Trinity River Authority: Dewayne Coburn
Created in 1955 by the Texas Legislature, the Trinity River Authority [TRA] has maintained water supply, quality, and conservation in the Trinity River Basin since it’s investiture. Spanning several counties from north Texas to Galveston Bay, the role of TRA has grown to include additional activities regarding flood control, sewage treatment, water rights, and data collection. With 45 years of experience within the Trinity River Authority, Dewayne Coburn has served in numerous roles in the organization. Beginning as a biologist in 1978 and retiring in 2023 as the manager of Southern Region Support Services [SRSS] based out of Huntsville, Texas, he grew professionally alongside the growth of the Trinity River Authority and recollects lab work to computerized networks to water sales. A devoted staff member, his goal has been to provide safe, clean, and reliable water to Livingston, Huntsville, and Trinity by supervising the operations of the areas three surface water treatment plants. As a biologist, Mr Coburn collected water samples checking for nutrient levels to determine the effectiveness of water treatment along the Trinity River and Lake Livingston. Inspecting for ammonias, phosphates, and nitrates, the process called for quality checks to determine nitrification or aging of the lake or water body. Technology altered day to day data collection of the TRA moving from analog tabulations to programmable controls to networked supervisory control and data acquisition [SCADA] systems for faster details and storage. Moving from the biology lab to the Huntsville Regional Water Supply, he witnessed historic contracts between TRA and cities for additional provision of excess water. Specifically, Mr Coburn recalled the contract acquired by the city of Houston to build Lake Livingston Dam and Reservoir retaining 70% of water rights and 30% belonged to TRA. Water rights were then sold to different entities to meet additional water demands of a growing region. Part of these contracts involved using surface water as well as groundwater, to avoid sinking and subsidence of the area. Mr Coburn supervised three surface water treatment plants as part of this process. Other reminiscences recalled colleagues Mike Knight and Keith Bass, illustrating a team based organizational culture in TRA with shared goals of service, hard work, problem solving, and also leisure time with canoe races and duck hunts. From scuba diving the bottom of Lake Livingston to changing hazard lightbulbs 190 feet up, Mr Coburn has fulfilled a lasting legacy from all heights and depths.