destined for the Texas coast’s rich and Delbert Weniger, a biologist writing in the Observer, called the plan “ecological Russian roulette … a fantastic, earth-shaking, major overhaul of the geography, topography and ecology of the whole region” \(see Obs., The Observer devoted its Aug. 1, 1969 issue to opposing the water plan. “The `plan’ is not really a plan at all,” we wrote, “but a highly speculative, sometimes dishonest and always optimistic scheme for spending a monumental hunk of Texans’ money, mainly to replenish the water supplies of West and South Texas irrigators and oil and sulphur producers. These people have exploited their water resources and now they want the state and the federal government to pump six trillion gallons of water purposes for irrigation alone … to the High Plains so they can continue using water in the manner to which they have become accustomed.” A $3.6 billion TWDB bond program for the plan was defeated statewide in August of 1969 by a margin of only 6,000 votes. Since the bond defeat, the TWDB has trimmed its sails somewhat. Environmentalists have become increasingly militant. They’re better organized, better financed and better educated now, and their concerns must be included in any future water development plans for Texas. A more immediately potent obstruction to gargantuan water projects is the fact that the feds have been easing out of the dam-building business. The budget of the Army Corps of Engineers, which Justice William 0. Douglas calls “public enemy number one,” has been severely cut. Meantime, inflation has launched estimates on the ’68 water plan beyond the stratosphere. The planners on the Water Development Board are bloodied but unbowed. TWDB Executive Director Harry P. Burleigh emphasizes that the ’68 plan was to be a “flexible guide.” 3 “Experiences have been gained and circumstances have changed which bear on state water policy and water use,” he wrote recently. Environmentalists and bureaucrats from other state agencies watch the TWDB the way Henry Kissinger watches the court of King Faisal. The handwriting on the palace wall is not always legible, but what Harry P. Burleigh and the other water planners seem to be up to is quietly carrying out the in-state portions of the ’68 plan piecemeal, reservoir by reservoir, dam by dam. STILL, diverting rivers and digging massive ditches is not something that can be done surreptitiously. A number of other state agencies have gotten into the act. Under the leadership of Bob Armstrong, the General Land Office has been taking a very protective look at all plans that affect state-owned and submerged lands. Armstrong’s first serious breach of bureaucratic etiquette was in 1972 when he opposed construction of a shallow reservoir at Palmetto Bend near the Gulf of Mexico. The land commissioner allowed as how the project was basically unnecessary since there was sufficient ground water in the area. And he voiced fears that a reservoir so close to the coast might endanger the estuarine system in the area of Matagorda Bay. The water bureaucrats were infuriated. Until Palmetto Bend, the idea of one state agency objecting to another state agency’s pet project was unthinkable \(a little subtle subversion now and then was understandable, but no head-on collisions, The citizens of rural Jackson County and the surrounding Coastal Bend region approved a bond issue in 1967 to get proposals for the reservoir started. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the TWDB had argued that the reservoir would be “a catalyst t o stimulate economic development of the area.” Congress approved the $54.7 million project and it should have been easy digging from there on out. But then Armstrong and the environmentalists started sounding alarums concerning what a reservoir so close to the bay might mean to the area’s fishing and tourist industry. A recent Texas A&M study indicates that Matagorda County alone earned more than $4 million from fish and shell fish harvests in 1970. And another study estimates that the four adjacent coastal counties pull in $54.6 million in tourist dollars annually. The plight of the state’s aquatic nurseries and breeding grounds became a hot topic not only to the Audobon types but to the Jaycees as well. Earlier this year, the principal engineer for the TWDB let slip that the Palmetto Bend reservoir might well become the origination point for a canal to pump water to the Rio Grande Valley and intermittent needy communities along the coastal water plan route. 4 Burleigh quickly countered that his chief engineer was in error. “We have firmed up a more westerly water source for the Valley. It will be the Guadalupe River, not Palmetto Bend,” 5 he told The Houston Post. Contributing Editors: Steve Barthelme, Bill Brammer, Gary Cartwright, Joe Frantz, Larry Goodwyn, Bill Hamilton, Bill Helmer, Dave Hickey, Franklin Jones, Lyman Jones, Larry L. King, Georgia Earnest Klipple, Larry Lee, Al Melinger, Robert L. Montgomery, Willie Morris, Bill Porterfield, James Presley, Buck Ramsey, John Rogers, Mary Beth Rogers, Roger Shattuck, Edwin Shrake, Dan Strawn, John P. Sullivan, Tom Sutherland. We will serve no group or party but will hew hard to the truth as we find it and the right as we see it. We are dedicated to the whole truth, to human values above all interests, to the rights of humankind as the foundation of democracy; we will take orders from none but our own conscience, and never will we overlook or misrepresent the truth to serve the interests of the powerful or cater to the ignoble in the human spirit. The editor has exclusive control over the editorial policies and contents of the Observer. None of the other people who are associated with the enterprise shares this responsibility with her. Writers are responsible for their own work, but not for anything they have not themselves written, and in publishing them the editor does not necessarily imply that she agrees with them, because this is a journal of free voices. Published by Texas Observer Publishing Co., biweekly except for a three week interval between issues twice a year, in July and January; 25 issues per year. Entered as second-class matter April 26, 1937, at the Post Office at Austin, Texas, under the Act of March 3, 1879. Second class postage paid at Austin, Texas. Single Copy, 50g. One year, $8.00; two years, $14.00; three yeard, $19.00; plus, for Texas addresses, 5% sales tax. Foreign, except APO/FPO. soq additional per year. Airmail, bulk orders, and group rates on request. Microfilmed by Microfilming Corporation of America, 21 Harristown Road, Glen Rock, N.J. 07452. Change of Address: Please give old and new address, including zip codes, and allow two weeks. Postmaster: Send form 3579 to Texas Observer, 600 W. 7th St., Austin, Texas 78701. THE TEXAS OBSERVER The Texas Observer Publishing Co. 1974 Ronnie Dugger, Publisher A window to the South A journal of free voices EDITOR CO-EDITOR ASSOCIATE EDITOR EDITOR AT LARGE Kaye Northcott Molly Ivins John Ferguson Ronnie Dugger BUSINESS STAFF Joe Espinosa Jr. C. R. Olofson Vol. LXVI, No. 14 July 26, 1974 locorporating the State Observer and the East Texas Democrat, which in turn incorporated the Austin ForumAdvocate. Editorial and Business Offices: The Texas Observer, 600 W. 7th St., Austin, Texas 78701. Telephone 477-0746. 7441110V
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