EAGLE Lake, Texas (Sept. 17, 2014) The Lower Colorado River Basin Coalition supported revised amendments to LCRA’s Water Management Plan that were approved on Wednesday and which reduce impacts to rice farmers and slightly increase flows to Matagorda Bay, within a framework mandated by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
While supporting the plan, LCRB Coalition leaders urged more focus on drought management planning, water conservation and water supply enhancements.
“It is a better plan than a month ago,” said Kirby Brown, co-chair of the Coalition, which participated in the LCRA stakeholder process to help with revisions over the past month. “The changes mean slightly fewer water cutoffs for rice farmers and a little more water for the environment. Work by staff through a robust stakeholder process assured the best product possible under the constraints of this historic drought.”
Still, the Coalition remains deeply concerned about the health of the Colorado River, Matagorda Bay and downstream interests.
“We are dangerously close to where the ecosystem can’t recover,” said Myron Hess of the National Wildlife Federation, a member of the Coalition. “We’ve got to look at what we can start doing proactively to manage the river and bay for sustainability.”
The revised Water Management Plan amendments approved on Wednesday now go to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for approval.
On Wednesday the LCRA Board of Directors also approved construction on an off-channel reservoir in Wharton County that is designed to increase the River Authority’s water supply. The additional water is intended to help agricultural, industrial and municipal customers and the environment, LCRA has said.
“We are guardedly optimistic that LCRA’s commitment to development of the off-channel reservoirs will reduce the pain that downstream interests are bearing as a result of this drought,” said Ronald Gertson, chair of the Colorado River Issues Committee, a member of the Coalition representing rice interests.
Looking ahead the Coalition remains concerned with allowing more river water to flow downstream so that needs of lower basin users, including the environment, are met more equitably.
“If there is extra water found it should be released downstream instead of raising the minimum storage level of the Highland Lakes,” said Judge Paul Pape of Bastrop County, a Coalition member.
In addition, the Coalition is expecting the Lower Colorado River Authority to strengthen water conservation measures in its drought contingency plan.
“We can’t remain silent about the absence of mandatory water restrictions for some customers while others face complete cutoff of their water,” Pape said.
The Coalition is committed to working with LCRA to address these and other issues, said Brown.
“The LCRA board and staff have worked hard and successfully in pulling stakeholders together. We look forward to working with the LCRA board and staff to proactively and comprehensively address drought management planning and water supply, and more fairly and equitably meet the needs of the entire basin,” Brown said.
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Additional Quotes from Coalition Members:
Ronald Gertson, chair of the Colorado River Issues Committee
“We are thankful that this nearly four year long process to revise the Water Management Plan appears to be coming to a close. It has been a very painful and painstaking process, but only so because thankfully LCRA has diligently engaged its stakeholders to assure the best product possible. By no means is this plan good for downstream water users, but it appears to be the best that can be done within the constraints of the current historic drought and
About the Lower Colorado River Basin Coalition
The Lower Colorado River Basin Coalition [http://www.waterdownstream.com/ seeks a fair and balanced approach to water management of the Colorado River for all parties under all conditions – drought and flood. Equitable river management requires that water keep flowing downstream of Longhorn Dam all the way to the Matagorda Bay.
The Lower Colorado River Basin Coalition is made up of a broad, diverse group from lower Travis County to Matagorda Bay representing counties, communities, businesses, private landowners and agriculture, conservation and environmental groups.
Key concerns of the Coalition:
LCRB Coalition Co-Chair Kirby Brown
LCRB Coalition Co-Chair Robby Cook