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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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LCRA reviews procedures as negotiations for systems continue
The Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) is reviewing its procedures in the wake of the sudden disappearance of water from its Spicewood Beach Regional Water System. The system, which serves a handful of communities in Burnet County, suffered an overnight drop in groundwater levels that prompted the utility to place Stage 4 drought restrictions over that service area on January 24. This week, the system ran out of water.
“We are evaluating our procedures and will be doing an internal review to see if any of our processes need to be changed in response to the situation at Spicewood Beach,” LCRA spokesperson Clara Tuma told In Fact Daily via email.
However dire the situation is, both parties involved insist that the ongoing negotiations between Corix Infrastructure and the LCRA for the sale of a host of small water and wastewater utilities — including Spicewood Beach – continue. “Obviously it wouldn’t be proper for us to comment on pending negotiations, and talks with Corix are ongoing,” wrote Tuma. “All I can tell you is that Corix is well aware of the status of all the systems for which it is negotiating, including the Spicewood Beach system.”
Corix’s Vice President of Public and Governmental Affairs Jack Touhey was stronger in his response. When asked if the negotiations between the parties would be affected by the developments at Spicewood Beach, Touhey told In Fact Daily that “the short answer is no.”
“We still remain very interested and very keen on acquiring a number of the LCRA systems and working with them and currently are in negotiations along those lines anyway,” he said. “A real challenge, obviously, in Spicewood Beach, for water supply with the drought conditions but those are the sort of challenges that companies face in dealing with water and wastewater systems. We would have to address that type of thing if we were involved in a community that has that sort of a situation in the future.”
“(We) look forward to concluding some successful agreement with them going forward,” Touhey added.
The LCRA and Corix have been discussing a deal that would give Corix ownership of a total of 18 systems. The parties are also considering an agreement that would grant the company an operations and maintenance contract for the dwindling number of water and wastewater systems that the utility elects to keep on its books.
At its January meeting, the LCRA’s board of directors heard from one of those utilities, the City of Rollingwood’s wastewater system, and has since begun negotiations for Rollingwood to purchase it. The LCRA remains open to the sale of the four other municipal water utilities that it also still owns.
The critical status of the Spicewood Beach system prompted national media coverage and widespread concern. Tuma said that the LCRA “normally monitor(s) the system several times a week.” She added that, “as water levels continued to fall through the winter, we began monitoring it once a day.”
“For the last two weeks, we’ve been monitoring it twice a day,” Tuma said.
She also noted that, while the utility does operate other groundwater systems, “those wells are in different aquifers in different situations.” “We have not seen a decline in production in any of those systems,” she continued. “We regularly monitor those systems and are continuing to keep a close eye on them.”
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