LCRA taking more action after KXAN investigation on Lake LBJ flood debris

Investigations
Lake LBJ debris

The Lower Colorado River Authority has rolled out a new action plan that includes additional flagging and removal of safety hazards on Lake LBJ brought on by historic flooding last October.

The move came three days after a KXAN investigation revealed hazardous debris still sitting on the sand and in shallow parts of the lake. Locals shared photos of pieces of concrete with rebar sticking out, boards with nails and large, mangled tree limbs that will soon be hidden under the water’s surface once the LCRA starts refilling the lake on Feb 24, which is three weeks earlier than planned.

“I’m very grateful,” said Llano County Judge Ron Cunningham who said he had just left a meeting at LCRA headquarters in Austin on Friday.

He said he called LCRA earlier in the week after the utility said they were not responsible for flood debris removal and that falls on the shoulders of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. The LCRA told him its crews had already marked 200 hazards in the main channel along the entire Highland Lakes chain.

“I asked, ‘Is there more ya’ll can do?'” said Cunningham.

Thursday, LCRA released the new safety plan for Lake LBJ which includes additional marking and removal of navigational hazards in the main body of the lake. The LCRA will also remove abandoned flood-damaged docks from the lake. This will happen once the lake is refilled.

The utility says debris on the shoreline and on private property continues to be the responsibility of the property owner.

The LCRA will also do the following:

  • LCRA will designate the entire lake a nighttime no-wake zone following the refill of the lake. By law, “nighttime” is defined as from 30 minutes after sundown to 30 minutes before sunrise. Violation of the no-wake requirement is a Class C misdemeanor. The nighttime no-wake speed limit will be in force until further notice.
  • LCRA will mark the river channel through Lake LBJ with buoys from the confluence of the Llano and Colorado rivers downstream to Wirtz Dam, a distance of about 12 miles. The markers will include solar-powered lights to guide boaters at night.
  • LCRA will post signs at public boat ramps alerting visitors to use extreme caution on the lake. LCRA also will offer free warning signs to marinas and local property owners associations with boat ramps.
  • Effective immediately, the public may report unmarked hazards to Ask.LCRA@lcra.org. The report should include a detailed description of the object, the location and a photo, if possible. LCRA’s Water Surface Management team will investigate all reports and take appropriate action to address corroborated hazards.

An LCRA public information officer tells KXAN they will use existing LCRA crews for the additional work and call on contractors to remove large debris from the lake.

“We are taking these actions to further enhance public safety,” said Phil Wilson, LCRA general manager. “Anyone on the lake should use caution and their best judgment. This flood fundamentally altered the look, feel and topography of the Colorado River through the Highland Lakes. This is the nature of life on the river and is part of the river’s natural cycle.”

Judge Cunningham flew over the Llano River and Lake LBJ on Tuesday to get a better idea of the amount of debris in and along the water, but was more taken aback by the “enormous” amount of sand.

Flooding transformed the shoreline and changed where lakefront property starts and stops. Where there used to be drop-offs and docks — it’s now a gradual, sandy slope down to the water.

The landscape has drastically changed for locals and now the challenge will be making sure word gets out to visitors before they hit the lake. 

Cunnigham said: “The bottom line is the lakes are never going to be as safe as they were before the flood.” 

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