Hundreds of dams across the state are at risk of failure, in the event of worst-case flooding, according to a new investigation by the Austin American Statesman.

The report found that there are 7,229 dams in Texas, more than any other state. About 1300 of those are considered high-hazard dams – that is, a dam whose failure could result in the loss of seven or more lives. Of those high-hazard dams, 576 were determined to be “inadequate” in the event of worst-case flooding.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, which regulates dams, applies different safety standards to those dams, and dams where six or fewer could die in the event of a failure. That’s a departure from standards in most states, where any potential loss of life would be considered high risk.

The investigation also found that 231 smaller dams in rural Texas that could endanger people in the event of failure were exempt from inspections and other safety requirements. And many people who live in inundation zones are unaware of the risk.

 

A New Bill Could Help Give Veterans Better Access to Service Animals

Service animals can provide beneficial therapy for veterans suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, but wait times for those animals can be up to 3 years. Senator John Cornyn is hoping to change that. He visited Houston Friday, ahead of Veterans day, to talk about a bill that would provide more service animals to veterans.
Houston Public Media’s Andrew Schneider has more:

Senator Cornyn is cosponsoring the Puppies Assisting Wounded Service Members, or PAWS, Act. The bill would set up a pilot program through the Department of Veterans Affairs, which would cover the costs of training service dogs for veterans with PTSD.

“Part of what we owe them is that when they take off the uniform and they become a civilian that we help them with that transition.”

Cornyn met with veterans and animals paired by the Texas-based non-profit Patriot PAWS Service Dogs. One of the dogs sat by his feet as he spoke.

“And this is just one small way we can help them make that transition in a way they can live full lives and productive lives, rather than live alone, tormented by some of these invisible wounds of war.”

Lori Stevens, the executive director of Patriot PAWS, said her organization gets as many as 400 requests for service dogs a month. Training each animal takes up to two and a half years.

Special Education Enrollments Spike

Special education enrollment is up throughout the state. The Houston Chronicle reports that Texas enrolled over 477,000 students – its largest number ever – in special education programs for the 2016-2017 school year, the same year the state scrapped an arbitrary cap it put in place limiting special ed enrollment.

A 2016 Chronicle investigation revealed that that so-called “benchmark” was excluding tens of thousands of children with disabilities from special education services. The Texas Education Agency got rid of the policy two months later.

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