Press Release
Service Approves Brazos River Authority Conservation Agreement to Conserve Two Central Texas Mussels
Media Contacts

Starting in west Texas and flowing through central Texas to the Gulf of Mexico, the Brazos River stretches for over 1,200 miles and is the third-longest river in Texas. It is home to a diverse assortment of wildlife, migratory birds and aquatic fauna including two freshwaters mussels, the Texas fawnsfoot and the Balcones spike. The Brazos River Authority recently submitted an application for an “enhancement of survival permit” under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) that includes a Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances (CCAA) for the Texas fawnsfoot and Balcones spike. After public review and comment the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has approved the application and CCAA.

“The Brazos River Authority demonstrated its commitment to conservation by stepping forward with the first CCAA for central Texas mussels. By undertaking voluntary conservation actions for the two central Texas mussel species through their CCAA, the Brazos River Authority is also providing certainty to communities and water users along the Brazos River,” said Regional Director Amy Lueders. “This CCAA is a model for other Water Management Authorities in Texas interested in undertaking voluntary conservation actions for freshwater mussels.”

“The BRA is excited to enter into partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to proactively take steps to conserve the Balcones Spike and Texas Fawnsfoot in the Brazos River basin,” said David Collinsworth, General Manager and Chief Executive Officer of the Brazos River Authority. “The Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances is a groundbreaking agreement, as it is the first system-wide conservation partnership designed to protect the diversity of aquatic species in the Brazos River basin. By entering into partnership with the USFWS, BRA demonstrates its commitment to responsibly develop the water resources of the Brazos River Basin needed to support not only the economy and people of the state of Texas, but also to support the state’s natural resources.” 

The Brazos River Authority was created by the Texas Legislature in 1929 and was the first state agency in the United States created specifically to develop and manage the water resources of an entire river basin. Today, the BRAs staff of 250 develop, manage, and protect the water resources of the Brazos River basin.  BRA fulfills its mission through developing and distributing water supplies, providing water and wastewater treatment, monitoring water quality and aquatic and riparian riparian
Definition of riparian habitat or riparian areas.

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communities, providing for conservation of sensitive species, and pursuing water conservation through public education programs.  

The approved CCAA and enhancement of survival permit implement a voluntary conservation strategy for freshwater mussels developed by the Authority and informed by the National Freshwater Mollusk Conservation Society’s National Strategy for the Conservation of Native Freshwater Mussels. The strategy includes measures to minimize and avoid direct and indirect impacts to freshwater mussels and their habitats; flow standards; public outreach and education; adaptive management; and other conservation actions. Implementation of the conservation strategy and its conservation measures is expected to help increase the species populations and improve their habitat over the 20-year term of the agreement.

CCAAs are voluntary and provide private landowners and other non-federal landowner entities the opportunity to implement conservation practices that address specific threats with assurances that, if the species were to be listed, they can continue operations and manage their land and water resources as outlined in their agreements with no additional requirements. CCAAs are intended to reduce or remove identified threats to a species and while they do not guarantee that a species will not be listed, they do provide regulatory assurances to participants in the event of a listing.

The Texas fawnsfoot occurs in the Brazos, Colorado and Trinity River basins, Texas.  In the Brazos basin, Texas fawnsfoot occurs in the Brazos, Navasota, San Gabriel, and Little rivers, the Clear Fork of the Brazos River, and Brushy Creek. Texas fawnsfoot are threatened by water quality decline, changes in river flows, and small population sizes. The Balcones spike was recently discovered to be a unique species and split off from the false spike, once thought to be extinct but rediscovered in 2011.  The Balcones spike only occurs in the Brazos River basin in the San Gabriel and Little rivers, and Brushy Creek and Colorado River basin in the San Saba and Llano rivers. All populations of this species are small and isolated, and most populations are subject to declining flows. 

The Service is working with states, private landowners, federal agencies, industry and businesses and other partners—like the Authority—to give at-risk fish, wildlife and plant species a chance to recover before they face an Endangered Species Act listing, or worse, extinction. In the last 10 years, nearly 45 species were precluded from being listed, were downlisted, or were delisted completely in part due to the proactive conservation efforts of partners in Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Arizona.

The Service’s priority is to make implementation of the ESA less complex, less contentious and more effective. We seek to accelerate recovery of threatened and endangered species across the nation, while making it easier for people to coexist with these species. We work to proactively conserve habitats for declining species through voluntary tools like CCAAs and the Partners for Fish and Wildlife program. To learn more about the Endangered Species Program, visit

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Habitat conservation
Rivers and streams
Water conservation
Water management