After being told by the LCRA that they could face a third growing season with no irrigation water, some rice farmers near the Gulf Coast are considering spending millions of dollars to drill for groundwater.
The LCRA decided they were stopping the flow of water downstream from the Highland Lakes because of low lake levels due to drought conditions.
Roland Gurtson, a rice farmer from Wharton County, said he was one of several farmers who has spent the last two years trying to survive on crop insurance.
Commissioners with the Texas Commissioner on Environmental Quality spent nearly six hours hearing testimony from those that would be affected by a request from the Lower Colorado River Authority to stop the flow of water coming from the Highland Lakes.
A crowd of about 250 farmers, water planners and state and local officials shared their thoughts with TCEQ about a request from the LCRA to stop the flow of water from the Highland Lakes unless the lakes had a combined storage of 1.1 million acre feet -- more than half full.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality will hear public testimony Wednesday on the Lower Colorado River Authority’s emergency request to stop the flow of water heading downstream to Texas rice farmers.
Jennifer Walker with the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club said they are especially concerned with this year’s emergency order because of the number involved.
Texas Department of Public Transportation CEO Phil Wilson has been called a "problem solver" by current members of the Lower Colorado River Authority Board. As LCRA’s new General Manager, he’ll need to be just that as the Board has recently voted to stop the flow of water headed downstream from Lakes Travis and Buchanan to Texas’ rice farming region for the third year in a row.
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.