The Highland Lakes is part of Flash Flood Alley, an area of Central Texas prone to extreme floods such as the one in October 2018. The National Weather Service and the Burnet County Office of Emergency Management are hosting a SkyWarn and FloodAware training program from 6-9 p.m. Tuesday, March 5, at the Burnet County AgriLife Extension Office, 607 N. Vanderveer in Burnet. Staff photo by Daniel Clifton
BY WILLIAM D. HADDOCK
As I begin this letter, I want to make clear that I am writing this as an individual member of the Marble Falls City Council, and I am not speaking for the council as a whole.
In recent Marble Falls City Council meetings, council addressed the issue of the Lower Colorado River Authority’s management of the Colorado River and Lake Marble Falls. Specifically, the issues are related to the diminished capacity of Lake Marble Falls due to sediment deposits and the resulting conditions that affect recreational safety and potential flooding.
In the February 4, 2019, Marble Falls council meeting after the October 2018 flood, the council was told by John Hofmann, the LCRA executive vice president of water, that the “river” scours itself. This explanation sounds really good, except the dams prevent the sediments from washing down the river. The common sense approach follows that the sediments then decrease the capacity of the lake. Additionally, we were told the LCRA does not dredge sediments or remove debris from the waterway as that is not part of the duties and responsibilities of the agency.
I am confident the LCRA, as an organization, aspires to do the “right thing.” The key here is to define the “right thing.” I can only go back to the LCRA’s mission as stated in the LCRA Enabling Legislation. The mission statement is: “To enhance the quality of life of Texans we serve through water stewardship, energy and community service.” Furthermore, the Enabling Legislation, in Powers and Duties, Section 8503.004(d), states: “Within the boundaries of the authority, the authority may prevent or aid in the prevention of damage to person or property from the waters of the Colorado River and its tributaries.”
Based on the aforementioned paragraph, one might interpret that the LCRA has within its authority and would not quibble about removing sediment and other debris, in this case, from Lake Marble Falls or other bodies of water under the LCRA control. One might also argue that this is in line with stewardship, community service and “preventing damage to person or property.”
In response to an October 4, 2019, letter requested by City Council and sent by Marble Falls City Manager Mike Hodge to LCRA General Manager Phil Wilson, Mr. Wilson responded with the following as quoted from his letter: the lake, “created by the construction of Starcke Dam in 1951, is a hydroelectric impoundment with no water supply component or flood control storage. Its fundamental purpose of providing hydroelectric power has not been affected by sediments moved into or around the lake during the recent flood events.”
It appears that Mr. Wilson’s statement may somewhat conflict with the LCRA mission and other points in the enabling legislation. While hydroelectric power production is important, I submit the previously cited aspects of lake and river management are just as important. And, it is apparent there are other associated occurrences and responsibilities that accompany the primary purpose of creating Starcke Dam and Lake Marble Falls.
In my view, and that of other community members, the bottom line is that all the municipalities and counties that border the Colorado River basin and the LCRA must actively work together to be good stewards of the water resources and, most appropriately and importantly, protect “person(s) and property.”
We must have frequent coordination of lake and river activities, disaster planning, flood control, etc., as all these actions are important to this effort.