By: Emily Willms Rogers*
Earlier this year, the Texas Legislature took the first step toward funding state water projects by approving the use of $2 billion from the Texas Economic Stabilization (Rainy Day) Fund to implement projects in the 50-year State Water Plan. On November 5, Texans overwhelmingly voted in favor of Proposition 6, which ratifies the Legislature’s action by transferring $2 billion from the Rainy Day Fund to the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT). The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) will administer these new funds. Now the state can invest the money and allocate the revenue to assist communities in financing necessary water projects by providing low cost, flexible financing options for such projects. Local authorities awarded the money to issue bonds will have to pay back the fund over time. Factors to be considered in making awards are: (1) number of people served, (2) project urgency, (3) local and regional project support, and (4) degree of conservation achieved. All communities stand to benefit since the measure requires that 20 percent of the money be used on conservation and 10 percent on rural projects.
Passage of Proposition 6 is just the beginning. As soon as practicable, the following will occur:
- The TWDB will create the Regional Water Planning Group (RWPG) stakeholder committee to establish standards for prioritization of projects, which must be submitted to TWDB by December 1, 2013;
- The Lieutenant Governor and House Speaker will appoint the SWIFT Advisory Committee;
- The RWPG is required to submit drafts of priority projects from the 2011 Regional Water Plans by June 1, 2014;
- The RWPG must submit final drafts of priority projects from the 2011 Regional Water Plans and the SWIFT Advisory Committee must submit recommendations to the TWDB regarding rules concerning prioritization of projects and allocation of funds by September 1, 2014;
- The TWDB must adopt project prioritization and fund allocation rules by March 1, 2015.
Passage of Prop 6 will have a significant effect on Texas communities’ ability to finance necessary water projects.
*Emily Willms Rogers is a partner with Bickerstaff, Heath, Delgado, Acosta, LLP (in Austin) who represents cities throughout Texas on water issues. If you have questions or would like additional information, you may reach Emily at 512.472.8021 or firstname.lastname@example.org.