Texas Emergency Management ONLINE 2015 Vol. 62 No. 3

Partner Agency: Texas General Land Office

Texas General Land Office

Founded after the Texas Revolution in 1836, the Texas General Land Office is the oldest agency in the state. It is constitutionally charged with the responsibility of managing our state resources for the benefit of public education. It is the only state agency that makes more than it spends – earning hundreds of millions of dollars for the Permanent School Fund on a budget of $46 million.

Mission Statement
The GLO serves the schoolchildren, veterans and all people of Texas by preserving their history, protecting their environment, expanding economic opportunity, helping communities rebuild after disasters and maximizing state revenue through innovative administration and prudent stewardship of state lands and resources.

Disaster Recovery
The GLO is the lead state agency for managing disaster recovery grants through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Highly experienced in disaster recovery, the GLO coordinated the cleanup of the Texas coast after hurricanes Dolly and Ike, and is the administrator for long-term recovery efforts for these hurricanes as well as for the 2011 wildfires. The agency's management of disaster recovery grants gives local communities a single contact, cuts red tape and reduces administrative costs.

During natural disasters, the GLO assists with its unique, prepositioned assets along the Texas coast.  General Land Office staff supports the State Emergency Operation Center as well as supporting our personnel in the field. During a disaster, the Land Office employees, equipment, and knowledge from GLO field offices are joined with Texas Task Force 1, Texas's leading urban search and rescue team.

In preparation for hurricanes that impact Texas, GLO employees travel into the projected impact areas to assist Texas Task Force 1. As the storm impacts Texas, the GLO assists in setting priority search locations, generating digital area maps, as well as general communications.

Once the storm has passed, the GLO can provide vessels to access flooded areas and assist in rescue operations that are called into Texas Task Force 1.  When the search and rescue missions are complete, GLO employees continue to protect human life and safety working with the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as well as the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality in assessing the impacted area for oil and chemical spills.

The GLO and the U.S. Coast Guard then take the lead cleaning up and removing the oil spills that pose a threat to human life and safety as well as the environment.

Natural Resource Restoration
Environmental damage caused by oil or hazardous material spills can devastate an area. After an oil spill or hazardous substance release, response agencies clean up the substance and work to reduce or eliminate the damage to human health and the environment. But sometimes these efforts do not fully restore injured natural resources or address their lost uses by the public.

The Natural Resource Damage Assessment Program (NRDA) is the legal and technical process designed to restore the damaged area and ensure that those responsible—and not taxpayers—pay for restoring the affected area.

The General Land Office NRDA trustees act on behalf of the public to identify the affected natural resources and determine the extent of the impact. They also recover damages from the responsible party to plan and carry out restoration activities. In Texas, three state agencies are designated as NRDA trustees: the GLO, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

On the federal level in Texas, the NRDA trustees are the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Department of the Interior with authority delegated to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Oil Spills
In 1991 the Texas Legislature created the Oil Spill Prevention and Response Program at the Texas General Land Office after the tanker Mega Borg spilled 5.1 million gallons of oil 57 miles southeast of Galveston. With more than 1.2 billion barrels of oil passing near Texas wetlands, bays and beaches along the Texas Gulf Coast each year, the Texas General Land Office Oil Spill Prevention and Response Program (OSPR) has the responsibility of making sure that oil stays out of Texas waters.

Accomplishing that task requires cooperation with the ports, industrial plants and petroleum refineries as well as commercial shrimpers, fishermen and others who work and play on the water. The program is funded by a one and one-third cents-per-barrel fee on crude oil loaded or off-loaded in Texas ports. Five Oil Spill field offices are located along the Texas coast to serve as resources to the public and monitor the gulf waters along our Texas shore.

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