SMRF Files for Rehearing in Court of Appeals, September 5, 2008
SMRF wins in District Court! February 7, 2006
project of SMRF in recent years is the Water Right Project,
which started in 2000 when SMRF realized that all efforts
to protect water quality really depend on water quantity.
SMRF was appalled to learn that Texas did not have a plan
to leave enough water in rivers to keep them healthy, nor
for the bays that need fresh water to keep salinity suitable
for the reproduction of almost all living things in the Gulf
Many birds like the whooping cranes which migrate across North
America to reach the Gulf Coast each winter, depend on a reliable
source of food and fresh water in the bays, which is only
possible if Texas rivers have an adequate amount of flow.
The residents of communities along rivers and bays also depend
on adequate clean water, and healthy wildlife and fish to
support tourism industries and both commercial and recreational
SMRF filed a water right application for instream flow in
July 2000 to leave the exact amount of water in the San Marcos
and Guadalupe rivers that the state's own studies of the past
thirty years have found to be necessary. The application pledged
all of that water to the Texas Water Trust, an entity set
up by the Legislature in recent years to accept donations
of water rights, in order to keep streams flowing in the future.
Thirty groups with over 150,000 Texan members supported SMRF
in its application for the water right for instream flow.
SMRF borrowed $25,000 against its endowment fund to pay the
application fee, and many groups and foundations assisted
SMRF with legal fees, technical studies and other expenses.
Meadows Foundation repaid the $25,000 loan for the application
fee with a grant. Houston Endowment, Trull Foundation, Vaughan
Foundation, Magnolia Trust, Hershey Foundation, Hobby Foundation,
Union Pacific Foundation, and Patagonia paid for technical
studies and other expenses. Groups like Texas River Protection
Association were major donors, along with Houston Canoe Club,
Austin Paddlers, Guadalupe River Trout Unlimited, Calhoun
County Shrimpers and many other generous groups and individuals.
In 2003, SMRF requested that the unusually long review of
the application by Texas Commission on Environmental Quality,
(TCEQ, the state agency that grants water rights) be finished
up. SMRF filed suit to get the application process moving
along. TCEQ staff then recommended that their three Commissioners,
which make the final decisions at TCEQ, send the application
to an administrative hearing, as SMRF had also requested repeatedly,
to weigh the evidence for and against this amount of water
being granted to SMRF for instream flow. Lt. Gov. Dewhurst
wrote a letter to the TCEQ Commissioners asking that they
not grant SMRF's application---because the legislature wanted
to address the concept of protecting instream flow, and freshwater
inflows to bays.
In March 2003, TCEQ Commissioners ignored their own staff's
technical and legal recommendations, and denied SMRF's application,
saying that TCEQ did not have the authority to grant it. But
SMRF knew that many such "instream" permits had
been granted in the past.
SMRF filed suit against TCEQ the same month in Travis County
District Court, to point out that TCEQ did not treat the SMRF
application fairly according to its own rules and precedents.
The other groups that had filed instream flow water right
applications like SMRF's to protect Galveston Bay, Caddo Lake,
Matagorda Bay and other rivers, also filed suit in the same
court. The lawyers for these groups and SMRF have filed motions
for summary judgement, to establish the facts in the case
about the way the applications have been improperly handled
by TCEQ. The motions for summary judgment will be heard by
the judge on January 30, 2006. For more information on the
water right project, read the newsletters posted on this website,
covering the years since SMRF applied for the water right,
or contact SMRF.
Volunteers can help with this project by joining SMRF, sponsoring
small benefits anywhere in Texas, helping with the annual
silent auction or other events, and fundraising in general
to help SMRF pay legal fees associated with this project.
It will take many years, but SMRF plans to persevere, because
the project is so important to the San Marcos River and all
Texas rivers. Spread the word about this important project,
to make sure all Texans understand the reality of the danger
to Texas rivers and bays, if water is not set aside as protected
instream flows for the health of wildlife and humans all the
way to the coast.