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‘State of the LCRA’ and Highland Lakes water are good, says GM

LCRA General Manager Phil Wilson

Lower Colorado River Authority General Manager Phil Wilson presents the 'State of the LCRA' to local leaders at a luncheon in Horseshoe Bay on Aug. 24. 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 is following water news as it happens. For an up-to-date list of all the water stories, visit the Troubled Waters webpage.

Yes, the water management plan was part of the presentation given to local leaders at the Lower Colorado River Authority’s “State of the LCRA” luncheon in Horseshoe Bay on Wednesday, Aug. 24, but that was not all that was on the plate. 

Along with rare roast beef, chicken piccata, green beans, and mashed potatoes, General Manager Phil Wilson and other members of LCRA’s top management served up facts and figures on the cost of maintaining the dams, investments in transmission, and how the authority has kept power costs low. He discussed the LCRA’s development of solar energy and how it supports economic development in the communities it serves. 

And, finally, before taking questions from the audience, Wilson explained the LCRA’s radio system, the work the authority is doing to expand broadband, and its new Be Lake-wise water safety awareness campaign

Some of the facts and figures discussed include: 

  • Dam maintenance: More than $134 million has been invested since 2010; plans to invest more than $107 million from 2023-27.
  • Transmission: Invested a record-breaking $458 million in capital investments in fiscal year 2022; planning to invest about $2.2 billion over the next five years.
  • Wholesale power: Rates have remained stable and competitive, costs controlled, debt lowered.
  • Solar energy: 141 megawatts from Juno Solar project in Borden County; 10 megawatts from Mars Solar project in Webb County; evaluating new projects.
  • Radio system: More than 100 cities, counties, electric utilities, and other public safety entities use the LCRA radio system, which covers more than 50,000 square-miles.
  • Community: Awarded 1,888 grants for more than $48.7 million in the Community Development Partnership program; donated $230 million in community-raised matching funds for a total investment of $278 million.
  • Broadband: Owns about 3,700 right-of-way miles, 2,200 of which already include fiber; plans to add fiber to another 1,200 miles in the next five years.

In the 2021 Texas Legislature session, lawmakers passed Senate Bill 632 authorizing the LCRA to provide fiber capacity or facilities to enable broadband service connectivity. 

“We will not be internet providers, but we will serve as the ‘middle mile’ for provision of broadband services,” Wilson said. 

In discussing the water management plan, which has been a point of contention recently between the LCRA, the Central Texas Water Coalition, and some Highland Lakes residents, Wilson said the water supply is in good shape. 

“The water management plan is functioning as it was designed,” he said. “We have always had times of drought and times of plenty. When it floods, we recapture that rain and hold onto it.”

Wilson’s rosy picture contrasts with one presented by the Central Texas Water Coalition, which has recently and repeatedly asked the LCRA to update its water management plan. The coalition held two town hall meetings this week, one in Buchanan Dam the day before the “State of the LCRA” luncheon and one at the Oasis on Lake Travis the day after, to continue to push to reopen the plan. Coalition members also spoke during public comment at the LCRA board meeting Aug. 17 and visited with multiple government entities with resolutions on the topic. Commissioners in Burnet and Travis counties and city of Bee Cave leaders approved the resolutions. 

The answer from the LCRA repeatedly has been “no,” that the water management plan is doing its job. Wilson reiterated his point at the luncheon. 

“Even with inflows at historic lows and well-below average rainfall, lakes Buchanan and Travis are still at about 56 percent full,” he said. “As of this week, there’s about 200,000 acre-feet more in storage than there was in August 2011.” 

The year 2011 was the worst single-year drought in Texas history. 

In a recent letter to local government entities and firm water customers, Wilson said the LCRA would be meeting with them in the fall to review recent operations under the water management plan. 

Meanwhile, recent rains have helped bring back flow to the Llano River but didn’t do much for the Colorado River Basin, the main water source for the Highland Lakes. The LCRA announced the day after the luncheon that it plans to lower Lake Marble Falls by seven feet beginning Oct. 1. The water to refill the lake will come from Lake Buchanan.

Follow’s Troubled Water series, which ends next week, online.

1 thought on “‘State of the LCRA’ and Highland Lakes water are good, says GM

  1. The Joe Biden of the LCRA has spoken. All is well. Let them eat cake. Buchanan will give Lake Marble Falls back their 7′ for free. The peasants living on and around Lake Buchanan had better not complain.

    How many of the Executive Management or hand picked “directors” live on Lake Buchanan or Lake Travis? How many “directors” have interests or ties to downstream rice farming?

    The LCRA is exactly like a bloated Washington DC bureaucracy. Disastrous decisions that negatively impact many but benefit the few are rampant and unchecked.

    Did anyone honestly expect Emperor Phil Wilson or any of his trained stooges to deliver a bad report?

    Let’s let Inks and LBJ be lowered to 56% full and see what happens. That would be a water management plan I could support. Why? Because it would be a water management plan that is doing its job – exposing the emperor without any clothes on.

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