Leander open to water group inclusion

Plans to form a Central Texas water coalition stalled in late November when Hays County commissioners turned down a proposal that would have potentially included the city of Leander and Travis County.



Pix Howell, a water consultant who previously worked as an urban designer for the city of Leander, presented a plan to Hays County commissioners Nov. 18 to create the Central Texas Water Development Corp., a group that would have the authority to plan, develop, coordinate, build and finance water infrastructure in Central Texas.



Travis County and the city of Leander would have discussed and voted on joining the organization in late November, but officials postponed a decision after Hays County declined formation of the group Nov. 18. Some Hays County commissioners said they would like to first define a specific project and then possibly join a coalition.



Howell estimated there are about 10 other entities interested in joining the proposed corporation, including cities, counties, utilities and private investors. He said he plans to follow up with Hays County on the proposal after commissioners have had more time to familiarize themselves with it.



The proposal would have created a governmental entity known as a utility development corporation, or UDC. The city of Leander and a collection of other Central Texas entities used the UDC structure in 2011 and 2012 when the Lower Colorado River Authority was selling some of its assets. As part of the corporation, Leander purchased the Sandy Creek Water Treatment Plant from LCRA in January 2012.



Howell said the proposed corporation's early discussions could include how much water its members anticipate needing in the future. Longer term, the group might aim to connect water systems and invest in new ones, he said.



"I've had legislators say they want to speak to this group once it gets put together," he said. "Any time they can consolidate interest groups, it's a big help to them."



Leander Mayor Chris Fielder said the city's experience with purchasing the water treatment plant and forming the Brushy Creek Regional Utility Authority —a governing authority composed of the cities of Cedar Park, Leander and Round Rock that aims to find ways to secure water for a growing population—could be helpful to the proposed corporation. City Council is still open to learning more about what inclusion in the group would entail, he said.



"We are one of the only cities around that has spearheaded a coalition before and has experience in dealing with LCRA," Fielder said. "When you can take a regional approach to water ... I see it as a positive."



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