Highland Lakes officials urge residents to take stand on water-level triggers

FROM STAFF REPORTS

BURNET — County officials are asking Highland Lakes residents to write or email Texas Commission on Environmental Quality leaders to request they raise the water-level triggers that would curtail downstream releases from the Highland Lakes.

Burnet County Judge Donna Klaeger is asking residents to send emails to Richard Hyde and Lori Wilson of the TCEQ requesting the commission set a 1.4-million acre-feet trigger point to initiate curtailing downstream water releases for interruptible customers such as agricultural users. The Lower Colorado River Authority applied to the TCEQ for an emergency order that would allow the agency to cut off downstream water releases if the combined acre-feet of storage in lakes Buchanan and Travis was below the trigger point.

If the water-storage levels are below the approved trigger point March 1 and the TCEQ approves the emergency drought order, the LCRA can curtail those interruptible customer releases.

As of Jan. 20, the two lakes hold about 764,520 acre-feet of water.

According to Highland Lakes officials, downstream interests are urging the TCEQ to set the trigger point at 850,000 acre-feet of water. But Burnet County leaders fear this is too low to protect the needs of firm-water customers. Firm-water customers include municipal, industrial and business users. The types of firm-water uses include drinking water.

The LCRA has proposed a trigger point of 1.1 million acre-feet of water, but even this is too low, according to Highland Lakes officials. Instead, Klaeger and other local leaders are asking for a 1.4 million acre-feet of water trigger point set for the March 1 curtailment deadline.

In a release asking Highland Lakes residents to email their concerns to TCEQ officials, Klaeger stated, “850 (thousand acre-feet) is very dangerous. 1.1 million (acre-feet) is very risky. Data shows if the climate continues as it has the past three years, lake levels will hit 400,000 (acre-feet) and drought disaster will be declared. At least a 1.4 (million acre-feet) trigger or above is needed to be protective of the municipal drinking water supply for over one million Central Texans.”

Recently, the LCRA reported the 2013 inflows to the Highland Lakes was the second lowest recorded since the creation of the chain. Inflows are the amount of water flowing into the lakes from the watershed that includes the Colorado River, the Llano River, the Pedernales River and their tributaries. The LCRA stated the 2013 inflows were 18 percent of the annual average.

The lowest inflows, 10 percent of the annual average, were recorded in 2011.

The TCEQ commissioners are expected to vote on the emergency drought declaration and corresponding trigger point during a Feb. 12 meeting at the TCEQ headquarters, 12100 Park 35 Circle, Building E in Austin. The meeting starts at 9:30 a.m.

Before that, however, Klaeger is urging residents to email or write to Wilson (lori.wilson@TCEQ.texas.gov) and Hyde (richard.hyde@tceq.texas.gov).

Go to www.burnetcountytexas.com or call the county judge’s office at (512) 715-5276 for more information on the issue. Go to www.lcra.org for up-to-date lake levels and drought information.

editor@thepicayune.com

CTWC hosting town hall water meeting

BUCHANAN DAM — The Central Texas Water Coalition is holding a town hall meeting Jan. 23 to update Highland Lakes residents about the current water situation.

The meeting is 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. at the Llano County East Annex, 8347 RR 1431 West in Buchanan Dam. It’s located just south of the Texas 29 and RR 1431 intersection next to Highland Lakes United Methodist Church.

Coalition officials will be present to take questions. The coalition has also asked a representative from the Lower Colorado River Authority to attend the meeting and answer questions as well

Go to www.centraltexaswatercoalition.com for more information.