BATON ROUGE — The House gave overwhelming approval to a Senate bill here Tuesday that gives additional oversight before Toledo Bend water can be sold to out-of-state interests.
The 96-1 vote sends the bill back to the Senate for concurrence in House changes.
Senate Bill 436 by Sen. Gerald Long, R-Winnfield, says any proposed out-of-state water sales would have to be approved by members of the House and Senate Natural Resources Committees and the governing authorities of five parishes surrounding the reservoir.
Current law says the governor has to approve water sales, and Gov. Bobby Jindal rejected recent plans to sell water to Texas. He said the proposal was moving too fast.
Rep. Frank Howard, R-Many, handled the Long bill. He represents Sabine, Vernon and Natchitoches parishes. Sabine is near the reservoir.
Howard said the reservoir supplies water to in-state interests in the area, and that doesn’t pose problems. He asked Long to add the amendment that says two-thirds of the governing bodies of the five parishes would also have to approve any water sales to out-of-state interests.
Those parishes are Beauregard, Calcasieu, DeSoto, Sabine and Vernon, he said.
Rep. Gordon Dove, R-Houma, tried to delete the amendment requiring five parishes to OK water sales, saying it was overkill. Dove is chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee. His amendment failed 5-87.
Dove said the Sabine River Authority also has oversight. In 2005, legislators gave the authority to sell water to out-of-state interests.
However, Long earlier said, “I do understand the public’s mistrust. The SRA acted hastily and with not enough public input,” he said. “They brought me the proposal long before they brought it to the governor, and it was clear that they were getting squeezed by the people who wanted to purchase it.”
Rep. Thomas Carmody, R-Shreveport, and others defended the legislation. They said the people who live near the reservoir make their living off the area and should have a voice in water sales.
“They don’t have enough water. I wish they did,” Carmody said.