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LCRA adapting new marina ordinance after feedback

LBJ Yacht Club and Marina

During a public comment period in March, LBJ Yacht Club in Horseshoe Bay asked the Lower Colorado River Authority to phase in changes proposed in a new Highland Lakes Marina Ordinance. Staff photo by Suzanne Freema

Changes are being made to the proposed Highland Lakes Marina Ordinance based on public feedback and will be posted on sometime in May, according to a Lower Colorado River Authority spokesperson. The updated version of the new ordinance is scheduled to be on the agendas of the LCRA Water Operations Committee meeting on May 23 and the LCRA Board of Directors meeting on May 24. 

If adopted, the new ordinance will become effective May 24. 

The deadline for submitted comments was March 31. The LCRA held a public meeting to hear comments on March 15 but without board members present. The comments were recorded and given to the board. 

Comments both submitted and spoken at the public meeting centered on the increase in marina fees set to go into effect immediately after adoption and a two-year time limit on replacing non-encapsulated floats with more environmentally friendly encapsulated floats.

A spokesperson from LBJ Yacht Club commented that any new fee should not become effective until Jan. 1, 2024, and phased in over the next two years. The club also pointed out that the new foam ordinance began a few years after the marina at 200 S. Wirtz Dam Road in Horseshoe Bay was built. 

“I still have two docks with good foam and 24-inch free board that I hoped to replace under the existing rules since they have some life left in them,” reads the club’s written comment. (Names were redacted from public comments given to “I started replacing foam a couple of years ago and we are spending $150,000 on new tub installation this year on dock A. To do it all at once will cost close to $1.7 million and I need to do a breakwater wall as well as add slips to keep diminishing returns from eating us alive. I think the existing rule works.” 

Several Lake Travis marinas protested the 82.6 percent rise in marina fees, the first increase since 2001. Marina owners said the uptick caught them off guard for the 2023 year. Most marinas set their budgets and fees in January each year and put them into effect around April. 

“I don’t take issue with the water surface fees increase,” said a representative from Briarcliff Marina, 406 Sleat Drive in Briarcliff. “It is devastating and unfair to increase the water surface fees in 2023 because we have already set our rates with our tenants and budgeted for the year. Making the water surface fees effective February 1, 2024, would be more fair to the marina owners/operators.” 

VIP Marinas, which owns five marinas representing over 540,000 square-feet of permitted docks on Lake Travis, praised the LCRA for its good stewardship of the Highland Lakes but took issue with ordinance updates. 

“I’m extremely concerned that some of the changes as proposed would have significantly detrimental impacts, not just to my five marinas but to all the marinas across the lake and the thousands of customers who depend on us for boating access,” the person wrote in a letter to the Board of Directors. 

The writer pointed out that replacing non-encapsulated floats within two years would cost $2.5 million in “unplanned capital work with no increase to the value or safety of my marinas.”

“We strongly believe that for existing marinas, docks should continue to be inspected on a regular basis and replaced with the level of deterioration exceeds a reasonable level or creates a safety issue,” the VIP Marina letter reads. “If the LCRA is committed to a complete replacement strategy, a minimum of a 15-year timeline is standard and necessary to allow for the planning, financing, and delivery of work of this scale.” 

The Marina Association of Lake Travis also sent in comments, asking for the marina fee increase to be phased in over the next three years. The association agreed with VIP Marinas that replacing encapsulated floats over the next two years would be cost-prohibitive and unnecessary. 

“Requiring the replacement of good flotation before it needs to be replaced is extremely expensive and unjustified,” reads its letter. 

West Beach Marina, 17317 W. Beach Road in Austin, said it would cost $772,784 to replace all its non-encapsulated floats, which it cannot do in two years. The marina estimates it would take 15 years to replace 35,000 cubic-feet of floats, which are not yet deteriorating.

LCRA said it would let know when the updated version of the marina ordinance is available online. You can find the current changes online here