LCRA addresses rumors of lowering Lake Austin


by KRIS BETTS / KVUE News and photojournalist DATHAN HULL

Bio | Email | Follow: @KrisB_KVUE

Posted on August 30, 2013 at 10:18 PM

Updated Friday, Aug 30 at 10:20 PM

AUSTIN -- Lake Austin has been steady-level since it was created in 1939.

Now, for the first time in its 74-year history, Lake Austin may temporarily become a variable-level lake like Lake Travis, as we experience a record-breaking drought.

LCRA’s Manager of Water Operations Ryan Rowney tells KVUE without significant rainfall, lake levels (therefore combined storage) in Travis and Buchanan, will hit record lows as soon as late October.

“There's no clear end in sight to it. Our storage levels continue to decline. We've been falling at the rate of 12,000 acre-feet each week,” said Rowney.

That’s why the LCRA is considering other ways to provide water. One of those options is lowering Lake Austin temporarily.

“We wouldn't just send water out of the lakes and downstream to lower it, we would let that daily consumption lower it out over time,” said Rowney.

Levels would go back up in Lake Austin when it rained, instead of the LCRA releasing water from Lake Travis into Lake Austin to replenish water used by customers.

“The idea there is to catch any rainfall events into Lake Austin, slow down those releases from Lake Travis, and keep more water in Lake Travis if possible,” Rowney explained.

It's an idea that more than a thousand people are calling a threat on the newly formed Facebook page “Save Lake Austin.”

“You have to think hard about the decisions and how they affect so many different people on so many different levels,” said Lake Austin homeowner and advocate Scotty Sayers.

Sayers believes lowering water levels could change the lake permanently and affect access to public and private boat ramps.

“If you expose Lake Austin the bottom of the lake has a mud and silt base underneath it, and it's not rock like Lake Travis so there's noxious fumes. There are different issues."

Ultimately, Sayers and those with "Save Lake Austin" just want to make sure the LCRA doesn't make a rash decision.

“You know the science better be right behind it if they're going to take a drastic measure like this," he said.

Rowney says before they make any big decision they will ask for public input.

“For now, there's no action planned. It is just internal discussion,” he said referring to the rumors the LCRA Board will discuss taking action at Lake Austin this September.

Lake Austin has been lowered many times before to kill off invasive plant species and for dock repairs.


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