About the Author
Mike Kanin is the Publisher of the Austin Monitor. As such, he doesn't report on much--aside from the workings of the Monitor--any more. In his previous life as a freelance journalist, Kanin has written for the Washington City Paper, the Washington Post's Express, the Boston Herald, Boston's Weekly Dig, the Austin Chronicle, and the Texas Observer.
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County to back Lake Travis Economic Study
The Travis County Commissioners Court has acted to take a leading role in commissioning an economic study of Lake Travis. The project will cost the county $20,000 and will include labor contributions from Travis’ legal and Transportation and Natural Resources staff.
The commissioners’ 4-0 vote came amid hopes that the study will help the various entities that regulate the lake make more informed policy decisions. Precinct 3 Commissioner Karen Huber told In Fact Daily that the study would be a “tool that’s missing out there in the toolbox.”
“The highland lakes were formed to be flood control and water reservoirs,” she continued, “and since they were formed there’s been a whole lot of development around them. A lot of people depend on their livelihood from them—not to mention the water that we drink—and so being able to quantify the economic value (of all of this)…is a tool that policy makers (need).”
During the hearing, Huber compared the potential study to a similar effort that examined the economic impact of eastern Alabama’s Lake Martin. Officials there put the contributions of that lake at about $3.4 billion.
Huber pointed out that, though Lake Martin is a “significantly larger lake,” Lake Travis “has significantly more development.”
According to documents provided to the court, the Lake Travis study will look at the economic impact of “households, tourists, lake industries…external support industries and businesses.” It will also measure “jobs from residential, commercial, and industrial sectors.”
The study will further examine the lake’s water levels and quality as those issues pertain to local economics. Specifically, it will look to explore “low water…effect on real estate, recreation, parks businesses, and taxes” and quantify “the industries and businesses that are dependent on water quality and clarity.”
In voting for the measure, Precinct 1 Commissioner Ron Davis emphasized the need for similar efforts in other portions of the county. “We’ve got some serious issues in my precinct…with water,” he said. “It affects the economics in Precinct 1, just as it does in Precinct 3—just as it does in other parts of the county. I just want to make sure that the same vigor” is applied elsewhere.
The Lake Travis area Water Control and Improvement District, Lago Vista, Jonestown, Briarcliff, Volente, and the Lake Travis Chamber of Commerce have all indicated that they will join the county in working on the study. Each of those groups will contribute financially to the project.
Huber assured the court that the county wouldn’t cut a check for its portion of the study until other entities had committed to do the same. All told, the study will cost between $130,000 and $150,000. So far, the Lake Travis Chamber of Commerce, Briarcliff, and the Water Control and Improvement District #17 have taken action to contribute to the effort.
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