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Lower Neches Valley Authority

Annette Purington

PO BOX 5117 , Beaumont TX 77726, US



Providing for your present and long term freshwater needs.
Provide – Protect – Ensure – Enhance
The Lower Neches Valley Authority provides for the present and long term freshwater needs of municipal, agricultural and industrial customers, protects water quality in the Neches River and Coastal Basin, insures affordability of the water supply, and enhances economic development in the Authority’s jurisdiction.
The Lower Neches Valley Authority is one of the 23 River Authorities created by the State of Texas to develop and manage the waters of the State. Each of these River Authorities was granted powers to conserve, store, control, preserve, utilize and distribute the waters of its respective area for the benefit of its residents.
The State Legislature, in 1933, granted authority to LNVA to operate within Tyler, Hardin, Liberty, Chambers and Jefferson Counties, located within the Neches River Basin and the Neches-Trinity Coastal Basin. The Neches Basin is located in East Texas. The watersheds of the Neches River and its tributaries occupy an area of approximately 10,300 square miles. The river rises near Colfax, Texas and flows generally southward for a distance of 416 miles before entering the coastal estuary, Sabine Lake and ultimately into the Gulf of Mexico.
5,600,000: Ac-Ft of Water per Year   10,300: Sq Mi of Watershed
The Neches River
The area receives generous amounts of rainfall, producing stream flows in the Neches and its tributaries of around 5,600,000 acre-feet of water a year at its mouth at Port Arthur, Texas. The Basin is generally rural in nature, for the most part heavily forested, and Beaumont is its only city with population over 100,000. Among the remaining cities (from north to south) are Tyler, Jacksonville, Palestine, Nacogdoches, Lufkin, Jasper, Woodville, Silsbee, and Port Arthur.
In Sabine Lake, Neches River waters combine with waters of the Sabine River. Together these large, combined streams flow through the deep water Sabine-Neches Ship Channel, Sabine Lake and surrounding marshes into the Gulf of Mexico at Sabine Pass, Texas. Saltwater from the Gulf customarily intermingles with the freshwater sources in Sabine Lake, producing brackish to salty conditions and a haven for both freshwater and saltwater fish and shellfish, as well as waterfowl.
The quality of the Neches River freshwater is excellent for all beneficial uses and is the source of supply for cities, industries and farms throughout the basin.
History & Development
Around the turn of the century, most of East Texas was concerned with conservation of soil and water, drainage, control of floods and navigation, channels, reforestation and promotion of recreational facilities. The area within the Lower Neches Basin during this period was largely agriculturally oriented. In the northern counties of the district, cotton, potatoes, oats, tomatoes and hay were the principal crops. In the southern counties, rice was the crop of choice because of the heavy, dense soils found in that area and the abundance of freshwater. The central counties supported a thriving timber industry. Beef cattle production was also gaining importance.
Throughout much of the basin were numerous oil and gas fields. Indeed, East Texas is the cradle of the modern oil and gas industry. The Beaumont-Port Arthur area became the oil refining capitol of the world when six major oil refineries prospered within Jefferson County. To provide access to world wide markets for products from these refineries, the Neches River was deepened and straightened to the Gulf of Mexico for ocean-going vessels. Ironically, the deepwater channel, which was so valuable to the development and prosperity of the area, also posed a threat to the freshwater supply. Saltwater from the Gulf of Mexico moved inland to the freshwater intakes of the cities, industries and farms. This problem created the need for an organization that protected the freshwater supply and increased the availability of water through storage and distribution systems. To accomplish this, the 43rd Legislature of the State of Texas in 1933 created the Lower Neches Valley Authority as the second River Authority in the State.
In September, 1936, shortly after the creation of LNVA, a public hearing was held in Jacksonville, Texas to receive comments and proposals regarding regulation, conservation and utilization of the waters of the Neches River system as well as the control of floods. It was emphasized that LNVA had investigated the problems and were developing a plan designed to address these type issues in the lower Neches River basin. LNVA’s plan included construction of a large reservoir on the Neches River near Rockland and a regulated dam near Town Bluff for the purpose of storing water and regulating the flow of the river. To deliver the stored water to its area of need, LNVA proposed to build a canal to transport water from these reservoirs to consumers within Jefferson, Liberty and Chambers Counties. The majority of these consumers were rice farmers, but it was clear that the burgeoning industrial water demand faced critical needs, which must be met to assure the industries’ future and to support their employees.
In addition to LNVA’s plan to construct the Rockland Reservoir, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers developed a master plan for control and development of water resources in the Neches basin. The Corps’ plan included construction of two large reservoirs, one on the Neches at Rockland and another at McGee Bend on the Angelina River, and two smaller regulating reservoirs just downstream of the two major reservoirs. It became apparent that the Corps’ planning efforts superseded the more limited scope of LNVA, and further development of the LNVA plan was cancelled
Upon assurances that it would furnish a share of the cost of the Federal project costs, LNVA was named local sponsor of the Neches River Basin reservoirs and furnished $5,000,000 of the construction costs of McGee Bend Reservoir (now Sam Rayburn Reservoir) and Dam B (now Town Bluff Dam and B.A. Steinhagen Reservoir.) LNVA also agreed to contribute $200,000 a year toward the cost of reservoir operations.
Construction of Steinhagen Reservoir began in 1947 and was completed in 1951, The reservoir made a significant improvement in the dependability of stream flows in the lower basin, but it was never intended to be a stand-alone water supply reservoir because of its small size and the increasing demand for fresh water. Shortly after Steinhagen’s completion, construction of Sam Rayburn Reservoir was initiated and impoundment of water in the completed reservoir began in 1965.
The System
Sam Rayburn and Steinhagen Reservoirs are owned by the U.S. Government and operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Fort Worth District. Local financial sponsorship is provided by the Lower Neches Valley Authority. Water stored in Sam Rayburn for use by LNVA is released to Steinhagen (Dam B) Reservoir, from which it flows into the lower Neches River and on to the LNVA freshwater intakes. LNVA has state-approved rights to the use of, essentially, the entire dependable freshwater yield of Rayburn Reservoir, approximately 820,000 acre-feet (or 267 trillion gallons) a year. This volume not only meets current demands, but is expected to be sufficient to meet the projected needs of the lower Neches basin far into the 21st century. In releasing freshwater through Rayburn and Steinhagen powerhouses, electrical power is generated for use in homes and industries within the area.
Delivery of fresh surface water by the distribution system is performed by withdrawal of the water from the lower Neches River and Pine Island Bayou by 21 very large pumps. They can each deliver between 20,000 and 110,000 gallons a minute and can pump a total of over one billion gallons of water a day. The pumps are driven by huge, natural gas-fueled engines to provide fresh water to eight cities and water districts, 26 industries and over 100 irrigated farms.
The water is lifted into the canal system to a height which will permit its delivery throughout most of the 400-mile canal system without further pumping. Water deliveries are made to cities, industries and farms on a continuous, 24-hour a day, seven day a week basis. The canal system covers an area of approximately 700 square miles, principally within Jefferson, Liberty, and Chambers Counties.
Economic Development
The Lower Neches Valley Authority (LNVA or Authority) was created by the Texas Legislature in 1933 as a conservation and reclamation district to develop and manage the waters of the State within the Neches River basin and the adjoining Neches-Trinity coastal basin.  The territory of the Authority is all of Jefferson, Hardin, and Tyler Counties and the eastern portions of Liberty and Chambers Counties. The Authority was granted powers to conserve, store, control, preserve, use, and distribute the waters of the basins, both inside and outside of its territory, with primary regard for the necessary and potential needs for water by or in the area in the authority constituting the basins.  The Authority is governed by a Board of Directors composed of nine persons, two of whom reside within Tyler County, two from Hardin County, and five from Jefferson County.  They are appointed to six- year terms by the Governor of the State of Texas, and serve without salaries.  The Directors are responsible for making policies under which the Authority functions and to oversee its operations. The Board prescribes fees and charges for the use of water, a water connection, or other services provided by the Authority but has no power to levy taxes. The Authority’s enabling legislation is codified in Chapter 8504 of the Special District Local Laws Code.
 In 1997, the Texas Legislature amended the Authority’s enabling legislation to expand its economic development programs to include a community assistance program, a privatization program, or any other program designed to:
    (1)  encourage economic diversification;
    (2)  maintain or expand employment;
    (3)  train persons;
    (4)  eliminate conditions detrimental to the public health, safety, or welfare;
    (5)  improve the quality or quantity of services essential for the development of viable communities and economic growth, including services related to:
          (A)  education;
          (B)  transportation;
          (C)  public safety;
          (D)  recreation;
          (E)  health care;
          (F)  water and wastewater treatment; or
          (G)  rural water and sewer development; or
    (6)  contribute to the health and development of a community to improve the attractiveness of the community to public and private enterprises.
Specifically, the legislation states, “The authority may, in the areas served by the authority, sponsor and participate in an economic development program intended to strengthen the economic base and further the economic development of this state.  The program may not be outside the areas served by the authority unless the authority has entered into an interlocal agreement with an entity under Section 8504.205.”
The intent of this policy statement is to establish the goals of the Economic Development Program, impose requirements on persons participating in and receiving the benefits of the program, and provide restrictions, procedures, and budget limits that the Board determines are necessary to ensure that the governmental purposes of §8504 Special District Local Laws Code and the program are achieved.
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