Water goal may take four years, $221 mil­lion


Austin American-Statesman - - METRO & STATE - By Asher Price ash­er­price@states­man.com

BAS­TROP COUNTY — Of­fi­cials with the Lower Colorado River Author­ity on Tues­day gave the first con­crete reck­on­ing of how much it will cost and how long it will take for the agency to reach a hefty water sup­ply goal it set ear­lier this year.

At a meet­ing at McKinney Roughs Na­ture Park, Michael McCluskey, man­ager of re­source strat­egy and devel­op­ment at the util­ity, told board mem­bers the cheap­est way to reach the 100,000 acre-foot goal is to build one reser­voir in Whar­ton County and pump ground­wa­ter from Bas­trop County.

Taken to­gether, those projects will cost as much as $221 mil­lion, he said. The LCRA pre­dicts the projects could be fin­ished within four years.

An acre-foot roughly equals the amount of water three av­er­age Austin house­holds con­sume an­nu­ally. The LCRA pre­dicts 100,000 acre-feet would be avail­able even in a re­peat of con­di­tions akin to the 1950s drought.

The water goal is part of a plan to al­le­vi­ate strain on Lakes Travis and Buchanan, which op­er­ate as the two chief reser­voirs in Cen­tral Texas. Tues­day’s news came af­ter

some Cen­tral Texas law­mak­ers had vowed to fight river author­ity pro­pos­als to re­lease water down­stream to rice farm­ers amid the cur­rent drought.

The board could make a de­ci­sion on McCluskey’s rec­om­men­da­tions in Jan­uary.

“We fully in­tend to move for­ward,” said Becky Mo­tal, the non­profit util­ity’s gen­eral man­ager.

The 1,125-acre reser­voir, near Lane City in Whar­ton County, would have a 40,000 acre-foot ca­pac­ity, but LCRA of­fi­cials said it would likely re­fill at least twice a year with down­river rains.

The Lane City reser­voir would cost $206 mil­lion to de­velop, with an­nual costs of $19 mil­lion, in­clud­ing op­er­a­tions, main­te­nance and debt ser­vice.

McCluskey also laid out an LCRA plan to de­velop five wells, at a depth of 1,300 feet, at its Lost Pines Power Park in Bas­trop County. The author­ity would pump as much as 10,000 acrefeet a year on its land for power plant op­er­a­tions, re­liev­ing an­other de­mand on the High­land Lakes.

McCluskey pegged the devel­op­ment cost of the well-field at $15 mil­lion; an­nual costs would come to $1.4 mil­lion. The Lost Pines Ground­wa­ter Con­ser­va­tion District could take up the pump­ing re­quest next month.

“This was a nice com­ple­ment to match up with the Lane City site,” McCluskey said.

Taken to­gether, the cost

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