From the Office of State Senator Troy Fraser

For Immediate Release
April 3, 2001
Contact: William A. Scott - (512) 463-0124

Fraser: LCRA Water Plan for San Antonio Flawed, Will Seek Changes

AUSTIN -- Seeking to protect water levels in the Highland Lakes, state Senator Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, said today he will seek major revisions to pending legislation concerning the Lower Colorado River Authority's (LCRA) plan to sell water to San Antonio.

"The bill as filed is unacceptable because it fails to protect the Highland Lakes, and it gives the LCRA far too much power to decide who gets the water from our river basin and under what terms," Fraser said.

Fraser detailed his concerns in a letter to county judges in the Colorado River basin. He said the legislation is potentially harmful to the Highland Lakes because it would allow the LCRA board to increase the amount of water it sells.

"My biggest disappointment with the legislation as filed is that it would allow the LCRA to sell more than 150,000 acre feet of water annually by a simple vote of its board," Fraser said. "That's not the way the LCRA pitched this deal to the public."

The bill also fails to require San Antonio to pay for the $1 billion project, could pave the way for the LCRA to sell water from the Colorado basin to other regions of the state, and leaves the Highland Lakes exposed to lower lake levels if the project proves to be unfeasible because of failed technology or drought.

"Despite repeated assurances by the LCRA that it understands and shares my concerns, little evidence exists that those concerns have been addressed in either the legislation or the LCRA/SAWS contract detailing the terms of the sale of water," Fraser said. "My fundamental and overriding goal in seeking changes to the legislation is to protect the water levels of the Highland Lakes in order to maintain the region's quality of life, economic vitality and property values."

Under a preliminary, 80-year contract approved by the LCRA and SAWS, water would be diverted from the Colorado River into multiple "off-channel" reservoirs. Up to 150,000 acre feet of water annually then would be pumped via pipeline to San Antonio, and some water would be released downstream to rice farmers.

Legislative approval is required before the deal can proceed.

Fraser said he would seek major changes to the bill, including adding a provision to protect water levels in the Highland Lakes by requiring 50 percent of the water from the new reservoirs to be reserved for use by Texas rice farmers or to increase lake levels.

"If this project doesn't work as envisioned by LCRA, and the reservoirs don't capture the 150,000 acre feet projected by the LCRA, San Antonio could wind up with all the water stored in the reservoirs, forcing a drop in lake levels to provide additional water promised to the rice farmers," Fraser said.

Fraser said he would also push revisions to the bill to limit to 150,000 acre feet annually the amount of water that the LCRA could sell to SAWS, require San Antonio to pay for the entire cost of the project, prohibit LCRA from pumping water directly from the Colorado River or releasing stored water above the Mansfield Dam, and to make the bill apply exclusively to San Antonio.

"I want to make sure we are not signing what amounts to a blank check made payable to the LCRA," Fraser said. "My concern is that the contractual terms of the deal could change or the regional plans may be altered after the legislative approval is granted to the LCRA allowing the sale."

One way to do that, Fraser said, would be to require the current terms of the proposed sale, and the components of the regional water plans, to be included in the actual legislation. If the terms change, the legislative authorization for the deal would become void.