Judge Matt Sebesta
Water and the Lower Brazos River Coalition (LBRC) was the hot topic at the Pearland Chamber of Commerce Monthly Membership Luncheon on Thursday (March 12), held at Golfcrest Country Club.
The speaker was County Judge Matt Sebesta, who, along with Ivan Langford with the Gulf Coast Water Authority, Gene Fisseler with NRG Energy and Gary Basinger with The Economic Development Alliance for Brazoria County, is a member of the LBRC Executive Committee.
According to the website, the Lower Brazos River Coalition, “Is a grassroots partnership of concerned individuals, organizations, municipalities, ranchers and farmers, environmentalists and conservationists, businesses and industries, seeking fair and effective Brazos River water supply management.
“The Lower Brazos River Coalition seeks to ensure that the river’s limited resources are developed and managed for the benefit of all. This includes local communities, industries, agricultural needs, energy concerns, sportsmen, wildlife habitat and critical environmental flows. The Coalition serves to provide a collective voice for downstream interests as competition for water increases.”
The LBRC became necessary after over six years of drought conditions and rapid population growth in the area made it clear that the lower Brazos River Basin needs a louder voice in Austin.
“We must harmonize our voices if we are to be heard in Austin,” said Sebesta. “Our aim is to explain to lawmakers and regulators why it’s essential to keep water flowing in the Brazos River, especially if legislative efforts are made to stop the flows.”
The Brazos is 840 miles long, making it the longest river inside of Texas. It supplies water to over 44,000 square miles of land, including Brazoria, Ft. Bend and Galveston Counties.
There are also more than 1,100 straws (water rights holders) along the river, and with the drought and population issues, there is much contention among them when it comes to who gets how much water.
According to Sebesta, water demands are expected to triple over the next 50 years, and the LBRC will be a large voice to lawmakers in Austin.
The Brazos River Authority (BRA) manages the river at the state government level.
In February, Government and Customer Management Director Matt Phillips voiced the BRA’s support of the Coalition.
“The lower basin needs a voice against upper basin recreational interests,” he said, referring to the lakes that are primarily used for sports and recreation instead of a water source.
Phillips stated that all recreational use dock permits in lakes such as Lake Granbury, Possum Kingdom, Lake Limestone and Allen’s Creek state that water supply reserves may drop anywhere from 18 to 33 feet during times of drought. This happens because the water is needed in areas below during particularly dry seasons.
However, boaters, fishermen and other recreational users of these lakes have a loud voice in Austin when they are unable to enjoy their hobbies.
“These reservoirs were built for water supply. Recreation is a non-consumptive use and it is common sense that the water will be directed toward areas that depend on it for life and commerce,” said Phillips.
The LBRC’s goals include advocating for balanced management of water and flood control based on science, engineering and law; conserving more water; developing an enforceable drought management plan; and enhancing water supplies throughout the Brazos River Basin.
Sebesta announced that an individual has been named as Watermaster for the Brazos River, and that she brings a wealth of experience with her.
The Watermaster Program is designed to ensure compliance with water rights by monitoring stream flows, reservoir levels and water use. The Watermaster is expected to start work later this year.
Sebesta encouraged Chamber members to join the Coalition. The LBRC is endorsed by The Economic Development Alliance for Brazoria County, the Gulf Coast Water Authority, the Brazoria County Commissioners Court (which includes support from the City of Pearland) and the Brazosport Chamber of Commerce.
For more information, visit KeepBrazosFlowing.org.