You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myStatesman.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myStatesman.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myStatesman.com.

Texas officials, wary of species designation, pay for mussel research


Highlights

Texas comptroller announces $2.3 milion in research money.

Research is latest in comptroller-led effort to pre-empt endangered species listings.

Ranchers, industry, others say habitat protections could hamper business.

Hoping to stave off further limits on how much water cities, manufacturers and farmers could pull from Central Texas rivers, state officials announced Tuesday that they are paying for new research into the populations of five species of freshwater mussels that are being considered by federal authorities for endangered species listings.

The Texas comptroller’s office will pay $2.3 million to Texas State University researchers to study five species of mussels, found in the Colorado, Brazos and Guadalupe rivers.

A rare species tag could translate into special habitat protections that would have far-reaching implications for how the state’s river authorities distribute water while still leaving enough in Texas’ already stressed rivers to keep mussels healthy.

The mussel project — which will examine the conditions needed to maintain the mussels’ habitat, and the range of environmental stresses mussels can tolerate — is part of a larger project, spearheaded by the comptroller’s office, to bankroll scientific research to help try to convince federal authorities not to list species as endangered, which ranchers, developers, energy companies and others have said will hurt business.

LIKE US ON FACEBOOK: Our Lone Star Politics page brings Capitol news to your Facebook feed

The research “will address voluntary conservation measures that, if needed, will protect the mussels while minimizing potential impacts to our state’s economy,” Comptroller Glenn Hegar said in a news release. “Our office believes a science-driven, open and transparent stakeholder process will lead to a collaborative solution for issues concerning the Central Texas mussel.”

In 2013, and again in 2015, the Legislature appropriated $5 million to the comptroller’s office to contract with state universities for research on species under review for endangered species listing.

Hegar’s predecessor, Susan Combs, had used the money to aggressively ward off endangered species listings, which she once referred to as “incoming Scud missiles.”

TEXAS POLITICS DELIVERED EVERY DAY: Sign up for our Texas Politics email

Hegar has taken a more conciliatory approach — while still aiming to pre-empt endangered species listings.

Hegar said he will be collaborating with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: The study will involve partnerships with scientists at the Fish and Wildlife Service’s San Marcos Aquatic Resources Center and the Inks Dam and Uvalde national fish hatcheries, evaluating methods for the breeding of mussels in hatcheries to increase their numbers, and the reintroduction of those mussels to their native habitats.

The Fish and Wildlife Service says dams and reduced water quality are affecting the health of the mussels.

Officials at the Lower Colorado River Authority say it’s premature to say what future listings might affect the Colorado basin.

The Fish and Wildlife Service’s southwest regional director, Benjamin Tuggle, said he welcomed the “proactive, partnership approach to mussel research and voluntary conservation.”

RELATED: Texas mussel proposed as endangered, with implications for waterways

The Texas State study will focus on the false spike, smooth pimpleback, Texas fatmucket, Texas fawnsfoot and Texas pimpleback mussels species.

As long ago as 2011, the federal biologists determined that many of those species warranted a threatened or endangered species designation.

The federal authorities plan to make a decision on the species by 2018.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

This Day in Texas History: The Death of Bonnie and Clyde
This Day in Texas History: The Death of Bonnie and Clyde

83 — Years ago today (May 23, 1934) that Texas outlaws Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were gunned down on a rural road in Louisiana. 6 — Number of officers that shot them, led by Texas Ranger Frank Hamer. 53 — The number of kills credited to Ranger Hamer. Some accounts say it was more . 130 — Number of rounds fired into car...
Texas Senate revives abortion insurance measure
Texas Senate revives abortion insurance measure

Late Monday, the Texas Senate revived a stalled abortion measure by adding it as an amendment to a bill on insurance information for doctors. House Bill 3124 was amended to add language from Senate Bill 20, which would ban abortion coverage in private insurance plans as well as plans offered to state employees and participants in the Affordable Care...
No UT students currently in Manchester through university programs, officials confirm
No UT students currently in Manchester through university programs, officials confirm

No University of Texas students are currently on official university travel in Manchester, England, where an explosion at an Ariana Grande concert killed 19 people and injured about 50 others, university officials confirmed. Still, the school’s international office is in the process of contacting students currently or soon to be...
Judges: Does Supreme Court ruling affect Texas districts?
Judges: Does Supreme Court ruling affect Texas districts?

Hours after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down two North Carolina congressional districts because of their effect on African-American voters, the first impact was felt in Texas. Three federal judges, overseeing a legal challenge to Texas districts adopted in 2013, sent an order Monday to lawyers on both sides seeking information about how...
Texas Digest: Cop shooter gets 50 years

COURTS Cop shooter gets 50 years in prison A man charged with the nonfatal shooting of a Houston-area police officer in the chest and face three years ago during a traffic stop has been sentenced to 50 years in prison. Sergio Francisco Rodriguez pleaded guilty Monday to aggravated assault of a public servant. He’s the last of three men charged...
More Stories