Matagorda is just another small Texas town, but its bay is one of the key areas in the state for oyster harvesting and processing. It’s also where the mouth of the Colorado River feeds into the Gulf of Mexico, which creates a unique habitat for animals that survive within a careful balance of fresh and salt water.
The area has been hit hard in recent years by drought and the lack of rainfall has also taken its toll on the aquatic life, whose survival depends on the fresh water to lower the salinity levels of the bay, which is where shrimp hatch and oysters reproduce.
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.
The Lower Colorado River Authority has rescinded its request to block the flow of water headed downstream into Matagorda Bay from the Highland Lakes.
In the early part of October, the LCRA issued an emergency request from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, but this Tuesday they said recent rains that led to flooding in sections of Central Texas brought the lake levels up to a suitable level.
Texas Matters: A look at major issues from all over the state this week -- Tom DeLay is acquitted of money laundering, the American Bar Association reviews the states system of capital punishment, alleged scandal with the dunes sagebrush lizard and a water tug-of-war between the Highland Lakes and Matagorda Bay.
The Lower Colorado River Authority’s board voted 9-6 to stop the flow of water going into the Matagorda Bay’s estuaries.
The board will ask the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to cease the flow of the 5,800 acre feet of water projected for the area.
"The idea there is that there would be a small area at the delta where the Colorado River flows into Matagorda Bay that would be a refuge area where fish and shellfish can survive a drought," said Jennifer Walker with the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club.
State Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, is hoping to changing the way the Lower Colorado River Authority does business. She has authored a set of bills -- HB 585 and HB 635 -- which would submit the LCRA's operations and its board members before the Sunset Advisory Commission.