LCRA must send water to bay
September 10, 2013, 8:01 pm by James Walker
AUSTIN — The Lower Colorado River Authority board of directors voted Tuesday to seek relief from its obligation to release water from the Highland Lakes that is used to protect Matagorda Bay.
At the same time, the board directed its staff to proceed with the release of more than 8,600 acre feet of water from the fast shrinking Lake Buchanan and Lake Travis reservoirs before the end of this month for water owed from August that was supposed to be sent downstream to the bay.
The directors also received assurances from LCRA’s staff that a contract to provide run-of-river water to rice farmers in the Garwood Irrigation District in Colorado and Wharton counties to flood duck hunting ponds after the rice growing season will not include water from the Highland Lakes.
LCRA is obligated to provide 14,268 acre feet in fresh water inflows into Matagorda Bay to protect fin fish and shell fish there and came up short in August because of an ongoing record-setting drought.
LCRA’s staff sought guidance from the board because the authority cannot unilaterally cut off the fresh water flows without approval by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality regulatory agency.
LCRA has until the end of this month to provide the water for the bay.
"We are stewards of the river and the bay,” said director Scott Spears of Dripping Springs.
The vote to approve the motion to provide water for the bay this month but seek relief from TCEQ in the future was 13-1 with Horseshoe Bay director Buddy Schrader casting the lone no vote.
San Saba director Michael McHenry did not attend the meeting.
"Nature can be very cruel,” Schrader said during the discussion before the vote. "We have to keep things in context. We have the water in the lakes right now. How good will that water look 60 or 90 days from now.”
During the discussion Schrader asked the question that continues to unsettle lakes residents and business owners.
"What if it doesn’t rain?” he asked.
For the full story, see Wednesday's Burnet Bulletin or Llano County Journal.
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