The Sabine River Authority of Texas, an official agency of the state, was established by the legislature in 1949, with jurisdiction over all of the Sabine River watershed in Texas, including all or part of twenty-one counties. It was given broad powers over the conservation, storage, control, preservation, quality, and utilization of water in the Sabine River and its Texas tributaries. As a matter of policy, however, the authority has limited its activities to major projects beyond the financial means of local interests. It has no taxing power and for financing relies primarily upon revenue bonds and income from its projects. Headquarters for the authority is located in Orange. It has a nine-member board of directors, representing all sections of the watershed, appointed by the governor to six-year terms. The authority's activities officially began in 1954 with the purchase of the privately-owned Orange Canal System. In 1956 the authority began its first major development in the basin by entering into a contract with the City of Dallas to build, own, and operate the Iron Bridge Dam and Reservoir (Lake Tawakoni) project. This project was completed in 1960. The bistate (Texas-Louisiana) Toledo Bend Reservoir Project was initiated in 1955 by an agreement between the Sabine River Authority of Texas and the Sabine River Authority of Louisiana. The project was completed in 1966. The Lake Fork Reservoir is the most recent project undertaken by the authority. Begun in 1972, it was completed in 1980.
Operations in the field are directed by five administrative units. The Gulf Coast Division is responsible for the authority's water supply and related operations in the Orange area. It supplies fresh water from the Sabine River by means of a pumping station and canal network for irrigation and industrial usage in Orange County. The Iron Bridge Division, headquartered at the Iron Bridge damsite near Point, operates Lake Tawakoni, from which water supplies are drawn by the cities of Dallas, Greenville, Terrell, and Wills Point. The Toledo Bend Division represents the $60 million Toledo Bend Dam development. One of the nation's largest reservoirs, the Toledo Bend Reservoir is sixty-five miles long and has 230,800 surface acres; it impounds five million acre-feet of water. The Lake Fork Division oversees operations at the Lake Fork Reservoir near Quitman. The authority also takes an active role in insuring water quality throughout the region and in 1994 operated an Environmental Services Division, located adjacent to the Authority's Gulf Coast Division in Orange. Its facilities include a modern, well-equipped physical and chemical testing laboratory, as well as a biomonitoring laboratory for performing acute and chronic toxicity bioassays.