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The Environmental
   Flows Allocation

Flows map

    Rio Grande

Sabine & Neches Rivers/Sabine Lake Bay Area

Updated June 3, 2011

Sabine & Neches Area The Sabine and Neches Rivers and the Sabine Lake system is one of the first two bay-basin systems to undergo a statewide process to determine how much water is needed to protect rivers and bays while allowing for increased use due to population growth. This process provided the three commissioners of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) with an opportunity to adopt environmental flow standards to protect the natural heritage of East Texas for future generations.

However, on April 20, 2011, TCEQ failed to take this opportunity and declined to protect a "sound ecological environment" of the Sabine and Neches Rivers and Sabine Lake.

Fish and wildlife throughout Texas and along the coast depend on the flowing water in rivers, which also provides essential freshwater inflows into bays and estuaries. The unique mix of freshwater from rivers and saltwater from the Gulf of Mexico in Texas estuaries are vital for many marine species including fish, shrimp, oysters and crabs. Water from the rivers delivers valuable nutrients and sediment into that nourishes fish and wildlife in the estuaries and maintains marshes. These marshes provide protection from hurricanes and critical breeding and nursing grounds for developing marine life.

Despite the critical importance of freshwater inflows to ecosystem health, the adopted standards fail to protect sufficient flow from the Sabine and Neches Rivers into Sabine Lake, an area known for its recreational fishing, bird watching and crab and shrimp harvests. Approved by a 2-1 vote, the standards for Sabine Lake stripped out most of the protections recommended by a team of scientists charged with developing science-based flow recommendations and drastically reduced protections below the "default" levels TCEQ has been using for many years.

Reduced flows resulting from these standards could damage the area's significant commercial and recreational fishing industries and threaten the health of the biologically diverse Sabine and Neches Rivers and the bottomland hardwood forests they support. These forests provide economic benefits such as reducing floods, improving water quality, providing high value wildlife habitat, and preventing downstream erosion.

What You Can Do
Scott-Jones Big ThicketLet the TCEQ Commissioner know that Texans will not accept this future for East Texas rivers and bays. Send a brief letter to Chairman Bryan Shaw, Commissioner Carlos Rubinstein and Commissioner Buddy Garcia at TCEQ, P.O. Box 13087, Austin, TX 78711-3087. Please thank Commissioner Garcia for being the "no" vote on the inadequate standards, and send Gov. Rick Perry a copy of your letter at P.O. Box 12428, Austin, TX 78711-2428.

Additional Resources





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Want to get involved? Contact Jennifer Ellis at 512-476-9805 or ellis@nwf.org

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Beaumont Enterprise, 9/4/09
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On the Agenda: The Future of East Texas' Rivers
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