From the Office of State Senator Troy Fraser

For Immediate Release
April 20, 2001
Contact: William A. Scott - (512) 463-0124

Fraser Changes LCRA Water Plan; Highland Lakes Protected

AUSTIN -- Senator Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, announced today he has agreed to legislation that would authorize the Lower Colorado River Authority to sell excess water from newly created downstream reservoirs after numerous safeguards were added to the bill to protect the Highland Lakes -- including severe penalties to the LCRA if it allows lake levels to drop below agreed levels.

After months of intense negotiations with the LCRA on its proposed water sale to San Antonio, Fraser agreed to allow the legislation to move forward after a new requirement was added for the Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission to monitor LCRA's performance under the terms the contract.

"If the LCRA does not adhere to the terms of the legislation, it would be considered a permit violation it could lose its authority to operate," Fraser said. "We've given TNRCC a pretty big enforcement tool."

The excess water, which would be captured in new, off-channel reservoirs built downstream, would likely then be diverted to San Antonio under the terms of a contract between the LCRA and the San Antonio Water System. San Antonio will pay for the construction of the reservoirs, pipeline and other infrastructure.

To protect Highland Lake levels, Fraser explained, the bill will prohibit the LCRA from selling any water to San Antonio unless the average levels of Lake Buchanan and Lake Travis increase by at least six feet and 18 feet, respectively, over the average operating levels.

The bill also requires the average levels in Lake Buchanan and Lake Travis to increase by at least 10 feet and 20 feet, respectively, over what they otherwise would have been during a repeat of the drought of record.

As an added requirement, the LCRA is required each year to submit data to the TNRCC demonstrating that it has operated its water supply system in compliance with the legislation. The data is required to include a tabulation comparing actual recorded lake levels with the levels that would have occurred if the San Antonio deal had not been implemented.

The bill requires the TNRCC to review the data, and certify in writing whether the LCRA has complied with the provisions spelled out under the legislation. The documents specifically will be made available for public inspection.

"I'm satisfied that the revised bill contains major safeguards to protect the Highland Lakes, and to ensure that the LCRA complies with the terms spelled out in both the legislation and in its sales contract with San Antonio," Fraser said. "But in addition to the actual limitations we added to the bill, we've also made TNRCC the watchdog over the way LCRA manages the water."

Fraser's changes to the bill also strip the LCRA of its ability to increase the amount of water it may sell to San Antonio beyond 150,000 acre feet annually. The bill also prohibits the diversion of any water above the Mansfield Dam, and permanently bars the pumping of any water directly from the Highland Lakes or the Colorado River to San Antonio.

Fraser publicly thanked LCRA Chairwoman Pam Akins, board members Dave Kithil and Robert Lambert, and Sen. Ken Armbrister, the bill's author, for their work to help strengthen the bill and to protect the Highland Lakes.

The inclusion of Fraser's requirements in the bill cleared the way for the Senate Natural Resources Committee on Thursday to approve the legislation and send it to the full Senate for its consideration. If the Senate approves the bill, it would be sent to Texas House for final passage.