State lawmakers met Wednesday to discuss the Texas drought and how extremely low Central Texas lake levels are hurting the economy.
The Texas House Committee on Culture, Recreation, & Tourism heard testimony from Travis County Commissioner Karen Huber and the Central Texas Water Coalition. Both Commissioner Huber and the Coalition are seeking assistance from the state for the populations living and working around the lakes. They told lawmakers that funding and assistance is needed to support the impacted communities.
Huber recounted stories she's heard from several Lake Travis business owners:
"One gas station owner says he has shut 3 of his 4 gas stations. Another business owner who owns several business on the lake says he is raiding his kids' college funds for two years. My partners and I have cashed in every IRA we have tucked away. And we are running out of options."
When full, an economic study commissioned by Huber shows Lake Travis helps contributes $8.4 billion in property value and over $200 million in annual revenue for state and local governments. But as lake levels have declined, the area is losing millions of dollars and hundreds of jobs.
Jo Karr Tedder, President of the Central Texas Water Coalition, told the committee that because tourism and recreation are such important Texas industries, their popularity can overshadow the severe drought situation.
"It’s very hard to get the point across that the lakes are in dire straits," Tedder says. "The reservoir lakes are in a crisis situation."
Tedder added that while Central Texas has seen a lot of rain recently, it has done little to improve lake levels. The Lower Colorado River Authority says Lakes Travis and Buchanan are only 44 percent full.
Legislators will consider the testimony in determining their agenda for the upcoming legislative session.