Texas Water Quality Planning

Texas Water Quality Planning Issuesby Arlin HowesSo what is generating all the interest and why should geologists or anyone else really care?  A quick answer is that the Policy Opinion process can be used to broadly define what engineering is.  On October 8, 2004, the Texas Board of Professional Engineers (TBPE) issued a Draft Policy Advisory Opinion Regarding Water Quality Planning that included the interpretation that “all water quality planning activities that lead to or support the analysis of works or systems or the alteration or use of water constitute the practice of engineering and should be performed under the supervision of a licensed engineer”.  The resulting Policy Opinion itself does not have the force of law but could be attached to any relevant legislative bill and become law.  Is it just a coincidence that the Senate Select Committee on Water Policy has just issued a draft report and that the Texas Legislature is currently in session?   The first stakeholders’ meeting was held on November 29, 2004.  Stakeholder attendance and written response was so great, that the second meeting was scheduled.       On January 11, 2005, I attended a second Stockholder’s meeting (the HGS Board submitted a written statement as well) for the Draft Policy Opinion concerning Water Quality Planning held by the Policy Advisory Committee of the TBPE.  Mr. Gerry Pate, PE chaired the meeting and a short PowerPoint presentation was given which summarized the TBPE Policy Advisory Opinion and a Brief Comment Summary.  All of the stakeholders oral and written statements from the first stakeholders meeting were summarized into four bullet items; 1) Overly broad in scope, 2) Lack of training in scientific issues for typical engineer, 3) In conflict with state/federal law and other state agencies, 4) Advisory is not specific in regards to scientist versus engineering activities. Mr. Pate then opened the discussion with a statement that the engineer’s board is mandated to define what activities are engineering and that those activities are required to be performed or supervised by licensed engineers.  It was further stated that the draft policy advisory opinion was not meant to question the competency of other professions or their own legislative mandates.  It was stated that any other activities that are performed by other professions that are defined as engineering activities must be supervised by an engineer.  Mr. Pate also made it clear that even though a licensed geologist is allowed to do work defined by their act, if that work is contributing to an engineering process, the geologist work must be supervised by the engineer.  Mr. Pate also stated that the license of another professional board does not authorize that licensee to perform engineering work.  Engineering activities must be supervised by an engineer. Some of the stakeholders that represented geoscientists at the meeting were Texas Board Professional Geologists (TBPG), two TBPG Board members, TBPG Executive Director, Texas Association Professional Geoscientists (TAPG), and HGS as well as several individual geoscientists.A small victory was obtained when Mr. Pate announced that the TBPE staff would write a new Policy Advisory and circulate it to the stakeholders for another round of comments and discussion.  Mr. Pate also announced that any further stakeholder meetings would not be published in the Texas Register.  

HGS Bulletin - March, 2005
Monday, February 28, 2005
Government Update