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Travis Commissioners endorse LCRA water plan

Wednesday, September 17, 2014 by Mark Richardson

Travis County Commissioners approved a letter Tuesday endorsing the Lower Colorado River Authority’s latest Water Management Plan, saying that while the plan was the product of some “tough calls,” it does the best job of protecting the water supply in Central Texas.

The LCRA board of directors will vote on the Water Management Plan today, after postponing the decision a month ago in order to give the public more time to study the proposal. Once approved, the plan will go the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality as a revision of a 2012 plan. (See Austin Monitor, Aug. 21)

In their letter, commissioners said the plan attempts to resolve the conflict that pits upstream Highland Lakes and municipal water users against downstream and agricultural users.

“The Travis County Commissioners Court supports the desire to put forth a Management Plan best for the citizens of Travis County and satisfy the needs of all stakeholders of the entire basin,” they wrote.

Commissioner Gerald Daugherty, whose precinct includes parts of the Highland Lakes, said because of the extended drought, the LCRA has to perform a balancing act between its upstream and downstream constituents.

“This is a situation where Central Texas is not only concerned about the lakes because (they hold) most of our drinking water, they have also become an economic engine for Central Texas,” Daugherty said. “Therefore (the LCRA) has found itself the target of the downstream folks, particularly Matagorda Bay and the rice farmers.”

County Judge Sam Biscoe said the Water Management Plan would settle much of the conflict between the two areas.

“Clearly when there’s a shortage of water, it’s got to be allocated by somebody, and LCRA is the authority to do that,” Biscoe said. “Some tough calls have to be made, but the water supply is limited, and from time to time it’s even less than that.”

The two Highland Lakes storage reservoirs — Travis and Buchanan — currently sit at only 34 percent of capacity, or about 685,000 acre-feet of water. The lakes have had record low inflows for the past several months.

Commissioner Bruce Todd commented on the long-term issue of rice farming in the Lower Colorado basin, taking what many feel is a disproportionate amount of water from the upper basin.

“One other thing is the issue that Texas is great for lots of things, (but) farming rice is not one of them,” Todd said. “From the standpoint of our climate, I think that issue needs to be taken head on. If there is no physical alternative (to rice farming), that’s one thing. If it’s just an economic issue, that’s another.”

Daugherty will deliver the letter to the LCRA board today.


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