The Austin Chronicle

Naked City

LCRA Turning On the Tap

By Amy Smith, November 12, 2004, News

The Lower Colorado River Authority kicked off the first of two open houses Monday night with a cheerfully illustrated display of its plans to extend water services to the Hill Country. But before entering the Terrace Club near Dripping Springs, visitors were greeted by representatives of two groups opposed to the water pipeline plan – the Hill Country Coalition and the Save Our Springs Alliance – who passed out opposition literature and collected signatures for a petition against the pipeline proposal.

The LCRA's self-imposed, six-month moratorium on new water service agreements in western Travis Co. comes to an end next month – Dec. 7, to be exact, when the LCRA board is expected to vote on a $5 million pipeline to serve proposed residential developments along Hamilton Pool Road. In its current state, the narrow roadway offers a scenic landscape of rolling hills that are to be altered by at least three different subdivision plans that are in the works.

Gene Lowenthal, a Hamilton Pool Road resident and a leader in the Hill Country Coalition, said a number of homeowners in the area are opposed to the density of the proposed developments, and for that reason stand opposed to the pipeline they believe will invite more density. Also, most homeowners either won't or can't afford to pony up the $10,000 fee LCRA will charge to connect to the water line, Lowenthal added. "It's cost-prohibitive for most of us because it's really designed to work for high-density developments, so of course the only beneficiaries will be new developments."

The LCRA is applying for what's called a Certificate of Convenience and Necessity, which would make the quasi-public agency the sole retail water provider in western Travis Co. The LCRA plan also calls for expanding its water utility into northern Hays Co., where the city of Dripping Springs is reluctant to reject proposed developments or enforce strict environmental standards. Community activists had hoped that ongoing regional planning efforts would be finalized, with new development regulations in place, before the LCRA acted on its pipeline proposal. A second LCRA open house took place Tuesday at Lake Travis Middle School.

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