The last time Lake Marble Falls was lowered by 7 feet was in February, 2019. Staff photo by Jennifer Greenwell
Lake Marble Falls will be lowered for 12 weeks beginning Oct. 1, when about a foot a day will be moved into Lake Travis over a seven-day period, announced the Lower Colorado River Authority on Thursday, Aug. 25. The refill will begin on Dec. 26 at 2 feet a day, with the water coming from Lake Buchanan through Inks and LBJ. The lake will be at its lowest planned level by Oct. 7.
The drawdown is needed for upgrades to the water intake structure at Max Starcke Dam for hydroelectric generators to continue operating efficiently and reliably during the peak winter months, the LCRA said in a news release.
“In the past, we have scheduled lake drawdowns during the January-February timeframe, but the upgrade project at Starcke Dam needs to be completed before the winter season so the hydroelectric generators can continue to reliably provide electricity to the Texas power grid,” said John Hofmann, executive vice president of water for the LCRA.
Debris damaged the center portion of the water intake structure at the dam during the October 2018 floods. The intake structure prevents large objects in the river from entering the hydroelectric generators and damaging the turbines. Emergency repairs were made in 2019 to keep the hydroelectric generators, which can produce 41 megawatts of electricity, operational.
The water released into Lake Travis at Max Starcke Dam will total about 3,000 acre-feet, which will bring Travis up by about a couple of inches, according to the media statement.
Lakes Travis and Buchanan in the Highland Lakes chain are both reservoir lakes. Their levels rise and fall during droughts, floods, or when water is being sold downstream for agricultural or environmental reasons. Recently, the LCRA has stopped the sale of water to downstream rice farmers’ second crops because of the drought, which has been lowering both lakes about a foot a week for most of the summer.
During the drawdown, Marble Falls lakeside property owners can perform limited work on existing docks, retaining walls, and other infrastructure. A list of projects allowed during drawdown can be found at lcra.org/lakelowerings. Property owners should also register their projects on that webpage. Registration for dock repairs is not required, but all work must comply with the Safety Standards for Residential Docks on the Highland Lakes.
Activities not allowed during the drawdown include burning in the lakebed, replacing or building new retaining walls, shoreline work of more than 500 feet, and dredging more than 2,000 cubic yards.