LCRA board may vote Aug. 20 on revised water management plan

Lower Colorado River Authority board members on August 20 will consider approving a revised water management plan that is stricter than initially proposed two years ago.

If approved, the new water management plan will begin limiting how much water from the Highland Lakes—Austin's primary supply—can be released to downstream agricultural operations once combined lake storage dips below 1.4 million acre-feet. The proposed plan cuts off lower basin rice farmers entirely if combined storage in lakes Travis and Buchanan drops below 900,000 acre-feet during normal conditions. Combined storage as of August 19 is approximately 736,000 acre-feet.

The LCRA staff-produced water management plan takes into account recommendations from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, which in mid-May rejected LCRA's 2012 proposed plan.

"Overall, it's our belief that TCEQ has clearly established legal authority over what we can do," LCRA General Manager/CEO Phil Wilson told board members August 19.

LCRA board members had their first opportunity August 19 to discuss the proposed plan revisions, which were first released publicly August 15. More than two dozen speakers addressed the board during its work session, with Austin-area representatives commending the proposed plan. Downstream agriculture interests, on the other hand, asked LCRA to delay any decision 30–60 days to allow more time to review the proposed plan.

If approved, LCRA's revised water management plan will be forwarded in the next two to three weeks to TCEQ for final approval, Wilson said.

For a complete rundown of the proposed water management plan, click here (beginning at page 43 of the August 20 LCRA board agenda). The August 20 board meeting begins at 10 a.m. at LCRA headquarters, 3700 Lake Austin Blvd.

By Joe Lanane
Joe Lanane’s career is rooted in community journalism, having worked for a variety of Midwest-area publications before landing south of the Mason-Dixon line in 2011 as the Stillwater News-Press news editor. He arrived at Community Impact Newspaper in 2012, gaining experience as editor of the company’s second-oldest publication in Leander/Cedar Park. He eventually became Central Austin editor, covering City Hall and the urban core of the city. Lanane leveraged that experience to become Austin managing editor in 2016. He managed eight Central Texas editions from Georgetown to San Marcos. Working from company headquarters, Lanane also became heavily involved in enacting corporate-wide editorial improvements. In 2017, Lanane was promoted to executive editor, overseeing editorial operations throughout the company. The Illinois native received his bachelor’s degree from Western Illinois University and his journalism master’s degree from Ball State University.