lcra

LCRA
8:25 am
Thu August 21, 2014

LCRA Delays Vote on Water Plan

Extreme drought and releases to farmers have lowered levels in Lakes Buchanan and Travis (pictured) in Central Texas. Now a state agency is saying more study is needed into how the reservoirs are managed.
Courtesy of LCRA

Water from the Highland Lakes is important to everyone in Central Texas — from urban Austinites to rural rice farmers downstream. Wednesday, the board of the Lower Colorado River Authority was set to vote on a much-delayed plan to manage that water, but the authority's board postponed that vote to gather more public input. 

The proposed plan, which would ensure that more water stays in the lakes in times of drought, is widely supported by upstream stakeholders, namely the City of Austin.  But it’s unpopular downstream with agricultural interests that would likely see themselves cut off from water more often. The plan must ultimately be approved by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality

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Energy & Environment
10:16 am
Tue August 12, 2014

During Drought, a Once-Mighty Texas Rice Belt Fades Away

In the floodplain, several inches of fine silty mud sit atop thick, heavy clay. The clay is the finest dust eroded by the river, carried until this point then deposited as the river spreads out across the prairie. The silt is a thick rich mixture of sediment.
Credit DYLAN BADDOUR / STATEIMPACT TEXAS

From StateImpact Texas: 

In 2012, some farming districts on the Lower Colorado River were cut off from water for irrigation for the first time. Reservoirs were too low to flood tens of thousands of rice fields. Some asked, “Why would anyone be farming rice in Texas in the first place?”

The answer is long, and it begins with the fact that parts of Texas haven’t always been dry. For farmers like Ronald Gertson, who remembers driving a tractor through rice fields as a child, recent years have been hard to bear.

“It’s just unbelievable that it’s been so bad that we have had three unprecedented years in a row, and I recognize some experts say we could have a couple of decades like this. I hope and pray that’s not the case,” says Gertson, a rice farmer, chair of numerous water-related committees and, in recent years, unofficial spokesman for the Texas Rice Belt. “If that is the case then yeah, this whole prairie is going to change.”

But it has already changed.

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Energy & Environment
11:04 am
Wed July 9, 2014

A New Proposal For a Coal-Free Austin Could End the City's LCRA Partnership

Some say the city should cut ties with the Fayette Power Plant. Others say a binding partnership between the city and the LCRA legally prohibits any dissolution.
KUT News

Today, the group tasked with figuring out how to wean Austin off carbon dioxide-emitting coal power is scheduled to vote on its recommendations, and some members of that group think they  have found a new approach to the biggest road block between Austin and a coal-free future: the Fayette Coal Plant.

Austin Energy owns the plant along with the Lower Colorado River Authority, and gets about 20 percent of its electricity from it. While selling off the plant or retiring it completely has been a long held dream of city officials and environmentalists, city staff has warned that it could be prohibitively expensive and legally tricky. Previous plans to sell off that stake, or shut down the plant have also been opposed by the LCRA.

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Lower Colorado River Authority
10:34 am
Tue April 1, 2014

New LCRA Team: Varied Experience, Highly Paid

Community members attending an LCRA meeting in 2011. Phil Wilson, the water authority's new general manager, could take home over half a million dollars annually.
I-Hwa Cheng for KUT News

Editor's note: This report comes from KUT's reporting partner, the Austin Monitor

The Lower Colorado River Authority’s new general manager Phil Wilson received a hefty pay increase when he moved from the hot seat at the Texas Department of Transportation to another hot seat at the state-created water and power authority two months ago. And his pay increase could get even heftier.

Wilson’s annual base salary has been set at $425,000, according to LCRA spokeswoman Clara Tuma in an email response to questions from the Austin Monitor. In addition, Wilson could receive a bonus of up to 25 percent of his salary, Tuma indicated.  Wilson’s salary and any bonus are determined by LCRA’s 15 member board of directors, which hired him late last year. He took over the job on Feb. 3.

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Water
7:11 pm
Wed January 15, 2014

Environmentalists Cheer Water Rate Hike, Mayors Not So Much

http://flic.kr/p/5oEmbT

Environmentalists are giving cautious approval to a plan by the Lower Colorado River Authority to raise municipal water rates by 19.5 percent next year.

The increase would not affect Austin Water customers, because the city-owned utility has a separate deal with the LCRA. But it would affect people in other Central Texas cities such as Dripping Springs, Cedar Park and Leander. 

“Water in Texas is very cheap and by and large," says Ken Kramer with the Lone Star chapter of the Sierra Club, "price increases will, in the long term, at least have a positive impact in making us more efficient in the use of that valuable resource.”

But some Central Texas mayors are not enthusiastic about their constituents paying more for water, especially in some of the faster-growing Austin suburbs like Leander. That city partnered with Round Rock and Cedar Park to develop a $350 million regional water system that could accommodate their growing populations. 

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Energy & Environment
10:21 am
Thu January 9, 2014

Memo Cites Legal Hurdles for City to Get Out of Coal Plant

A memo from the City of Austin Law Department cites bond debt, ERCOT regulations and an LCRA agreement as obstacles in abandoning the project that provides 20 percent of Austin's energy.
Photo by KUT News

This is an excerpt from an article written by our Austin City Hall reporting partner, the Austin Monitor (formerly In Fact Daily).

The City of Austin faces formidable legal hurdles and, potentially, significant costs if the City Council decides to sell or shut down the city’s share of the coal-fired Fayette Power Project, according to a new city Law Department memo.

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Energy & Environment
4:08 pm
Thu November 21, 2013

Central Texas Farmers Could Lose Water Access Due to Drought

Rice farmers in Texas could face a third year in a row of being cut off from water due to severe drought conditions. (Jeff Heimsath/StateImpact Texas)

Originally published on Thu November 21, 2013 3:58 pm

Half of Texas is experiencing drought conditions, and for the third year in a row, rice farmers in Central Texas may be cut off from water supplies because of severe drought.

The Lower Colorado River Authority has asked the state to approve emergency plans to cut water to farmers in 2014 if reservoir lakes are at less than 55 percent capacity. The lakes are currently 36 percent full.

Homes and businesses would also face water restrictions.

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Drought
5:30 am
Mon October 14, 2013

A Tiny Bit of Vegetable Oil Could Save Texas Billions of Gallons of Water

Right now, the Highland Lakes are only 34 percent full. In an average year, they lose about as much water to evaporation as the whole city of Austin consumes.
Lower Colorado River Authority

Parts of Central Texas saw as much as 12 inches of rain over the weekend. Water levels in the Highland Lakes  rose slightly, but the storm was far from a drought-buster.

Lakes Travis and Buchanan remain only about one-third full. 

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Environment
7:18 pm
Wed July 3, 2013

Grim Milestone Looms for Lake Travis: A 50 Year Low

Aerial view of Lake Travis in June
Lower Colorado River Authority

Lake Travis could drop to a  50-year low this weekend, possibly falling below 626.1 feet. 

“When that does occur, that would be the third lowest level ever on record for Lake Travis, and the lowest since November of 1963," Meteorologist Victor Murphy with the National Weather Service said. "It tells us the drought is persistent and ongoing."

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Texas
10:57 am
Tue June 4, 2013

TCEQ Needs More Time to Examine LCRA Water Plan

The LCRA is operating under emergency drought relief. Under those orders, most downstream rice farmers did not receive Highland Lakes water for their crops in 2012 or 2013.
Filipa Rodrigues, KUT News

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is taking more time to review the Lower Colorado River Authority’s water management plan. The additional evaluation could take about a year.

The water management plan directs how the LCRA uses lakes Travis and Buchanan to meet the needs of water users. The state wants to meet with stakeholders and collect more data before approving the new plan.

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Environment
7:21 pm
Fri April 12, 2013

Pumping from Lake? Get a Contract

Lady Bird Lake
Flickr, Ronnie Pitman http://www.flickr.com/photos/pitmanra/2373739283/

The Lower Colorado River Authority is reminding people who live along the Highland Lakes that you need a contract to pump water from the lakes.

The reminder comes at a time when Central Texans are starting to think about lawn care.

The LCRA wants to keep track of the water removed from the lakes and help educate people about responsible water use. 

Texas
4:25 pm
Thu April 4, 2013

Rainfall Didn't Make It to the Lakes

Lakes Travis and Buchanan are still only a little over 40 percent full.
Reshma Kirpalani, KUT News

Two days of storms that delivered about 3 inches of rain to Austin did little for the levels of the lakes that serve as Austin’s water supply. Lake Travis rose by less than a foot; Lake Buchanan was up slightly more than 2 inches.

Dan Yates with the Lower Colorado River Authority says it provided a very small bump. 

“We need a good season of rainstorms like this that we saw yesterday and the day before... that would get us out of the trouble,” Yates said.

Politics
6:55 pm
Fri March 8, 2013

Political Effort to Keep More Water in Highland Lakes

An aerial view of the Highland Lakes
thor_mark/Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/14723335@N05/

The agency that manages the Highland Lakes, which serves as Austin’s primary source of drinking water, would not be allowed to send water downstream to rice farmers if the lakes are less than 42 percent full, under a bi-partisan proposal in the state legislature.

The bill was filed by State Senators Kirk Watson (D-Austin) and Troy Fraser (R-Horseshoe Bay). Watson says the Lower Colorado River Authority needs to prioritize so-called “firm” customers, such as cities and power plants, over “interruptible” customers such as rice farmers, who pay a fraction of the price for water.

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Austin
8:46 am
Thu February 28, 2013

New Rules Reversed at Hippie Hollow, Austin's Clothing-Optional Park (Update)

No shoes, no shirts and, now, no anchors at Hippie Hollow on Lake Travis.
friendsofthehollow.com

Update: Travis County Parks reversed its decision to change boating rules at Hippie Hollow on Lake Travis at a public meeting last night.

In fact, after about a week of tension between Travis County Parks and people who frequent Hippie Hollow, the meeting ended with laughter and applause.

“This is a great example of a grass roots movement. Where people are trying to reach out the administrators who work in their government and the guys come to the table and listen to what the folks have to say,” Friends of the Hollow member Randall Huntsinger said.

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Environment
5:37 pm
Wed January 16, 2013

LCRA Proposes Relief for Rice Farmers

Rice mills and related businesses in southeast Texas have suffered from the water shortages in recent years.
Jeff Heimsath/StateImpact Texas

The Lower Colorado River Authority approved a plan this week that could ease the strain on the Highland Lakes in the future. For StateImpact Texas, David Barer explains plans to build a new reservoir for downstream rice farmers.

It’s a decision that should have very positive impacts for the basin from top to bottom. So, looking forward for the board and staff moving forward in that.

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The Lead
8:55 am
Fri January 4, 2013

The Lead: Austin’s Frosty Morning, LCRA May Cut Off Rice Farmers

A chilly day on Lady Bird Lake's Hike and Bike trail. Austin should warm up this weekend.
flickr.com/mcalderon

Good morning, and congratulations on reaching another Friday. It’s a cold and wet one out there, so drive carefully.

The weather outside is frightful: The National Weather Service says most precipitation will be cold rain, albeit with some light sleet will briefly mixed in. That rain won’t be helping out much with the drought either: accumulation is expected to be below an inch, with a dry and warmer weekend forecast.

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Environment
12:28 pm
Mon September 17, 2012

Lake Levels Up Slightly After Rainfall

The Highland Lakes are still recovering from last year's historic drought.
LCRA

Recent rainfall is helping to fill the Highland Lakes—at least a little bit.

Parts of Central Texas received more than two inches of rain on Sunday. Combined with rainfall from earlier last week, rainfall totals for some areas topped nine inches.

The Lower Colorado River Authority says the water level of Lake Travis is up a little over a foot. Lake Buchanan only saw a gain of a few hundredths of an inch.

"The location of the rain makes all the difference and, in this case, the vast majority of the rain fell over the Highland Lakes basin," LCRA river operations center supervisor Dan Yates says.

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AM Update: 8/16/12
8:38 am
Thu August 16, 2012

AM Update: LCRA Wants More Water, Parks Burn Ban, Another Hasan Trial Delay?

Securing More Water for Central Texas

The Lower Colorado River Authority is taking action on three projects that the Board of Directors say will increase its water supply and reduce demand for water from the Highland Lakes.

The LCRA has put money down to hold land near the Colorado River while it explores the option of building two water reservoirs there. The LCRA says water could be diverted to the reservoirs in times of heavy rain or floods and then be made available for customer use.

The LCRA is also putting together a purchase agreement to buy the Alcoa aluminum property northeast of Austin that would give it rights to a groundwater aquifer *as well as surface water.

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AM Update: 8/6/12
8:33 am
Mon August 6, 2012

AM Update: Food Recall Affects Texas, LCRA Won't Lower Lake Levels, Another Longhorn Gold

Richards-Ross celebrates her 400m win.
twitter.com/SanyaRichiRoss

Watch What You Eat

A Minnesota company is recalling more than 15,000 pounds of ready-to-eat meat and poultry products – some of which was sent to a distribution center in Texas.

The meat products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

The recall affects:

  • 5.6 oz. packages of "Armour Active Packs Turkey & Cheese Wrap" Package Code 1026090112 or Case Code 27815-17994
  • 5.6 oz. packages of "Armour Active Packs Ham & Cheese Wrap" Package Code 1026090112 or Case Code 27815-17995

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Environment
1:03 pm
Mon July 16, 2012

Recent Rain Barely Boosts Lake Levels

Lake Travis, photographed in June 2012. The lake is less than half full.
LCRA

Parts of North Austin and Round Rock received more than four inches of rain in last night’s storm. But Lake Travis and Lake Buchanan are only up a couple of inches. That’s because most of the rain fell downstream of the watershed.

Bob Rose is the chief meteorologist with the Lower Colorado River Authority. He says the recent rain has been great, but is no drought-buster.

“To really start re-filling the lakes, we kind of need an overall change in the whole weather pattern," Rose says. "Where we start getting more rain more frequently and the rain falls all across the area, including the Hill Country."

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