Texas Senate Votes 31-0 for Fair Representation on Regional Water Board
Sugar Land, Texas – The Texas Senate unanimously passed a bill that would provide fair voting representation on the Gulf Coast Water Authority Board of Directors.
Sen. Joan Huffman filed Senate Bill 683 to add Fort Bend and Brazoria Counties on the GCWA board, an agency responsible for conveying surface water throughout the region. A companion bill -- House Bill 3621 -- was filed by Rep. Dennis Bonnen in the Texas House of Representatives.
The GCWA owns and operates canals (i.e., creeks and man-made channels) that provide surface water in Galveston, Fort Bend and Brazoria counties. The management and control of the authority is vested in its board of seven directors who are currently appointed entirely by the Commissioners Court of Galveston County.
With the passage of SB 683 on a 31-0 Senate vote -- which includes senators representing Galveston County -- the House is expected to consider HB 3621 in the near future. The GCWA has hired a lobbyist to block the bill.
Since the water authority’s creation in 1965, it has grown in both capacity and customer base, and the authority no longer supplies water to just the citizens, municipalities and industries of Galveston County.
Today, 40 percent of the authority's total contracted water volume is from outside Galveston County in Brazoria and Fort Bend counties.
SB 683 provides fair voting representation for both Brazoria and Fort Bend counties by adding two members to the board of directors of GCWA, bringing the total number of board members to nine. One new member would be appointed by the Commissioners Court of Brazoria County, and one new member would be appointed by the Commissioners Court of Fort Bend County. Fort Bend and Brazoria counties representation, as proposed would only be 22 percent of the board where nearly 40 percent of the GCWA’s total contracted water volume is from these two non-voting member counties.
Some additional facts:
● In 1988, Galveston County Water Authority purchased the State of Texas’ Brazos River Authority’s canal system across Fort Bend and Brazoria counties.
● In 1991, the Texas Legislature changed the name of the Galveston County Water Authority to the Gulf Coast Water Authority to reflect operations in Fort Bend and Brazoria counties. This change was made at the GCWA’s request.
● On April 18, 1996, the GCWA approved “Amended and Restated By-Laws” stating “After the authority has contracted to sell at least 10 MGD of water to be used for potable water for customers in Fort Bend or Brazoria Counties, it is the intention of the Board to seek to have the Texas Legislature amend Article 8280-339, Vernon’s Texas Civil Statues, as amended, in order to add two additional positions to the Board of Directors of the authority to be filled by directors representing such counties so that they might participate fully in the policies and decisions of the Board.” This milestone was met in 1997.
SB 683 simply ensures the commitment is honored.
● On May 14, 1996, the GCWA sent a letter to the Fort Bend County judge confirming the board’s action to allow for future voting representation on the board of directors.
“Water is one of the most precious resources in our community,” said Thompson. “This is just one of the many ways we are working regionally to provide a consistent and reliable source of quality water. Sugar Land is committed to planning for the long-term water supplies for our community and the region.”