Congress approves final hurdle to help North Texas water supply

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill, with the support of Congressman Sam Johnson (TX-03), including a provision to secure the water supply for North Texas.  The House’s passage represents the last hurdle for the bill to become law.
Congressman Johnson said: “This is great news for North Texas. This bill will ensure a full water supply for more than 1.5 million Texans who have had to endure drought conditions for several summers.  I’m pleased that Congress acted quickly to move this important legislation forward.”

The provision would exempt the North Texas Municipal Water District (NTMWD) and the Greater Texoma Utility Authority (GTUA) from being held in violation of the Lacey Act for transporting water from Lake Texoma to treatment plants servicing North Texas. 
For more than three years, the presence of zebra mussels, an invasive species, in the lake has prevented the transporting of water via pipeline to the treatment facility in Wylie, Texas.  Under the Lacey Act, transporting water over state lines with an invasive species is considered a criminal offense with penalties up to $500,00 for each violation.  The mussels do not harm water quality, but they clog water intake pipes by attaching to anything underwater.  The water can be cleaned in Wylie without violating the Lacy Act.
The bill (S.6387) contained provisions from H.R. 6007 sponsored by Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX) and passed by unanimous consent.

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Hall, Congress find solution to water treatment problem caused by zebra mussels at Texoma

Zebra Mussels on Dock (flickr/Gene Wilburn)

Congressman Ralph Hall is leading the fight for more water for North Texas, and in Washington, D.C., the House of Representatives just voted to pass the North Texas Zebra Mussel Barrier Act of 2012.

H.R. 6007, sponsored by Rep. Ralph Hall (TX-04), allows the North Texas Municipal Water District to pump water from Lake Texoma straight into the Wylie, Texas Water Treatment Plant.

Congressman Ralph Hall

“H.R. 6007 will enable the Water District to resume pumping water to better serve more than 1.5 million users and do so in a manner that provides safe water in the tradition of its 20-year history,” Hall said. 
“This bill will allow the Texoma Water Pump to reopen, provide much-needed jobs, and provide enough clean water to the community during a season of severe drought – when water is desperately needed.

 “This is a common-sense solution, a necessary solution, and one that helps restore North Texas’s water supply,” Hall said.

In Wylie, the water can be cleaned of zebra mussels without being in violation of the Lacey Act. The bill passed by voice vote. 

Zebra Mussels in a pipe (flickr/Gemma Grace)

“North Texas has a serious problem with an invasive aquatic species called the zebra mussel,” Hall stated on the floor of Congress. “Zebra mussels will attach to just about anything – they infest and cover rocks, attach to boats and docks, and clog water pipelines.  North Texas has a unique situation due to a Texas/Oklahoma boundary change that requires a Congressional solution. You know you hear people say, ‘It would take an act of Congress’ to get something accomplished – well, this is what we’re doing today.” 

Hall said: “Our local water folks have been working extremely hard to prevent the spread of zebra mussels – while simultaneously attempting to provide enough clean water to our citizens, but they need our help…These  folks have tackled and solved this problem, and now they need our support.” 

In the late 1980s the North Texas Municipal Water District built the Lake Texoma Pump Station to better serve its users.  The station was built entirely within the Texas border and in accordance with the Army Corps of Engineers 1939 survey, which defined the Texas and Oklahoma boundary line.

In 2000, a variation in the Texas-Oklahoma border was enacted into law that caused the pump station to straddle the two states. When zebra mussels appeared in Lake Texoma in 2009, use of the water pump station was effectively banned due to the Lacey Act – a bill that prohibits the transfer of zebra mussels across state lines. The North Texas Municipal Water District generally receives 28% of its water supply from Lake Texoma.

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New regulations for Lavon, Texoma boaters

By Texas Parks & Wildlife

Recent changes mean that boaters and anglers who take steps designed to prevent the spread of invasive species such as zebra mussels, silver carp and bighead carp won’t have to worry about being in violation of state laws prohibiting the possession of certain exotic species. These changes take effect May 17.

“Boaters and anglers on Lake Texoma, Lake Lavon and the Red River and its tributaries are being asked to take proactive steps toward being good stewards of the state’s aquatic resources by draining all water from their watercraft before leaving a boat ramp and hitting the road,” said Brian Van Zee, regional inland fisheries director for Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD).

Zebra mussels have become well established in Lake Texoma, and they can be spread to other waters by boats. Boaters are already prohibited from transporting exotic species that are visible to the naked eye, such as adult zebra mussels.

The new regulation is intended to prevent the spread of zebra mussel larvae, or veligers, which are so tiny they cannot be seen without a microscope. Veligers can survive for days in water trapped in a boat. Boaters on Lakes Texoma and Lavon who drain all bait buckets, livewells, bilges and any other systems or receptacles that could contain water prior to traveling on a public roadway will not be considered to be in possession of zebra mussels in violation of state law, with certain exceptions.

“The regulation does allow persons to travel from one boat ramp to another on the same water body without draining water,” said Ken Kurzawski, regulations and information director for Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Inland Fisheries Division. “This will allow striper guides on Lake Texoma to trailer from one boat ramp to another during the day. It will also allow bass tournament anglers to take out at one ramp and go to another for weigh-in. Guides and anglers will also be allowed to collect shad for bait in Texoma and then go below the dam to fish without draining water.”

In short, all water will need to be removed from a boat before leaving Lakes Texoma or Lavon for another lake, the boater’s home or other destination. The regulation applies to the Red River from the I-44 bridge in Wichita County downstream to the Arkansas border, including all Texas waters of Lake Texoma and Lake Lavon.

A second regulation designed to prevent the spread of silver and bighead carp also takes effect May 17. This regulation primarily affects anglers who collect live bait; it prohibits the transport of live non-game fish from waters known to be inhabited by the two species of carp. Waters affected are the Red River below Lake Texoma downstream to the Arkansas border, Big Cypress Bayou downstream of Ferrell’s Bridge Dam on Lake O’ the Pines (including the Texas waters of Caddo Lake) and the Sulphur River downstream of the Lake Wright Patman Dam.

“Collection and use of non-game fishes for bait on those water bodies will still be legal,” said Kurzawski. “The regulation prohibits the moving of live bait fish from one water body to another. Young silver and bighead carp can easily be confused with native bait fish such as gizzard and threadfin shad. Anglers need to note that while it will be legal to take shad from Lake Texoma to below Denison Dam on the Red River, it will not be legal to take live bait from the Red River below the dam back to Lake Texoma or any other water body.”

The new regulations are one part of the next phase of a continuing effort to protect the waters of Texas from invasive species. In late May TPWD will launch a public information campaign aimed at getting boaters to Clean, Drain and Dry their boats in order to help stop the spread of zebra mussels and other invasives. The campaign will use billboards, banners, signage at area businesses, buoys at boat ramps and radio public service announcements to get the message across.

Zebra mussels have the potential to hinder the water supply of communities throughout North Texas by damaging water treatment plants and clogging water supply pipelines. Once they have become established in a reservoir, there is no known way to get rid of them. Zebra mussels were brought to Lake Texoma on boats trailered in from other states with infected lakes. Stopping their transport from one water body to another by boats appears to be the only way to prevent their spread.

To learn more about zebra mussels and other invasive species or to report a suspected sighting, visit

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Water district meets, OKs weekly watering

On Thursday night, the North Texas Municipal Water District decided to loosen the tap on outdoor water restrictions. Starting April 1, watering once per week, instead of once every-other-week will be allowed.

Jim Parks, executive director of NTMWD, said, “Because of our ongoing water supply issue with Lake Texoma, which normally provides 28 percent of our water supply, we all need to continue our conservation efforts to make sure we can continue to meet the long-term water needs of NTMWD’s member cities and customers. We do not expect to resume pumping water from Lake Texoma until the pipeline extension project is completed, which is estimated the summer of 2013.”

With the return to Stage 3 provisions, approved by the board and effective April 1, 2012, landscape watering will be allowed once every seven days.

Stage 3 provisions approved allow:
• Use of soaker or hand held hoses for watering foundations, trees and new landscaping for up to two hours per day.
• Public athletic fields used for competition may be watered twice per week.
• Golf course greens and tee boxes can be watered without restrictions.
• Registered and properly operating ET/Smart irrigation and drip systems may also be used without restrictions.
• You can operate ornamental fountains if treated water is used.
• Hydroseeding, hydromulching and sprigging is allowed.
• Existing swimming pools can be drained and refilled.

The board authorized continuing these mandatory water use restrictions:
• No hosing of paved  areas, buildings, or windows but pressure washing of  impervious surfaces is allowed.
• No washing or rinsing of vehicles by hose except with a hose-end cutoff nozzle.
• No use of water in such a manner as to allow runoff or other waste.

NTMWD is encouraging everyone to follow the specific guidelines for their community. Check the control units and rain sensors to prevent unnecessary usage, and repair any water leaks around the house.
NTMWD will continue to evaluate the lake levels, cities’ goals performance and long-term weather forecasts on a monthly basis to determine if the Stage 3 actions can be further relaxed before the hot summer months.

More information and tips on water conservation:

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