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Dozens Testify At TCEQ Hearing For LCRA Highland Lakes Water Request

Ryan Poppe
TPR News
LDuring a November hearing, the LCRA voted to raise the lake level threshold for the Highland Lakes.

Commissioners with the Texas Commissioner on Environmental Quality spent nearly six hours hearing testimony from those that would be affected by a request from the Lower Colorado River Authority to stop the flow of water coming from the Highland Lakes.

A crowd of about 250 farmers, water planners and state and local officials shared their thoughts with TCEQ about a request from the LCRA to stop the flow of water from the Highland Lakes unless the lakes had a combined storage of 1.1 million acre feet -- more than half full. 

State Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, joined a delegation of state lawmakers from Central Texas who made a declaration about what should occur.

"And it means according to the plan that water remains cut off until a refill of 1.4-million acre feet which if trends continue may not occur for many years,"Watson said.

Those arguing in favor of LCRA say it's about money, contracts with city utilities and ensuring that Central Texans have a sustainable source of drinking water.

Two previous emergency orders stopped the flow of water from the Highland Lakes until the lakes reached 850,000 acre feet, which was never reached in the last two years.

Matagorda rice farmer Haskell Simon said this emergency order will cause irreversible damage to the Texas farming industry, the water fowl habit and bay fisheries.

"Please do not -- by the stroke of a pen -- consider actions that will ravish a proud industry," Simon said.

Others testifying said the water in the lakes belongs to all Texans, not to one particular region, and that Lake Buchanan and Lake Travis, which are man-made lakes, were not constructed to retain large quantities of water.

"If the LCRA truly believes that an imminent threat to public health and safety exists then all non-essential water uses and especially outdoor watering should be curtailed at much higher storage levels," said the Texas Farm Bureau’s Jay Bragg.

The TCEQ decided to not take any action today, but rather meet with legal experts before deciding the issue. A decision is expected later this month.

Ryan started his radio career in 2002 working for Austin’s News Radio KLBJ-AM as a show producer for the station's organic gardening shows. This slowly evolved into a role as the morning show producer and later as the group’s executive producer.