Thousands of stakeholders across Texas recognize that our pristine streams need special protection from wastewater discharge. An initiative that originally started as an effort to pass a Pristine Streams bill in the Texas Legislature has now become a collaborative effort with TCEQ to refine current TCEQ rules to better protect Texas’ few remaining pristine streams.
From January 31 to March 30, 2022, over 1200 comments were submitted on the TCEQ Pristine Streams rule change petition. This had great impact on the Commissioners as they met on March 30th to hear public comments and take action on the petition. Over an hour of eloquent, heart-felt, researched comments made a lasting impression.
Blanco City Council and the Blanco Water Reclamation Task Force efforts to find alternatives to direct discharge were highlighted as major successes and lauded as the sustainable path forward for the Hill Country. The Highland Lakes were also spotlighted for the existing protections. “TCEQ prohibited new discharge permits around the Highland Lakes in 1986,” said Zabcik. “We have 36 years of knowing that you can do development without discharge because anyone who’s been in those lakes knows that development hasn’t stopped there.” (quote from Fox 7 News Segment)
Ultimately, Commissioners Niermann and Lindley voted to deny the rulemaking petition; Commissioner Janecka opposed the denial. Commissioner Niermann made the motion to deny the rulemaking petition and issue the Executive Director’s proposed Order, with the modification to state the single reason for the denial as follows: the TCEQ already addresses the concerns raised in the petition with a legally adequate program for assessing and protecting stream segments under Texas surface water quality standards at 30 Texas Administrative Code Chapter 307 and the Agency’s TPDES Permitting Program. While this is not the outcome we had hoped for, the Commissioners openly discussed the need to develop a stakeholder committee and evaluate options to better protect streams through existing rules or a recommendation to Legislature.
A Pristine Streams Stakeholder Meeting was held 5 months after the rulemaking petition and yielded a healthy discussion between TCEQ staff and stakeholders about pristine stream segments and the existing discharge permits, nutrient screening procedures used for wastewater permitting, and wastewater treatment technologies that help reduce phosphorous levels. Several action items were identified by TCEQ staff at the meeting. Stakeholders are waiting a TCEQ response on recommendations for rules and procedure changes or update on the process to better protect Texas’ pristine streams.
Pristine Streams Protections Initiative Timeline
News and Reports of Interest:
- TCEQ Pristine Streams Stakeholder Meeting – Aug. 31, 1:30-4:30 (Watershed Association, August 22, 2022)
- TCEQ Denies Pristine Streams Rulemaking Petition but… (Watershed Association, April 8, 2022)
- TCEQ Ignores Public Pressure and Votes Not to Protect Pristine Streams in Texas (Sierra Club, March 31, 2022)
- TCEQ denies petition to create rule against issuing wastewater discharge permits on pristine streams (Fox News, March 30, 2022)
- Is Texas Hill Country in danger of being ‘loved to death’? (Christian Science Monitor, March 25, 2022)
- State of the Hill Country Report: 8 Conservation and Growth Metrics for a Region at a Crossroads (Texas Hill Country Conservation Network, March, 2022)
- Action Alert: Support TCEQ Pristine Streams Petition: Resolutions and Support Letter examples (Watershed Association, March 9, 2022)
- Pristine streams in Texas need protection. It’s up to the state Senate to act. (Environmental Defense Fund, May 18, 2021)
- Texas House passes bill banning wastewater discharge permits along ‘pristine’ streams (KVUE, May 21, 2021)