Central Texas Water Coalition President Jo Karr Tedder (left, at podium) addressed the Lower Colorado River Authority Board of Directors at its regular meeting Wednesday, Aug. 17, in Austin. Staff photo by Suzanne Freeman
Along with a series of planned stories on water issues in the Highland Lakes, which kicked off in the August 2022 issue of The Picayune Magazine, the DailyTrib.com is following water news as it happens. For an up-to-date list of all the water stories, visit the Troubled Waters webpage.
Speakers advocating for an update to the Lower Colorado River Authority’s water management plan in view of the current drought and dropping lake levels left a recent LCRA Board of Directors meeting disappointed but not surprised. They also left with an action plan.
“We are holding public water town hall meetings next week,” Jo Karr Tedder, president of the Central Texas Water Coalition, told DailyTrib.com after the meeting. “We are going to continue doing what we do: We will continue reaching out and educating people about what’s going on. After this meeting, we are going to kick it up a notch.”
The first of two meetings is at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 23, at Hill Country Hall, 15675 Texas 29 in Buchanan Dam. The second meeting, also at 6:30 p.m., is on Thursday, Aug. 25, at the Oasis on Lake Travis, 6550 Comanche Trail in Austin. Both are open to the public.
“We will give a brief update and have a chance for people to share their concerns,” Tedder said. “It helps us decide what we can do to support them. It’s a dialogue. It’s what the LCRA should be doing: talking to real people not just the people they control.”
LCRA representatives are welcome at the meetings, she said.
“We would love for them to come,” she said. “We would love to be able to have a dialogue with them.”
“The water management plan is doing its job,” Wilson said at the meeting during his board update, in his letter to customers, and in the advertisements. “The lakes are functioning the way the lakes are designed to function.”
The board is not allowed by law to respond to remarks made during public comment at meetings. The issue came up during public comments at the June meeting (the LCRA board does not meet in July) with hopes of getting on the August agenda.
“I am somewhat shocked by your refusal to even have this on the agenda for a public discussion by this board,” Tedder told the board. “Why not open the discussion now?”
Several others members of the coalition also spoke during public comments, imploring the board to be more open to a public discussion of the options.
“LCRA’s failure to acknowledge on its agenda the increasing concerns regarding the water management plan is an abdication of your statutory responsibilities,” said Frank Cooley, vice president of legal affairs for CTWC. “A failure to address the deepening crisis we are experiencing reflects the egregious disregard of the public interest in a reliable water supply.”
Sue Thorton, the Burnet/Llano County Outreach Committee chair for the coalition, read the resolution, which was also approved by the Travis County Commissioners Court.
“Please do not ignore our requests,” she said in conclusion.
Wilson addressed the concerns expressed in the coalition’s resolution during his report to the board following public comments.
“We do take these comments seriously,” he said, adding that he sent board members copies of numerous emailed comments on the topic.
He then went on to talk about the current drought.
“As water managers in a drought-prone region, we understand droughts,” Wilson said in his report to the board, at times reading from a prepared statement that has been posted online. “This area is prone to two things: intense droughts and flash flooding. The lakes were built to weather those events. The lakes were designed to capture water during rainier times so we have sustainable and reliable water supply during drier times such as these. That’s what’s happening now.”
Wilson wrapped up his remarks with this: “Given the provisions in the plan and the fact that none of the triggers specified by Texas Commission for Environmental Quality for an updated plan early have been reached, the LCRA will not begin a revision process at this time.”
That refusal to even discuss the matter is what has upset Tedder and other members of the coalition the most.
“The fact that Phil (Wilson) refused to open the water management plan is not as revealing as the fact that he refused to put it on the agenda,” Tedder told DailyTrib.com.
The general manager is taking a gamble, she continued.
“He’s gambling on the fact that this drought will not turn into a mega-drought,” she said. “That’s what California did, and now they are paying the price for gambling all those years.”
Tedder came back to the issue of having an open dialogue with the LCRA and the board about the water management plan.
“I am a firm believer people need to be heard,” she said. “That’s the bottom line of what I find most offensive about the LCRA. They don’t listen to people.”
In his letter to firm water customers, Wilson wrote that LCRA officials will meet with firm water customers in the fall to review recent operations under the water management plan.