitting for the project. Proponents of the bill believe the city’s water rights throughout the Greater Houston area are already more than sufficient to supply its population, Turner said.

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Emma Whalen
Emma is Community Impact Newspaper's Houston City Hall reporter. Previously, she covered health care and public education in Austin.
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