History of Chambers-Liberty Counties Navigation District

The Chambers-Liberty Counties Navigation District was initiated by petition to the Chambers County Commissioners Court on April 10, 1944. The petition was signed by citizens of both Chambers and Liberty Counties and was accepted by the court for public hearing on June 5th, 1944. An election to confirm the creation, authorize issuance of $100,000 in bonds and to approve a tax levy was held on July 8th, 1944 and the proposal passed 401 for and 118 against. Creation of the district was authorized under Article XVI of the Constitution of the State of Texas and it currently operates under Chapters 60, 62 and 63 of the Texas Water Code. The district stretches from the northern boundary of Liberty County to the southern boundary of Chambers County and varies from five to ten miles in width following the Trinity River. It comprises 255,649 acres in Chambers County and 185,375 acres in Liberty County. The original purpose of the district was to provide navigation, as it was intended to be the first leg of a barge channel to Dallas. The channel to Dallas never became a reality but the district now performs two major functions, navigation and raw water supply.

Additional submerged lands within Trinity and Galveston Bays were purchased by the district, from the State of Texas in 1957. This purchase comprised approximately 30,000 acres, which lie adjacent to the various authorized navigation channels located within the district. These channels are as follows.

  • Trinity River Channel to Liberty
  • Anahuac Channel
  • Cedar Bayou Channel
  • Double Bayou Channel
  • Trinity River Channel at Smith Point

The district acts as the Local Sponsor with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for maintenance of the channels. In addition, the District is an equal partner with the City of Liberty in the ownership of the Port of Liberty, located on the Trinity River in Liberty. The district is the sole owner of the Port of Anahuac which harbors the various vessels owned by the district. Docking facilities were recently improved in the Port of Anahuac utilizing a grant from the Coastal Coordination Council.

The most active navigation channels in the district are the Cedar Bayou Channel, the Double Bayou Channel and the Trinity River Channel at Smith Point. The Cedar Bayou channel services the chemical industry as well as the aggregate materials industry located on Cedar Bayou in West Chambers County. The Double Bayou Channel services the offshore marine industry and the commercial fishing industry. The Smith Point Channel services the commercial fishing industry as well as marine maintenance facilities. These channels are also utilized by sport fishermen and recreational boaters.

In 1947, the district purchased the Lone Star Canal Company located in Chambers County, Texas. The Lone Star Canal system was established in 1904 and has a service area of 128,559 acres of land wholly in Chambers County. Purchase of the system was funded by revenues generated from the sale of irrigation water to the rice producers in Chambers County.

The district continues to provide irrigation water to the rice industry as well as municipal raw water to the City of Anahuac and the Trinity Bay Conservation District. The district has experienced a tremendous reduction in rice production as a result of the Federal Farm Program and low world prices for rice.

The maximum acreage irrigated on the system was 36,094 acres in 1983, comprised of 23,378 acres of first crop and 12,716 acres of second crop. In 1996 when the Freedom to Farm Act was adopted, the system acreage was 12,000 acres, which has been reduced to 4,600 in year 2002. The lowest acreage irrigated on the system was 3,200 acres in year 2000.

The Main Pump Plant for the district is located on Miller Street in Anahuac at the head of the Main Canal System. The plant has a pumping capacity of 240,000 gallons per minute utilizing four pumps. The water is lifted approximately 20 feet into the Main Canal where it then gravity flows south and southeast through some 100 miles of canal and lateral system.

In order to ensure a reliable source of fresh water, the district purchased Turtle Bay, which is now Lake Anahuac, from the State of Texas in 1953. The lake comprises 5,000 acres and the district is permitted to divert 35,300 acre feet of water per year from its watershed. The district maintains a levee system surrounding the south, west and north sides of the lake to prevent salt water intrusion into the system. The lake can receive water from both the Turtle Bayou watershed as well as by direct diversion from the Trinity River by pumping if necessary. When pumping is required, the water flows through a gate structure on the river into Big Hog Bayou and is then lifted into the lake by a pumping station located on the northwest corner of the lake.

In addition to protecting the lake, the south levee of Lake Anahuac has been established as Site NO. UTC 044 on the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail Map for the Upper Texas Coast. Public parking is available and foot traffic is allowed during daylight hours. The trail is bordered by woodlands, fresh and brackish marshes and the open waters of Lake Anahuac and Trinity Bay.

In 1968, the district began supplying raw water for municipal purposes and now supplies the City of Anahuac Treatment Plant as well as two different treatment facilities owned by the Trinity Bay Conservation District. Normal municipal consumption utilizes some 800 acre feet per year or 260 Million gallons.

The district is also a partner with the City of Houston, The Trinity River Authority and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the Wallisville Saltwater Barrier that is constructed on the Trinity River two miles south of IH-10. This barrier was constructed to prevent saltwater intrusion upriver to the freshwater diversion points of the district and other entities that pump water from the river. The barrier is operated only during low river flow periods, which would allow saltwater to enter the river system from Trinity Bay. The barrier creates no impoundment beyond the natural surface of the river. The Barrier Office is staffed by the Galveston District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. It is open to the public daily and contains a tourist information center and exhibit display area.

In order to promote economic development, ecotourism and education, the district recently established the Upper Texas Coast Water-Borne Education Center. The center was incorporated as a 501c3 non-profit corporation and it is governed by a five member Board of Directors. The center leases two 45 ft. renovated Coast Guard buoy tenders from the navigation district to provide on the water educational classes in the Lower Trinity River Delta and Trinity/Galveston Bay Complex. The operation of the center is funded by grants, contributions and user fees for the vessels.

The district is governed by the Board of Navigation and Canal Commissioners, which is appointed by the Commissioners Courts of both Chambers and Liberty Counties. Two members are appointed by each Court, with the fifth member being appointed jointly by both Courts and the term of each is four years. The board meets monthly at the district office in Anahuac, with quarterly meeting being conducted at the City Council Chambers in Liberty.

The Canal/Water Supply function is funded by the sale of water to the agricultural industry for the irrigation of rice, crawfish, forage production and wildlife habitat enhancement. This function receives no funding from property assessments.

The Navigation functions are funded by property assessments on the properties located within the boundaries of the District. In Liberty County, the District is divided into two assessment areas, North Liberty County and South Liberty County. The North Area is comprised of properties located north of US Highway 90 and north City Limits Boundary of the City of Liberty. This area is assessed only for administrative purposes. The South Area includes the City of Liberty and southern Liberty County that is south of US Highway 90. Properties located within the District in Chambers County are assessed at the same rate as South Liberty County.