Texas Coast and Whooper Law Suit

Texas Coastal Update 2011

This summary of Jim Blackburn’s newsletter provides an oversight of several issues concerning the bays and estuaries on the Texas coast and their link to whooping cranes. Hopefully you enjoy this update as well as the poems that are now required reading at the end.

Whooping Crane Litigation

Wow. I just finished a two week trial before Judge Janis Graham Jack in federal District Court in Corpus Christi, and I am still somewhat in a daze. It was the experience and event of a lifetime. I felt like I had been learning and practicing for thirty years for this case. I represent The Aransas Project (TAP), a non-profit group formed to protect San Antonio and Aransas Bays in an attempt to secure freshwater inflows for this important estuary. TAP filed suit against the Commissioners and the Executive Director of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and the South Texas Watermaster for violating the federal Endangered Species Act. We alleged that the TCEQ allowed so much water to be removed from the San Antonio and Guadalupe Rivers that the bay salinity was changed beyond what the drought would cause, leading to less food supply for the Whooping Cranes, altering the drinking water supply of the whooping cranes and ultimately causing the death of 23 cranes during the winter of 2008-2009. The trial lasted for about two weeks.

Fresh off the whooping crane litigation, I want to engage in a rambling discourse about Texas water law, an archaic system that must be changed if we are to ever save our bays and estuaries. Texas water law and practice killed Nueces Bay. Of that there is no doubt. Nueces Bay at one time was a flourishing estuary. It is now officially classified by the Bay and Basin Expert Science Team (BBEST) formed under SB 3, as unsound due to inflow alteration, whereas every other estuary on the coast is still considered to be ecologically sound. We have proven that we can kill an estuary. Now is the time to start saving some.

Texas surface water is owned by the State of Texas. Use of state water is authorized by Certificates of Adjudication and permits and by statutory exemption. Although we the people own the water, we don’t act like it. We as citizens need to become as concerned about the protection of our public property as we are about protection of private property.

To read Jim Blackburn’s entire newsletter click on the following file:  http://whoopingcrane.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Coastal-Update-2011-Whoper-Law-Suit-Blackburn.docx