LCRA wants to curtail water releases for environmental health to Matagorda Bay


AUSTIN — Citing low water levels in lakes Buchanan and Travis, the Lower Colorado River Authority board of directors passed a resolution to ask the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to allow the water authority to curtail releases from the two reservoirs to Matagorda Bay.

The water releases were being made for the environmental health of the bay.

The decision, which was made Sept. 18, didn’t come without some dissent. The board voted 9-6 to pass the resolution, which would request the TCEQ to temporarily waive water releases from the Highland Lakes for the bay.

According to LCRA officials, under the current water management plan, the authority could be required to release up to 5,834 acre-feet of water from lakes Buchanan and Travis for Matagorda Bay through the end of the year.

The bay, which is the second largest estuary on the Texas Gulf Coast, provides habitats for a variety of marine species and other wildlife. Because of the prolonged drought, the amount of freshwater flowing into the bay is at historically low levels, and the salinity level, or salt content, is higher than generally considered suitable for many of the juvenile marine organisms that use the estuary to grow and develop.

The LCRA’s Water Management Plan requires water to be released from the Highland Lakes under certain conditions for the health of Matagorda Bay. But the TCEQ must approve the LCRA’s request to deviate from the plan.

According to LCRA, lakes Travis and Buchanan are currently at 32 percent capacity. The lakes provide water for more than a million residents in Central Texas, which includes the Highland Lakes and Austin corridor.

LCRA is asking the state to waive the environmental release requirements for 120 days or until enough rain falls to increase the combined storage of the two reservoirs to an acceptable level.

The decision is now in the hands of the TCEQ.