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Archive for October 20th, 2011

The following are the Interim Charges focused on the current drought and wildfires as outlined by Lt Governor Dewhurst:

Business & Commerce Committee

  • Assess the impact of extreme drought conditions on electric generation capacity.
  • Identify those regions of Texas that will be most affected by a lack of capacity.
  • Analyze response plans and make recommendations to improve and expedite those plans.

Natural Resources Committee

  • Review water resources and conservation measures included in the State Water Plan.
  • Evaluate methods to enhance existing water resources and promote water conservation across the state at all times, not just in case of severe drought conditions.

Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee

  • Review the impact of the drought on the Texas agricultural and ranching industry.
  • Develop methods and legislative recommendations to minimize the effects of drought and respond to the challenges for farmers and ranchers.

Economic Development Committee

  • Assess the economic impact of long-term drought on all sectors of the Texas economy.
  • Include additional analysis of economic consequences of wildland fires.
  • Develop a compendium of federal, state, and local funding and other assistance alternatives for reducing the long-term economic consequences of the drought.

Intergovernmental Relations Committee

  • Analyze ways to better coordinate existing federal, state and local housing resources to increase access to affordable housing following a disaster.
  • Review best practices for fulfilling emergency short-term housing needs and developing long-term housing opportunities using existing tools, such as land trusts, land banks and other available incentives.
  • Review housing and development codes, and guidelines for structures in areas prone to natural disasters, and make recommendations on how these structures can be “hardened” to avoid loss.
  • Make recommendations to educate and enable private landowners to use best practices in fire risk mitigation, fuel reduction and urban forest management to reduce exposure to wildland fires.

Subcommittee on Flooding & Evacuations

  • Investigate and evaluate communication options during evacuations and make recommendations for legislative action.

Transportation & Homeland Security Committee

  • Review state, local and federal emergency preparation and response efforts as they pertain to protecting lives, property and natural resources from wildland fire.
  • Consider ways to facilitate better communication, collaboration and response between all state agencies and stakeholders involved in wildfire prevention, mitigation and control.
  • Review training of emergency responders to ensure that they have the appropriate skills to respond to wildfire events.
  • Review best practices in urban forest management and fuel reduction policies, both regulatory as well as voluntary, to promote safe firefighting operations.

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While the temperatures have come down from the relentless 100 degree heat wave that blanketed much of the state of Texas this summer, and parts of the state have seen some much needed rain, the state climatologist is warning us that conditions are lining up for us to be in a drought pattern for the next five years and even as long as into 2020.

Last week, the US Drought Monitor showed 73 percent of the state still in the exceptional drought category (down from the 89 percent from the previous week) which means the state still has to have significant rainfall to begin recovery from what has been the single worst drought year on record for Texas. But a La Nina pattern is going to keep us dryer and warmer than normal for a while longer.  In the meantime, Texas will continue to deal with the aftermath of an extreme drought — water restrictions, fire bans, curtailed agricultural activity, and now dust storms.

Check out these photos taken by local Lubbock residents.

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