The New York Times has published an article about the proposal by Rio Nuevo, Ltd., to lease water rights under far west Texas land owned by the state of Texas.
The Times mostly rehashes much of what we already knew, but there is some background about how it all came about, and the parts involving Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick make for interesting reading:
Mr. [Robert] Canon said that before he and Mr. [Steve] Cole founded Rio Nuevo, another Midland company, Mexco Energy, had bought an interest in a Falcon Bay oil and gas projects. Mr. Craddick, the House speaker, is a Mexco director, but Mr. Canon said that Falcon Bay and Rio Nuevo were separate entities and that Mr. Craddick had nothing to do with Rio Nuevo.
Mr. Craddick, too, said through a spokesman that he had no connection with Rio Nuevo. But he did not dispute accounts that he had urged Mr. [Jerry] Patterson and David Dewhurst, the land commissioner at the time and now the state's lieutenant governor, to meet with Rio Nuevo partners.
Ms. [Susan] Combs, the agriculture commissioner, said that around April 2002, Mr. [Gary] Martin approached her with an idea of marketing state water via the Rio Grande. It was folly, she said, because sending water into the river would entail large losses from evaporation.
Not long afterward and at the behest of Mr. Craddick, Mr. Dewhurst said, he met with Mr. Martin to discuss the project. Mr. Dewhurst, who was running for lieutenant governor, said he later returned a contribution from Mr. Martin when he learned the oilman had an issue pending before him as land commissioner. "I thought it was a terrible idea," Mr. Dewhurst said of the proposal.
Mr. Patterson said that at Mr. Craddick's urging, he, too, began meeting with the Rio Nuevo partners, even before he succeeded Mr. Dewhurst in January.
Then, in May, as the legislative session wound down, the Texas House and Senate passed a bill that would allow the Rio Grande watermaster to put into the river "privately owned water" for delivery to clients and directed the state's Commission on Environmental Quality "to expedite any application for a permit" to carry out the act.
Mr. Dewhurst said he remembered Rio Nuevo's pressing for such a bill, but said he did not focus on it during the session. Mr. Craddick's spokesman said the speaker had nothing to do with the bill.
(To see other items in this weblog about this issue click on "Water" either below or in the Categories column to the right and see the entries titled "Selling West Texas Water".)
Thanks to bad things for the NYT link.