Senate Water, Agriculture & Rural Affairs met on February 27 to hear invited testimony on the following agencies:

  • Texas Water Development Board
  • Texas Commission on Environmental Quality
  • Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board
  • Public Utility Commission
  • Texas Department of Agriculture
  • Texas Animal Health Commission
  • Texas Parks and Wildlife


An archive of the hearing can be found here.


In the midst of the hearing, Chair Perry said the committee will be scheduled at 8:00 AM on Mondays in order to be efficient. He noted as a general rule, the committee will hear bills one week and will hold a vote on them the following week. Additionally, he said the committee will not see a high volume of bills, but the bills themselves will be important.


This report is intended to give you an overview and highlight the various topics taken up. It is not a verbatim transcript of the discussions but is based upon what was audible or understandable to the observer and the desire to get details out as quickly as possible with few errors or omissions.


Opening Comments

  • Chair Perry – Water service is 10% lower than normal and groundwater level has decreased
  • Chair Perry – Committee focused on leaky pipes in larger municipalities in the interim
  • Chair Perry – Welcomes new committee members including Hancock, Blanco, Flores, and Sparks


Texas Water Development Board

Brooke Paup, Chair TWDB

  • Provides background on TWBD’s operations; fulfil mission through science, planning, financing
  • 86(R) gave us extra responsibilities; flood plan will be produced next year
  • $5m committed to 140 flood mitigation projects in under 3 years
  • TWDB total commitments $33.5b
  • $42b in unmet needs will be in the flood plan next year
  • Unmet needs for infrastructure are large


Jeff Walker, Executive Administrator TWDB

  • $33.5b is how much we will spend in roads
  • Paup – Support TxDOT, is just to compare
  • Paup – amount of demand for these water projects has increased
  • Have a number of grant/loan programs; have federal funds
  • Lots of CAPs funds with a number of strings attached including to lead service lines; still determining where these are
  • Are undergoing Sunset process; were not surprised with recommendations; have had issues getting projects out of the door due to staffing issues
  • Need more staff and more flexibility
  • Paup – Sunset noted biggest weakness was human capital
  • Are one of the few agencies Have a few statutory changes asked for
  • Requested cleanup to SB 7 and SB 8
  • Modernization for mapping
  • Recommend changing statute to allow for public participation; not having video conferencing is an issue
  • MOUs requirements are doubled, would like that to be cleaned up
  • Changes to water statutory notifications
  • Paup – Thanks those who have filed TWDB’s bills
  • Chair Perry – Have put a lot into SWIFT; asks committee members to get studied up on TWDB programs
  • Chair Perry – Water plan is currently 7m acre feet short; trying to clean up the plan
  • Chair Perry – Desalination is the future water supply, have a number of projects focused on that
  • Springer – Concerned about people coming to the TWDB to bail them out after neglecting their systems; thanks the TWBD for their work
  • Paup – Meeting challenges of extreme growth and aging infrastructure
  • Hancock – How many open FTEs?
    • 35 posted, but 50-60 openings; some are from the IIJA funds
    • Capped at 401, but have some flexibility; have 390 now
  • Blanco – How many open FTEs are for technical assistance?
    • Have EIR for technical assistance; do not have anyone specially for technical assistance


Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board

Rex Isom, Executive Director TSSWCB

  • Deliver technical assistance to landowners; are 216 water conservation districts
  • Are the lead agency to prevent soil and water pollutions
  • Provide operational maintenance and other grants to local governments for dams
  • Work to reduce Carrizo cane across the Rio Grande River
  • Have 73 FTEs


John Foster, Programs Officer TSSWCB

  • Sunset review that was performed was completed last summer and have been working to implement
  • Recommendations had a flood control programs focus; shored up stakeholder group process for that program
  • Have shifted to a 1-year funding cycle for these programs rather than a continuous one
  • Are working on looking through public comment on a proposed rule that would eliminate match requirement
  • In proposed base budget agency’s budget totals $79m dollars; are capped at 73.6 FTEs
  • Overviews historic funding for dams; dams provide $180m in flood control benefits
  • 515 that do not meet hazard criteria, 164 need repairs, there a backlog on maintenance needs
  • Overviews TSSWCB programs including the Water Quality Grant Program and the Carrizo Cane Eradication Program
  • Agency has secured federal funds for the Conservation Reserve Program; A&M has been climate smart grant $65m and $41m will go to TSSWCB
  • Johnson – Groundwater Grant Program?
    • A&M wrote us into the grant; $41m would be coming for incentive for landowners
    • Isom – Difficult to find qualified personnel especially for soft money
  • Johnson – Need to see a salary and likelihood of continuous funding?
    • Yes
  • Gutierrez – $65m for water conservation, soil, or both?
    • Climate Smart from USDA; proposal was for A&M to work on carbon side; we would work on those conservation practices
  • Gutierrez – Would like to have more discussion on regenerative farming
    • Isom – Will speak with you on that
  • Chair Perry – Have a $2b dam issue and have set out a plan to address that; will get members a list of high hazard dams in their districts
  • Chair Perry – Discusses dust clouds in West Texas; get more work out of 73 people than anyone can imagine
  • Chair Perry – State needs to do long term planning on dams; water plans do not currently meet needs and need to work on that
  • Johnson – How strike balance of using resources and subsidize industrial practices? Know of some who run scams through these programs
    • Isom – Follow up with plans; are some who game the system


Texas Parks and Wildlife

David Yoskowitz, Executive Director Texas Parks and Wildlife

  • Overviews the functions of TPWD; 3k employees over 13 divisions
  • $52b in direct/indirect impact
  • Major issues in the department include disasters/weather degradation in the oyster population; restoration projects are planned this coming FY and over the next five years will have additional projects
  • With increasing demand for public parks, request certain staff are moved to salary schedule C
  • Agency has requested $112.2m in exceptional items
  • Vistra voided lease to the Fairfield Lake State Park; hope to find a solution to this with legislature’s support
  • Chair Perry – Members need to know most of your funds are GR-D; $16m EI request for hatchery?
    • For deferred maintenance on existing hatchery
  • Chair Perry – In negotiations with the third-party buyer of Fairfield Lake State Park; are optimistic that we can keep the park
  • Chair Perry – If TCEQ has a permit request would weigh in on that request in order to analyze if that water loss would be an issue?
    • Have run a preliminary analysis; loss of water would be critical
  • Chair Perry – Later can provide an update of construction to see where sales tax funds are going
  • Johnson – Fairfield issue is a bigger issue of state acquisition of park land; concerned that the need to rely on the benevolence on the private industry; should not be looking back
    • Agree; is our position as well
  • Chair Perry – Is a bigger conversation here; notes only one other lease owned by private industry; are some things we could have done better in hindsight
  • Johnson – Do not mean to be critical, support efforts, just as a matter of strategy
  • Gutierrez – Request someone from your agency comes to my officer to talk about: your involvement in Operation Lone Star; information about your game wardens’ involvement in the response to the Uvalde shooting, inter-agency training with DPS, what kind of radio problems along the border
  • Springer and Yoskowitz discuss smaller projects in the state parks
  • Springer – Rule on anti-mortem testing on Chronic Wasting Disease; 50k tested and 100% negative; has cost the taxpayers $15m; set to sunset December 2024, why not Sunset now?
  • Springer – Water Turkey bird can be added to bag limits or something like that?
    • Will look into this
  • Kolkhorst – River otters populations have increased; is devastating the bass population in many water tanks; are they state/federally protected?


Public Utility Commission

Thomas Gleeson, Executive Director PUC

  • Are going through Sunset; have provided the commission for cost estimates for each recommendations and waiting for a bill to be filed
  • Base budget total PUC funding is $40m and are asking for a 45% to budget authority
  • Overviews the functions of the PUC including electricity and water/wastewater and jurisdiction
  • Highlights new Office of Public Engagement and temporary manger/receivership
  • Have implemented legislation last session by adopting certain rules
  • Chair Perry – How much of PUC’s resources go to water rates?
    • A lot of our time is spent on those; Sunset estimates 50% but it ebbs and flows
  • Chair Perry – Have a bill talking about moving water to its own commission; do not know if it has a chance, but begins a conversation
  • Chair Perry – How many FTEs dedicated to water?
    • 40% easily; around 80-90 people


Texas Animal Health Commission

Angela Lackie, Executive Director TAHC

  • Main goals are to protect agriculture/livestock from disease, prevent production losses, and respond to emergency situations involving animals
  • Avian influenza is currently the largest animal disease outbreak in the history of the U.S.
  • Work with TPWD and producers to respond to Chronic Wasting Disease
  • Gutierrez – Federal has allotted money to do work with Mexico to work on fever ticks? Any request for the state to add funds to this?
    • Have tried to make a buffer zone on the Mexico side; have $110k in grants to turn over to certain states in Mexico
  • Gutierrez – Still a meager amount of money; maybe need a resolution to congress for more funds; would like conversations with you on state funds for this
  • Chair Perry – Fever ticks and rabies


Texas Commission on Environmental Quality

Erin Chancellor, Interim Director TCEQ

  • Are one of the largest environmental regulatory agencies in the world
  • Have 400 vacancies and our Office of Water has 50 vacancies
  • Water divisions have met increasing demand and complexities
  • Salaries are not competitive to other agencies, federal/local governments, or the private sector
  • Have one of the highest turnover rates among Article VI agencies
  • TCEQ is in charge of groundwater and monitors/regulates public/private dams
    • Increase of high hazard dams has increased responsibility on inspection team
  • Highlights other water programs
  • Chair Perry – Notes the committee hearings are scheduled 8 AM on Mondays in order to be efficient; as a general rule will hear bill and vote it out the next week; will not be high bill volume in the committee, but will be important
  • Chair Perry – Have some ground to make up in retention of staff
  • Johnson – Know why your agency is unable to give competitive salaries?
    • Agency is large, maybe across the board increases look large to the state
  • Kolkhorst – Concerns about Ellis County and MUDs; not sure if members have seen the email chain concerning this topic; know MUDs will be the new growth method in North Texas
  • Kolkhorst – One way to form a MUD is to pass a bill, and one to go through TCEQ; understand that TCEQ has never denied this request
    • Requests are posted in the local paper and public can send in comments/requests for hearing; if uncontested will go to the commission for approval
    • Justin Tag, TCEQ – Believe you are talking about Shankle Road MUD; have received 50 comments and over 200 requests for hearings
  • Chair Perry – Have developers coming in from other areas and buying land and breaking it up with no promise of water underneath; need to have conversations on this


Texas Department of Agriculture

Sid Miller, Commissioner of Agriculture

  • Sunset bill last session said TDA was highly responsible and one of the best run in the state
  • Are mostly a cost-recovery agency; biggest department is nutrition
  • Overviews programs, divisions, and labs including consumer protection; have export division in the Houston airport and is an upcoming project to put one in the DFW airport
  • Gutierrez – Appreciate your work with the ArgiStress helpline; hope to have discussions on how you can implement small low-interest loans for farmers
    • Drew down federal grants to run it; legislature will need to provide funds
  • Chair Perry – Was conversation on how to make this more efficient and connect to existing services; will get with you on this
  • Chair Perry – Federal dollars going away concerning inspections; know Animal Health and others are having similar issues; could be some opportunities for some synergy
  • Chair Perry – Need to have these conversations now; workgroup/budget discussions happening now
    • Dan Hunter, TDA – Biggest problem for farmers and others is to ask for help