Energy and Environment Reporting for Texas

LCRA Set to Get an Earful on Water Management Plan

Photo by Ihwa Cheng/KUT News

The LCRA will hear from the various communities who rely on the river to support their way of life.

The next couple days will be busy ones at the headquarters of the Lower Colorado River Authority.

The agency that controls the water flowing from the Highland Lakes to the Gulf Coast is set to approve a new Water Management Plan on Tuesday. But before it makes a final decision, it will hear from the various – often feuding – communities who all rely on the river to support their way of life. None of those groups appear fully supportive of the plan as it has been amended.

The plan offers some new ways for the LCRA to manage the type of extreme drought we’ve seen in the last year. For one thing, lake levels in the Highland Lakes would be checked twice a year to gauge if there’s enough water to send downstream to rice farmers in South Texas.

“So you would look at the lakes on January first and if the lakes were above a certain level then you would send water downstream for a first rice crop, then you would look again at June first to see if it was available for a second crop,” LCRA spokeperson Clara Tuma told StateImpact Texas.

Up until now levels have only been checked once a year, a fact that raised alarm in Highland Lakes communities when levels dropped dramatically in 2011.  But that new rule and others have rice farmers downstream worried about the future of their profession.

“[The plan] can mean disaster,” said Haskell Simon, with the rice farmers advisory committee, in a telephone interview. Simon said farmers won’t get enough water if the drought continues under the new plan.

“I’m not sure what the final format of the plan is. There would be consecutive years where no water would be made available for our crops down here in Matagorda County,” said Simon.

Rice farmers want the new rules to be phased in gradually while they lobby the LCRA to build new flood water reservoirs for their fields downstream from the Highland Lakes.  But many people in Central Texas say the farmers have already received more than enough concessions.

“[The farmers] basically had weakened the plan enormously from a basin-wide perspective but they basically strengthened the amount of water that they were getting,” Jo Karr Tedder, President of the Central Texas Water Coalition, told StateImpact Texas.

“We want recovery time that will allow the lake time to recover so the lakes are usable again,” said Tedder.

While the plan may still get some fine tuning, one thing is growing more certain by the day. Texas’ historic drought has left lake levels too low to send water down to the rice farmers this year. Under normal conditions, they would have been getting water for their first crop starting March first.


  • Billaydam

    Domestic raw water users pay LCRA $151 pre acre foot of water.
    Rice Industry pays LCRA $6 per acre foot of water.
    70% of the water in the highland lakes goes to the Rice Industry.
    In 2011, inspite of the drought, the Rice Industry used a record high amount
    of water. This is not sustainable nor is it fair. The economic impact of rice production
    per year is a drop in the bucket compared to the economic impact of the highland lakes
    property tax revenue alone. The tail is wagging the dog here and it is time for the LCRA
    to shed it’s historical bias to the Rice Industry. We need an equitible policy now.

  • Paul Freeman

    I saw an AP puff piece this morning quoting rice farmer Ron Gertson on the dire economic consequences if the rice bandits don’t get their free water. Gerton is a multimillionaire welfare queen. He got close to $11 million in farm welfare from Uncle Sam in the last 15 years. Maybe he could take some from that boondoggle and dig an irrigation well. If reporters would check the farm subsidy database at EWG.ORG, they would find that rice farmers have their snouts in the federal trough and are not in anything like poverty. While the rice bandits whine, many businesses along Lakes Buchanan and Travis are heading for bankruptcy.
    LCRA has been complicit in the rice bandit boondoggle for more than half a century. LCRA must change its ways…or be scrapped. State Sen. Troy Fraser has tried in the past to change LCRA. Maybe the next Legislature will understand the correctness of his thoughts.

  • The genie is finally out of the bottle but the rice farmers keep trying to put it back in. They have charmed the LCRA for decades and gotten away with it. They even managed to finnagle a quasi closed door meeting with the LCRA, excluding the other stakeholders that worked openly with them for the last eighteen months on this new plan. They were caught red handed and of course the LCRA put their usual “spin” on the legitimacy of this meeting. Look at the dozens and dozens of letters of outrage on this topic that are posted on the LCRA website under the wmp. The rice farmers also have crop insurance for low yield years. They are worried about 2012 but don’t seem to care too much about the lake area business carnage that happened in 2011 when the rice farmers received a world record amount of water. Oh and ditto for 2009……oh and ditto again during the drought of 2006. The rice farmers have NEVER had to suffer, and let me be the first to ask “how does it feel?”.

    • Anonymous

       LCRA and the rice bandits have a symbiotic relationship. LCRA needs the rice farmers to “demand” water to run the hydro generators. No rice bandit “demand,” no big revenues for the LCRA watercrats.


    No, it is not fair.  The LCRA tells us all to conserve only so they can go and sell the water to other persons.  The water belongs to everyone, not just them.  That is why those who live along the Lakes pay these ungodly amount of property taxes.

    Now the LCRA who is just suppose to control the LAKES is said to be taking other peoples wells, property, and whatever else they can get their hands on (only so they can yet again sell the water).  Even if they do not reside on the Lakes.

    The economic impact on full lakes for tourism far out weighs anything that rice farms down stream can produce.  Consider that!

    Its all about money.  They claim they do what they do for the good of the community, but that is farthest from the truth.  IF that be fact, then they should allow us, the voters and residents of these communities to VOTE for the positions in office they currently do amongst themselves. 

    My water, my land, stay off of it!

  • Me

    HERE HERE to all of you!

    The LCRA is destroying the quality of life along the Highland Lakes.  They care nothing about those of us who live and have lived along the Lakes for decades.  Why should we conserve as they call it only so they can make money?  Makes no sense that residents have put up with this for as long as they have.

    File lawsuits against them and claim they have ruined your quality of life along the Lakes and that you would like them (or the rice farmers way down stream) to pay for your over priced property taxes!  If they want the water, make them pay US for it!

    Pockets run deep within.  Be very wary of that.

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