UPDATE: Just a few minutes ago after hearing testimony, primarily against the contract – LCRA decided to again postpone the decision until early August. Considering the water shortages already occurring, this seems like a smart decision. Hopefully, this will give more time to research "available."
Back in October we brought you a story about the water contract for the recently permitted White Stallion coal fired power plant. It seems that after some delay, decision time is scheduled for Wednesday, June 15 at the LCRA Board of Directors Meeting in Austin. Again we are faced with the important underlying question — is there enough water?
First – a quick review. In addition to other responsibilities, the Lower Colorado River Authority (LRCA) is the authority that contracts with users for water rights along a 600-mile stretch of the Texas Colorado River between San Saba and the Gulf Coast. The Authority will contract with the user if the water is deemed "available." This becomes the magic word. Many agricultural interests and environmental groups feel that issuing this permit would mean limited water for other uses. This 40-year contract involves the sale of at least 8.3 billion gallons of water to White Stallion for the cost of $3.8 million a year for its 24,500 acre-feet of water and additional $250,000 a year for future water supply projects.
A new Sierra Club study by Dr. Lauren Ross of Glenrose Engineering finds that there is not enough water available for the White Stallion request:
|Combined Firm Yield Water from Lakes Buchanan & Travis||535,812 acre feet per year|
|Firm Water Commitments||-514,028 acre feet per year|
|Uncommitted Water||21,784 acre feet per year|
White Stallion Request 25,000 > Uncommitted 21,784 acre feet per year
The report states that the real issue is drought. The potential LCRA contract would commit this supply to be available for the proposed White Stallion during the most severe historical drought of record and it would compromise so called ‘interruptible’ agricultural and environmental flows needs. White Stallion’s contract is for “firm” water in that it can’t be adjusted or reduced during low water conditions. That means users will loss water if this situation arises.
“LCRA is contemplating trying to meet White Stallion's coal plant water demand by a combination of run of river water, that is — water from rain and run-off during wet periods and reservoirs that don’t exist," said Dr. Lauren Ross whose firm Glenrose Engineering produced the report. "In the extreme drought that we are experiencing there is no excess run of river water and reservoirs are evaporating at greater than normal rates. LCRA must concentrate on meeting currently committed water uses and the requested White Stallion contract should be denied."
Further, the report explains that water supplied under the proposed contract would lower storage levels in Lakes Buchanan and Travis and would result in less water being provided for agricultural irrigation, instream flows, and Matagorda bay and estuary inflows.
News reports everywhere as well as our blog are consistently discussing about how dry it is. It is time to question this contracting system and to redefine “available” in the rules to the meaning we all know. If people or the environment are at risk of losing water because of a new user, it isn’t available. If you are concerned about this contract, ask LCRA Board Members to deny the water contract for the White Stallion coal plant.