By LIBBY CLUETT
AUSTIN – State Rep. Jim Keffer, R-Eastland, and State Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, filed bills yesterday aimed at increasing transparency and oversight of river authorities in Texas.
The provisions of House Bill 2362 and Senate Bill 1092 would require river authorities to undergo a financial audit by the State Auditor’s Office and a performance review by the Legislative Budget Board. The Legislative Budget Board and the State Auditor’s Office are two independent agencies, overseen by legislative committees and charged with reviewing the efficiency and finances of government operations.
River authorities are regional water management entities and include the Brazos River Authority, which administers operations on Possum Kingdom Lake, Lake Granbury and several other downstream lakes within the Brazos River Basin.
Collectively, river authorities hold a large portion of the state’s water rights.
Consequently, decisions of river authorities have a profound impact on the development, production, distribution and conservation of water statewide, according to a press release issued by Keffer’s office.
“The concern for an adequate water supply for the future economic growth and well-being of our state is paramount,” said Keffer. “We have a commitment to make sure every decision by one of these agencies is in our citizens’ best interest.”
“Texas river authorities are responsible for controlling our most precious natural resource – our water,” said Birdwell. “Considering the condition of our statewide water resources, I believe that now more than ever, Texans deserve to know that these river authorities are functioning with as much financial accountability and internal efficiency as possible.”
In addition, Birdwell and Keffer filed bills that would require river authorities that collect dock fees to reimburse those fees to the owners during times when the docks are out of service due to the water level.
The fees the BRA collects for docks at PK and Granbury lakes are based on the square footage of the dock, according to Public Information Officer Judi Pierce. She said for more information on dock permits, visit http://www.brazos.org/pk_permits.asp or http://www.brazos.org/gbPermits.asp.
Matt Phillips, BRA government and customer relations manager, said the authority is working proactively with both offices on both pieces of proposed legislation.
Concerning the dock fees, he said, “This is something we have said we are willing to look into and will look into.”
Regarding the audit, Phillips said the BRA has been transparent and conducts its own audits.
“We’re an open book,” he said, adding, “We are in no way opposed to greater transparency.”
He added that he likes the fact that that the proposed audit bill includes all river authorities, noting “All river authorities should be subject to the same process since we do the same job.”
For more information related to these bills, log-on to www.capitol.state.tx.us.