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Letter to the Editor, Marshall News Messenger, 9/16/07

I am writing this as a concerned individual, not as a representative of any group, organization, or project.

You are probably aware that the city of Marshall has submitted a new application with TCEQ to amend its municipal water permit to industrial use.

To refresh your memory, Marshall first sought this amendment over five years ago when Entergy announced they would build a power plant in Harrison County. It was Marshall's intent to supply the plant with raw water from Big Cypress.

There was widespread opposition to this from lakeside communities and even among many Marshall residents. The roughshod manner in which the city and some of the industrial permit supporters tried to ram this down the throats of the community created some embittered feelings that persist to this day.

When TCEQ approved the amendment without a contested hearing, CLI and a number of local residents went to court to have TCEQ's permit approval overthrown.

Entergy pulled out of the controversy by making an agreement to purchase treated waste water from Longview. Still, the city persisted.

The case was decided in CLI's favor in district court, then State Court of Appeals. When Marshall appealed to the State Supreme Court, the court held that TCEQ could not award the industrial permit without consideration of potential harmful impacts on other water rights holders and on the environment. The decision was sufficiently hazy, however, that the water lobby folks believe they still have a shot. Marshall's Austin attorneys have convinced the city commission that they should reapply with a tweaked up application.

It is safe to say that one part of their strategy is that there is not the will to challenge them that there was in the past.

Marshall taxpayers have paid their law firm over $500,000 to date pursuing this permit change. I don't know what CLI's legal expenses have been but it is likely they are in the same range.

Last Sunday, the News Messenger strongly questioned this reapplication for industrial use by the city.

Sunday's News Messenger editorial cogently states:
"We think the city is paying to help an ambitious Austin attorney make what he thinks could be a legal precedent. We think we have been duped into paying for a ruling that the attorney thinks could help someone else maybe another client even if it does nothing for Marshall."

This entire issue is based on the concept that Marshall's 1948 allocation under municipal use should not be converted to industrial use without an impartial hearing to determine if doing so would harm the lake and its wetlands, not to mention property owners at Caddo Lake.

All opponents to the permit change have ever sought is the contested case hearing. We are confident evidence produced in a contested hearing would amply demonstrate that amending Marshall's permit to allow industrial sales outside of its service area would be harmful to the lake.

Why?

Because with an industrial permit in hand, the city could sell raw water from Big Cypress, up to their total allocation, to any user they choose.

Marshall currently only uses about 35% of its 1948 allocation. With an industrial permit in hand, the city could nearly triple the amount of water it withdraws from Big Cypress.

This was a bad idea when it first popped up all those years ago. It is even worse now that we are fighting giant salvinia and record levels of water hyacinth at Caddo.

Both these plants are water-eating monsters. When you look at 3,000 acres of water hyacinth, you are looking at a minimum of 3,000 acre feet of water that has been removed from the lake and is bound up in the molecular structure of the plant.

When the plants die, all that water is not returned to the lake. Every day those plants are alive they are exhaling some of the water in them into the atmosphere.

Both giant salvinia and water hyacinth are more than 90% water. They not only cover the water's surface, they CONSUME water.

We are going to turn back giant salvinia and water hyacinth in time, I am convinced. It will take a monumental effort and it will be ongoing for many years to come.

The last thing on earth we need is for more water to be diverted from Caddo Lake, especially from Big Cypress Bayou before it has had a chance to spread out over the shallow western side of the lake. During hot, low flow periods doubling and nearly tripling the amount of water Marshall diverts from the lake will have a crippling effect on the wetlands on the Texas side of the lake.

A lot of people are working very hard to save these areas from giant salvinia. We need also to take a position against amending Marshall's water permit to allow industrial sales of raw water from Big Cypress.

After all these years, the News Messenger has taken a strong stand on this issue.

It would be a sad and unfortunate state of affairs if Caddo Lake people don't let the News Messenger and everybody else know that we too oppose amending Marshall's water permit to allow industrial sales.

Toward that end, I will have a letter to the editor in this Sunday's paper. I encourage others to make their feelings known.

Call Speak Out. Write letters. Email folks. Call City Commissioners. Let them hear from people who love Caddo Lake.

Thanks for reading,

Jack


 

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