News Feature | April 17, 2017

Ted Cruz's Water Security Bill Could Invite Invasive Species

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome

cruz reg new

Is Senator Ted Cruz paving the way for invasive species to storm water sources in Texas?

The Texas Republican filed legislation last month with the stated aim of bolstering water security in his state. Texas faces water supply challenges amid rapid population growth.

Cruz framed his policy proposal as a way to cut red tape for Texas resource managers importing water from other states.

The target of the tape-cutting: The Lacey Act, a law that “prohibits the transport and sale of endangered and invasive species between states,” KUT reported.

Cruz’s office says his legislation will prevent Lacey Act rules from interrupting interstate water transfers between Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas. Rep. Louie Gohmert, Republican of Texas, filed companion legislation in the House.

“For the last several years, Texas water interests have faced regulatory barriers at every turn,” Cruz said in a statement. “With this legislation, water agencies who supply water to Texans will now have the confidence and clarity to continue providing water without interruption from Washington.”

Here’s an example of how the Lacey Act can get in the way of water management, per KUT:

The [North Texas Municipal Water District] pumps water from Lake Texoma on the Oklahoma border. One of its pumps is on the Oklahoma side. When an invasive species called the zebra mussel appeared in that lake in 2009, the district had to stop pumping water into Texas while it figured out a way to treat the water. The reason: A federal law called the Lacey Act prohibits the transport and sale of endangered and invasive species between states.

The transfers were halted despite the fact that zebra mussels had already pounced in some areas of Texas, the report said.

Cruz’s legislation “would allow a state to buy water that contains invasive species from another state as long as those species are already present in the area,” KUT reported.

Opponents say the legislation would make Texas water sources more vulnerable to invasive species, and might spread the pests into waters they have not yet infected.

“Let’s say I’m here, and I’m trying to deal with zebra mussels very aggressively, but somebody wants to transfer water to me, bringing me more zebra mussels. Why am I doing this when I can't win, because you’re continually re-infecting me?” said Thomas Hardy, a professor of environmental flows at Texas State University, per KUT.

The Lacey Act, passed in 1900, was the first federal law approved to protect wildlife, according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

For similar stories visit Water Online’s Source Water Scarcity Solutions Center.

Image credit: "Ted Cruz," Gage Skidmore © 2011, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: