Water goal may take four years, $221 million
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