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Energy & Environment

Lawmaker Asks LCRA To Suspend Lake Releases

Photo by Michael Stravato/The Texas Tribune
The high water mark under a bridge near a Lower Colorado River Authority pump house that transfers water from the Colorado River to irrigation canals that supply water to the rice fields around Bay City, Texas Friday, June, 10, 2011.

Citing falling lake levels amid the driest nine-month period in state history, the chair of the Texas Senate's Natural Resources Committee is calling on the Lower Colorado River Authority to take emergency actions that would suspend the release of water from the Highland Lakes for interruptible customers downstream.

Rice farmers along the lower Colorado near the Gulf of Mexico depend on the river - and the Highland Lakes - to irrigate their crops. The LCRA is currently releasing water for the farmers' second crop of the year, which is usually harvested in October.

In a letter today, Senator Troy Fraser (R-Horseshoe Bay) asks the LCRA board of directors to immediately suspend water releases to farmers, in order to protect so-called "firm" customers. That includes cities and towns - like Austin - that depend on the Lakes Travis and Buchanan for their drinking water.

"Given this dry pattern and the continued predictions for more dry weather, it seems irresponsible for the LCRA to release a second crop of water, endangering the water supply of firm customers," Fraser writes.

The LCRA's current water management plan, which includes a series of triggers for curtailing water use during a drought, only calls for the agency to decide on curtailing water for rice farmers on January 1st of each year.

That plan is currently undergoing revision, including two separate decision points for curtailing rice farmers - one in January for the first crop, and another in July for the second. 

Business owners and residents on the Highland Lakes have long complained that the LCRA has continued releasing water to downstream customers, putting their livelihoods and tax base at risk.

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