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LCRA creates four commercial dredging zones on the Highland Lakes

Sandy Creek in Llano County

In 2019, Sandy Harbor easily lived up to its name as sand and sediment filled Sandy Creek upstream of where it entered Lake LBJ. In 2022, the Lower Colorado River Authority designated a portion of this area as Zone B, opening it to the possibility of commercial dredging. File photo

As promised, the Lower Colorado River Authority delivered on designating areas on the Highland Lakes as open to commercial dredging, but only after a company completes the application process and is approved.

The LCRA created four zones — three on Lake LBJ and one on Lake Buchanan — where commercial dredging under Tier III of the Highland Lakes Dredge and Fill Ordinance could take place. 

A company interested in dredging in those areas must still go through the application process with the LCRA as well as any other applicable entities such as the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. 

The following four zones are the only ones currently open to dredging:

  • Zone A — a portion on far northern Lake Buchanan where the Colorado River enters the reservoir
  • Zone B — a portion of Sandy Creek near its entry into Lake LBJ along Sandy Harbor and part of Sunrise Beach
  • Zone C — on Lake LBJ east of the confluence of the Llano and Colorado rivers, which includes the area of a sandbar that formed following the 2018 flood
  • Zone D — on the Llano River arm of Lake LBJ west of the 2900 bridge and upstream of Moss Creek

During its meeting Dec. 14, 2021, the LCRA Board of Directors gave the LCRA general manager the authority to designate such dredging and fill zones. The general manager would base the designations on staff recommendations and scientific review of how sedimentation buildup and removal affects navigability, public safety, critical infrastructure, water quality, and water quantity.

The general manager can also close zones and create others when necessary.

This came after the board previously approved the Highland Lakes Dredge and Fill Ordinance in November.

The entire process began in early 2021 when Collier Materials Inc. requested permits to dredge sand and gravel from Lake LBJ for processing and sale. The company was working with a private landowner to set up an operation on a ranch off of Llano County Road 309.

However, the LCRA issued a one-year moratorium on commercial dredging in response to Collier’s request after authority staff realized the Highland Lakes Watershed Ordinance didn’t address such operations. Over the course of the moratorium, LCRA staff developed a set of rules for dredging and filling on the Highland Lakes for residential needs through commercial operations. 

In November, the board approved the dredge and fill ordinance, which outlines rules for those activities in three tiers:

  • Tier I, which basically applies to homeowners and property owners doing upkeep
  • Tier II, which is typically related to maintenance and repair or construction of infrastructures and utilities
  • Tier III, which is described as commercial operations removing sediment and material for resale

For more information on the zones as well as the permitting process, visit the LCRA’s Highland Lakes Dredge and Fill Ordinance webpage.

daniel@thepicayune.com