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Burnet County joins request for new LCRA water management plan

Jo Karr Tedder, president of the Central Texas Water Coalition

Jo Karr Tedder, president of the Central Texas Water Coalition, makes a presentation to the Burnet County Commissioners Court at its regular meeting Tuesday, July 26. Seated behind her are LCRA Regional Affairs representative Susan Patten (left), LCRA Vice President of Regional Affairs Hondo Powell, and Earl Foster, general manager of the Highland Lakes Firm Water Customer Cooperative. Staff photo by Suzanne Freeman

Burnet County commissioners approved a resolution requesting the Lower Colorado River Authority update its water management plan immediately instead of waiting three more years, despite opposition from the LCRA and the Highland Lakes Firm Water Customer Cooperative. The topic took up much of the Commissioners Court’s regular meeting Tuesday, July 26.

The same resolution was approved by the Travis County Commissioners Court on July 19 and will be presented to commissioners courts in Llano, Williamson, and Hays counties by Central Texas Water Coalition President Jo Karr Tedder. 

The resolution asks the LCRA to reconsider its 2020 water management plan using research and data that reflect current drought conditions. Tedder said she and other members of the coalition plan to speak at the LCRA meeting on Aug. 17. 

“We have an opportunity here to look at some of the flaws of the earlier plan that we can easily identify now because we have drought,” Tedder said in her presentation to Burnet County commissioners. “When you’re in drought, you look at that plan, you see that this is not good. When you have water, you don’t see it.” 

Speaking against the resolution were LCRA Vice President of Regional Affairs Hondo Powell and Earl Foster, general manager of the Highland Lakes Firm Water Customer Cooperative. 

“You don’t need a resolution to talk to us about the water management plan,” Powell said. “There are triggers in there already that would have us bring it forward for review if those conditions are met. It’s only been in place for two years.”

When asked what conditions would trigger an earlier review, Powell replied that they are based on water usage, but did not know the specifics. 

“Are we close?” County Judge James Oakley asked him. 

“Close is a relative term,” Powell answered. “As of today, we have not met those projections, but we are looking at it constantly. We look at it every day.”

“I would suggest you release those findings so we can see those evaluations and we can see how it’s looking, how it’s trending,” Oakley said. “That may alleviate some of these concerns.” 

The Highland Lakes Firm Water Customer Cooperative’s Foster, who is also general manager of the Lakeway Municipal Utility District, took his turn at the podium to speak against approving the resolution. 

“I’m not saying (the water management plan) is a perfect plan. What I’m here to say is there are unintended consequences for opening up this plan if we open it up too soon,” he said. “Let these triggers work. We are against opening it up now.” 

When asked for an example of an unintended consequence, Foster said it could mean that downstream users could get more water, not less.

“Everybody is using more water than they have,” he said. “Look at the bigger picture. Hold off on this resolution. Get more information. I would ask you to hold off on this today and speak with me and other firm water customers and hear our input.”

Precinct 4 Commissioner Joe Don Dockery spoke in favor of the resolution. 

“The plan went uncontested before (the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality) because some strides were made,” he said. “Did everyone get what they wanted? No. But I don’t think the plan had an ability to adapt to low inflow and the heat and additional demand being placed on these lakes right now.” 

Commissioners voted 4-0 in favor of sending the resolution to the LCRA. Precinct 3 Commissioner Billy Wall was absent from the meeting. 

Tedder said she and others from the Central Texas Water Coalition plan to be at the next LCRA meeting on Aug. 17 to push for reevaluating the water management plan. 

In response to an earlier emailed question from DailyTrib.com, a spokesperson for the LCRA wrote: “At this time, we are not aware of any plans for the LCRA Board of Directors to consider the resolution.” 

The response came during the Commissioners Court meeting, shortly after commissioners moved on to other items. 

suzanne@thepicayune.com

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