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North Texas Zebra Mussel Barrier Act of 2012

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. SESSIONS. Mr. Speaker, I believe the facts of the case that have been clearly enumerated by both sides are very important for this Congress to understand in that this is an agreement on both sides. Yet I think what has happened is that, due to the bipartisan leadership back on the committee between not just Mr. Holt and the chairman but also with the gentleman, Mr. Fleming, it has really come to the aid and assistance, not just in a bipartisan way but in a commonsense way.

It is the opportunity for 1.6 million people who need this desperately to be able to get water at a time of drought, at a time of much consternation in Texas where we have fires and drought and heat and a lot of problems. This means that the people of North Texas know that Chairman Ralph Hall and this committee worked very carefully to make sure that they went through regular order, to make sure that they knew the facts of the case, to make sure that they studied this well.

I really want to offer, not just my support for this, but my thanks to the committee and to the committee chairman for the hard work that has been done by this. I don't make apologies for coming to the floor to do things that are in the best interests of the people of Texas, but this has become necessary as a result of directives back in Texas and the inability of people to clearly resolve this. So I am very pleased to support not just this bill, H.R. 6007, but also the concept of Congress working together through using common sense.

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Mr. Speaker, we are here today to discuss an issue which is vital to North Texas. H.R. 6007, the North Texas Zebra Mussel Barrier Act, provides an elegant solution to a growing problem. Currently, 1.6 million customers of the North Texas Municipal Water District, many of whom are my constituents, have restricted access to water as a result of the discovery of zebra mussels in Lake Texoma. Additionally, water transfers have become complicated because of a surveying error resulting in the incorrect designation of the District's Lake Texoma intake station as being in Oklahoma rather than in Texas. This surveyor's error, made more than a decade ago by the Red River Boundary Compact, means that water transfers of zebra mussels now cross a state line. Such a transfer triggers the Lacey Act, which is designed to prevent the spread of invasive species across state lines.

In response, the North Texas Municipal Water District has been forced to suspend all pumping from Lake Texoma for the past three years. This water source constitutes roughly 28 percent of the North Texas Municipal Water District's available supply of raw water. Such a reduction in available resources has put a tremendous stress on the District and its ability to assure its customers that there will be an adequate supply of water in the future.

H.R. 6007 would allow North Texas Municipal Water District to resume water transfers from Lake Texoma through a completely closed conveyance system that delivers water directly into their water treatment facility. To achieve this, the North Texas Municipal Water District has committed approximately $300 million to build a 46-mile long pipeline. The District has approved the funding and obtained the necessary 4-0-4 permits required by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to begin construction.

Such a conveyance system would provide safe and dependable means for the District to access the water they have legal rights to while ensuring, with 100 percent reliability, that Zebra Mussels will not be transferred into Texas waters. Their treatment facility will employ chemical and mechanical means of filtration to eliminate any risk of propagation of invasive species. Such techniques have been proven successful in other areas of the country and have been approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Ultimately, H.R. 6007 will restore the adequate and steady stream of water to over 1.6 million Texans without the use of taxpayer dollars while complying with the Lacey Act's intended goal of preventing the spread of invasive species.

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