Business as usual at the LCRA
The Lower Colorado River Authority board of directors voted unanimously last Wednesday to extend water services west along Highway 71 past Bee Cave to the 1,700-acre Sweetwater Ranch development, authorizing negotiations with the Lazy Nine Municipal Utility District for Sweetwater's first 1,200 homes. With nearly 3,000 homes planned for Sweetwater and up to six other developments in the works in and around Lazy Nine, LCRA seems to be setting a precedent for prompt westward expansion with its latest decision. Critics claim the plan has inadequate water quality protections, encourages suburban sprawl, and is unnecessarily premature, proceeding before several regional planning efforts are complete. The developers' intention to indefinitely truck wastewater along Highway 71 to another Travis Co. facility also came under fire. A letter from LCRA General Manager Joe Beal to the LCRA board members, obtained by the Save Our Springs Alliance, states that "providing service to Lazy Nine is consistent with LCRA's business plan, Vision 2010 and its 30-year vision for water utility growth in Western Travis County."
"We very specifically asked the LCRA to put 2000 [U.S.] Fish and Wildlife [Service] environmental protections in its contract; the fact that they refused is pretty eye-opening," said Bee Creek resident Christy Muse, executive director of the Hill Country Alliance, one of the groups opposing the decision. In a letter to the LCRA board, SOS argued that the plan conflicts not only with LCRA's mission to "ensure the protection and constructive use of the area's natural resources," but also with the five-county Envision Central Texas planning effort, in which Beal served on the executive committee. Muse said her organization is asking that the decision be revised or at least that interim rules be put into place to protect Bee Creek until the regional planning is completed.
LCRA spokesman Bill McCann said that LCRA believes that the nonpoint source (storm water runoff) pollution ordinances currently in place "have been doing their job and will continue to do their job." He said the Lazy Nine MUD will be developed with or without the LCRA and that the LCRA can provide the best alternative for service, adding that "we have a commitment to do everything we can to protect water quality.
In Beal's letter to the LCRA board, he told members that "the Lazy Nine proposal is likely to draw strong opposition from some area residents, environmentalists and others who might be concerned about the impact of development on Highway 71." Indeed, Muse said locals have rejected the plans after engineers hired by the HCA found that allowing 30% of the development's runoff to enter Bee Creek, as stipulated in the current regulations, would "without a doubt" (in Muse's words) pollute the creek. More info at www.lcra.org, www.hillcountryalliance.org, and www.sosalliance.org.