After hearing from state lawmakers, conservation groups and affected farmers, the LCRA board voted to raise the lake level threshold before any water is released to the rice farming irrigation areas of Texas.
The LCRA approved raising the lake level threshold from 850,000 acre feet to 1.1 million acre feet of water, and the board also asked the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to enforce mandatory water restrictions for people living along the Highland Lakes, limiting lawn watering to once a week.
If the TCEQ approves the LCRA decision, it will be the third year that rice farmers will have been cut off from the Colorado river.
State Rep. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, urged the LCRA to postpone a decision, allowing for more public input on the issue.
"This is an arbitrary number that they really drew up without a lot of stakeholder input," Kolkhorst said. "We in the past, on the two other emergency orders, had stakeholders in the room trying to craft some solution, and that’s how we were able to come up with the 850,000 feet of stored water. When this was issued I was really very caught off guard and so were a lot of other lawmakers."
Kolkorst said one of the provisions of the state water code places agriculture as the second highest reason for providing access to freshwater. Several groups of farmers have said their insurance companies would not be able to provide them a third year of crop insurance.
Kolkhorst left the meeting visibly upset when the LCRA board voted down an order to postpone a decision on the matter.
"This has a ripple effect, we are impacting every aspect of our wildlife and our natural resources," Kolkhorst said. "But now we are making decisions not by elected officials and not really by stakeholder input at this point and so one of the things I’ve asked the very passionately is to slow down, tap the brakes like the stakeholders come back together."