The Lower Colorado River Authority board of directors Wednesday approved a one-year drought rate for the utility’s firm water customers that will be approximately 16 percent higher than what they currently pay.
The directors approved the rate increase, which will take effect Jan. 1, 2015 and raises the price that cities such as Burnet, Marble Falls, Cedar Park, Leander, Pflugerville, Dripping Springs and several municipal water suppliers to $175 an acre foot from the current $151.
The drought rate is needed to cover LCRA costs during times such as the ongoing record-setting drought, when the utility sells less water to cover its substantial fixed costs that don’t change based on the weather, General Manager Phil Wilson told the directors before the vote.
Wednesday’s vote came after one more round of sparring between leaders from the upper and lower ends of the Colorado River basin.
Burnet County Judge Donna Klaeger told the directors the drought has crippled the Highland Lakes region’s economy and that requiring municipalities and industry to bear the cost of paying for LCRA’s operations does not reflect a fair and equitable policy.
Central Texas Water Coalition President Jo Karr Tedder also spoke and told the directors that requiring firm customers to in effect subsidize downstream rice farmers’ operations is unfair and discriminatory.
Ron Gertson, one of the richest and most powerful and influencial rice farmers spoke after Klaeger and Tedder and delivered a biting critique of what he believes is a lack of understanding or outright misrepresentations of the rates issue on the part of upper basin leaders.
Gertson singled out CTWC for criticism, saying the coalition’s leadership’s “actions have made it clear that they intend the destruction of our rice industry by any means available.”
For the complete story, see Friday’s Highlander.