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Water coalition rebukes LCRA claims

Jo Karr Tedder

Central Texas Water Coalition President Jo Karr Tedder gave a presentation on issues her organization has with the Lower Colorado River Authority’s Water Management Plan during a Lake Buchanan Communities Alliance meeting May 22. Staff photo by Nathan Bush

Central Texas Water Coalition President Jo Karr Tedder challenged several claims made by the Lower Colorado River Authority in a presentation to the Lake Buchanan Communities Alliance on Monday, May 22. Tedder questioned assertions that LCRA Executive Vice President of Water John Hofmann made during an LBCA meeting in April, including the number of agriculture interests represented on the LCRA Board of Directors, the presence of the uncompleted Arbuckle Reservoir in the authority’s Water Management Plan, and the value of groundwater in some LCRA service areas.

“Our whole goal is to give all of us one voice,” LBCA President Wayne Shipley said about the meetings presenting opposing views. “We had LCRA last month. Now, we have Jo Karr. You’re all adults, so you can make your own decisions on what you believe.”

Before offering a rebuttal to Hofmann’s claims, Tedder shared her respect for him with those at the meeting.

“I appreciate John Hofmann because, out of all the people I have dealt with at LCRA, he has been the straightest-shooting one,” she said. “As far as I know, he’s never told me something that wasn’t accurate. But as I have said over and over again, the LCRA does not lie, but they don’t tell you the whole story. You have to learn to read between the lines and figure out what is actually happening.”

One of Hofmann’s claims that Tedder believed needed more context was regarding the number of rice farmers on the LCRA board.

“One of the things that John said was that ‘only three members of the board were rice farmers,’” Tedder said. “He said, ‘out of 15 board members, only three are rice farmers.’”

Tedder acknowledged that was true but pointed out that most of the board members have direct links to agriculture. 

“I went through and pulled out the names, whoever they were,” she said. “There are nine on there who are farmers, ranchers, or tied to the agricultural community.”

Another point of contention was the LCRA’s inclusion of water from the Arbuckle Reservoir in its 2020 Water Management Plan.

“That 90,000 acre-feet supply in the Arbuckle Reservoir is phantom,” Tedder said. “It is not there. The reservoir is not finished, yet they are counting that in the current Water Management Plan, which makes zero sense. None whatsoever.”

Outside of the rebuke of several LCRA claims, Tedder also answered questions from meeting attendees regarding the future of the Central Texas water system.

One question, asked by Shipley, dealt with groundwater.

“I’m showing my frustration with this,” he said. “It rains all the time in places like Matagorda (in South Texas, where the rice farms are). Do they not have any groundwater they could be using?”

Tedder explained that the electricity costs of pumping water from the ground have soured the LCRA’s interest in utilizing groundwater.

“They have plenty of groundwater,” she said. “(LCRA) told us it costs more money for the electricity to pump it out than they have to pay for surface water.”

Central Texas Water Coalition Vice President Dave Lindsay also spoke during the meeting.

“We need a technology breakthrough,” he said.

Lindsay challenged students at state universities to join the fight to solve Texas’ water crisis.

“We need Texas A&M and Texas Tech working together, absolutely,” he said. “They should be given an edict: Make a breakthrough. I was at (the University of Texas) back in the ’70s. Our edict was advanced oil recovery. We were flat told, ‘We need breakthroughs.’ They need to do the same thing with desalination.”

To close the meeting, coalition Executive Director Shannon Hamilton encouraged Lake Buchanan Communities Alliance members to make their voices heard.

“Somebody said earlier today, ‘We need a movement,’” she said. “We do need a movement.”

For more information regarding the state of the Highland Lakes, visit the “Troubled Waters” series by and The Picayune Magazine.