The Dudley T. Dougherty Foundation

Sustainable Rivers Campaign, protecting rivers from damming and other threats.

Grant Information
Categories Community , Environment
Location Texas
Cycle Year 2010
Organization Information
Organization Name (provided by applicant) Texas Conservation Alliance
Organization Name (provided by automatic EIN validation)
Contact Information
Contact Name Janice Bezanson, executive director
Phone 512-327-4119
1605 Mission Trail
Additional Information
Used for Funding would be matched with money from other sources to cover the costs of Texas Conservation Alliance’s staff, consultants, and expenses as we work with riverside landowners and local residents protect Texas’ rivers. We will provide technical analysis and active involvement in finding water supply options that avoid condemnation of ranchland, timberland, and wildlife habitat. We will connect Texans whose nearby rivers are faced with other threats with the information, political and administrative processes, and grassroots tools needed to promote sensible public decisions.
Benefits Throughout history, people have depended on rivers for water, transportation, and the timber, agriculture, and wildlife from productive river bottomlands. Landowners and agriculture and timber interests, and the abundant wildlife dependent on river and floodplain habitats, are threatened by boondoggle dam projects that inundate their land, by trespass on private land from people driving vehicles in roadbeds illegally, by pollution from many sources, and by lack of understanding of the benefits of clean, clear, free-flowing rivers. Protecting Texas rivers will afford crucial protection to wildlife and to the millions of Texans who live near or depend on Texas rivers.
Proposal Description Rivers and streams are the lifeblood of the bottomlands that provide crucial habitat for our state’s diverse and abundant wildlife. Texas Conservation Alliance (“the Alliance”) is recognized in conservation circles for its success in protecting rivers in Texas.

The Alliance’s Sustainable Rivers Campaign works with riverside ranchers and timber growers , hunters, fishermen, and other recreational users of rivers, representatives of the tourism industry, and others with an interest in keeping Texas rivers in their natural state. Our efforts have stopped proposed boondoggle dam projects on the Neches and Sabine Rivers, Little Cypress Creek, and Pecan Bayou. These dams, if built, would have resulted in condemnation of a hundred thousand acres of land for reservoirs that were not needed for water supply. We helped Hill Country landowners along the Nueces stop an effort by Zavala County to get around laws prohibiting off-road vehicle traffic in the Nueces riverbed. Our efforts led to public acquisition and protection of tens of thousands of acres of wildlife lands in the Trinity, Neches, Sabine, and Sulphur River valleys. We have several current projects to protect Texas rivers, and the forests, wildlife, and people who depend on them, detailed below:

Clear Fork of the Brazos River – The City of Abilene is proposing construction of Cedar Ridge Reservoir on the Clear Fork of the Brazos. Fifth-generation landowners along the river, faced with condemnation and inundation of their land, were reluctant to oppose the project at first, because it was billed as being for water supply for Abilene. Analysis of the official regional water plan, however, showed that the only unsatisfied future demand for water supply in the region was to cool hypothetical power plants that are not actually planned – and very likely will never be built. The only power plant currently proposed has agreed in writing to use dry cooling, which will lead to only a small demand in water. These landowners called on Texas Conservation Alliance to help them assess the project and to educate them on the permitting process and politics of public water development. The Alliance is working closely with them to promote alternative options that protect the exceptional wildlife habitat of the Clear Fork, the landowners who would be inundated, and downstream riverside and lakeside property owners who would be negatively impacted by the reduced flows in the river, which would result from water diversions and increased evaporation.

Neches River – Texas Conservation Alliance leads a broad coalition of interests in East Texas promoting adding the historic Neches River to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. In the heart of the Central Flyway for migrating waterfowl and songbirds, the Neches supports abundant wildlife along its 400 miles and supplies fresh water and nutrients to the estuary at its mouth which supports multi-million dollar fishing and shrimping industries. Neches River flows are crucial to the biological diversity of the famed Big Thicket National Preserve, an International Biosphere Reserve and one of the most diverse ecosytems in the world. Neches flows support the bottomland forests of a national wildlife refuge, two national forests, two wilderness areas, and several state wildlife lands. Designating the Neches as a Wild and Scenic River would prohibit further damming of the river and raise the region’s visibility as a tourist designation. The Alliance is joined by chambers of commerce and tourism bureaus, landowners, timber industry leaders, hunters and paddlers, garden clubs, and civic groups in spreading the word about this exciting proposal.

Navasota River – When the Region H Water Planning Group (Houston area) suddenly added a proposed 71,000-acre reservoir project called Millican on the Navasota River to its draft plan, ranchers, businesspeople, and other community leaders quickly organized Guardians of the Navasota River to see that local interests were taken into consideration. At their request, the Alliance supplied advice and technical support to the organization’s leadership. The result was astounding. Within two months, the Guardians had 500 members. Within three months, two state reps, the local state senator, several commissioners’ courts, and the City of Bryan had joined us in opposing this poorly-conceived lake project. As a result, the Region H Water Planning Group removed Millican from the draft plan. While this is a major victory for the Alliance and the Guardians, water planners have made it clear that they will be back during the next round of water planning, in five years, with a revamped proposal. Texas Conservation Alliance and the Guardians of the Navasota River are laying groundwork for future rounds, to safeguard the people of the region, the landowners along the Navasota, and the fish and wildlife dependent on the river.

Sulphur River – Water developers in Fort Worth, Dallas, and water districts north of DFW are proposing construction of Marvin Nichols Reservoir, which would inundate 72,000 acres on the Sulphur River, more than 30,000 high-quality wildlife habitat rated Priority 1 for conservation by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. There is a surplus of water in existing reservoirs, such as Lake Texoma, Lake Wright Patman, and Toledo Bend Reservoir, that could supply the demands expected for the DFW area over the next 50 years. Texas Conservation Alliance coordinates a coalition of timber industry leaders, landowner groups, conservation groups, businessmen, hunters, and other community leaders pushing for use of this surplus as a preferred option for supply the DFW area’s future growth.

Brazos River – There are a number of current issues regarding the Brazos River that will need sensible public decisions: maintaining adequate flows to meet environmental and recreational needs, salinity issues in Possum Kingdom Reservoir, a proposal to divert 100,000 acre-feet/year to cool an expansion of the Comanche Peak Nuclear Power Plant, a proposed system operation permit, and others, as well as the above-mentioned reservoirs proposed for the Clear Fork and the Navasota River (also a tributary of the Brazos). The Alliance is working with two of its member organizations, Friends of the Brazos River and the Brazos River Conservation Coalition, to achieve reasonable resolutions of these issues.

Management of our water resources is one of the biggest issues facing Texans today. Vested interests that would obtain huge government contracts to build new reservoirs are pushing for new projects when there is water available in existing reservoirs to meet future water demands for at least 50 years. Competing uses for water and for river bottom land are pitting rural landowners against urban dwellers. By working closely with the people who live and draw their livelihoods from the lands along Texas’ rivers, we are creating a counterweight against projects that would take tens of thousands of acres of land out of production for ranching, timber, and wildlife, displacing families and communities.

We request a grant of $5,000 from the Dudley T. Dougherty Foundation, to help support our Sustainable Rivers Campaign.