Election could affect Texas' water plan

Melissa Crowe By Melissa Crowe

Oct. 30, 2013 at 5:30 a.m.

Drought and taxes are two major issues the constitutional amendment election centers on.

Included among the nine propositions is a long-term water plan for the drought-stricken state and property tax exemptions for veterans.

Early voting is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday and 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday at the Dr. Pattie Dodson Public Health Center, 2805 N. Navarro St.

State and local leaders are paying close attention to Proposition 6, which would divvy out $2 billion from the Rainy Day Fund for a self-sustaining, low-interest loan program that would pay for high-priority water infrastructure developments across the state.

In the Texas Water Development Board's Water Plan updated in 2012, projects are listed across the state.

However, none are prioritized, said Jerry James, intergovernmental relations director for the city of Victoria.

James said the projects are now being ranked by the board's 16 planning regions based on readiness, customer-base and the length of time to get right of way.

Personally, James said he supports the proposition. He said the city has not taken a stance.

"Texas has done a great job of planning, we need to do a good job of implementing, and this is a good job to do this," he said.

George Hood, board president of the Victoria County Farm Bureau, a nonprofit advocacy group, said if the proposition is approved, it could be a step in the right direction to solving some of the state's water issues.

"That money is up there, and it's available. We might as well use some of it to try to head it off at the pass and get some more water projects started," Hood said. "We've got to do something; maybe this is only the start."

However, he said corruption, fraud and other illegal activity could come with it.

"Anytime you put money out for anything, you'll have some crook try to find a way to get it," he said. "It doesn't matter if it's $5 or $5 billion."

Texas' demand for water outweighs his concerns.

"This past summer, we almost ran out of water in a big part of Texas," he said. "Rice farmers around Fort Bend and Colorado counties were cut off. They couldn't grow a crop at all because Austin kept all the water."

He said the loans could help cities along the coast develop desalination plants to make fresh water out of sea water. It could also help communities repair water lines or build lakes to capture rainwater.

"It's going to solve some problems," he said. "I'm not saying it'll solve all the problems. ... But if we're going to continue interesting people to come to Texas to live, we'll have to figure out a way to conserve water."

Since 1876, Texans have voted on 653 constitutional amendments, of which 474 have been approved, according to the Texas Legislative Council.

This is the first election requiring voters to show a photo ID before casting a ballot.

Victoria County Elections Administrator George Matthews said it doesn't appear to be causing difficulties locally.

"We're fine here," he said. "It's not so good in other places."

He attributes it to Victoria having only one early voting site.

While constitutional amendment elections typically have low turnouts, Victoria County is on track to exceed its turnout from the previous constitutional amendment election Nov. 8, 2011.

During that election, 2,249 voters, or 4.55 percent of the county's registered voters, participated, Matthews said.

Wednesday lingered at a 4 percent turnout, he said.

The amendments require a two-third support from the House and Senate and then approval from the majority of voters.

Thirty-six Vote Centers will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Election Day. Each Vote Center will be able to process a Victoria County registered voter, no matter in which election precinct they are registered.



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