AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Lower Colorado River Authority is answering questions on how they have been dealing with the large amount of rain Central Texas has received and how they decide when to open a dam.
In all, 14 floodgates have been opened along the Highland lakes. Many have been asking if LCRA could have opened the floodgates earlier to prevent some of the flooding, but officials say they follow a formula and didn’t have the flow they needed to open the floodgates sooner than they did.
“We don’t get out ahead of it, we basically go along with it. When we started seeing flood flows coming into the Buchanan end of our watershed, and we saw that happen repeatedly with more rainfall as it was coming in, that’s when we knew that at some point there would be gate operations necessary, but the actual flows coming in is what triggers those operations,” said LCRA Executive Vice President of Water John Hofmann.
LCRA says they are still operating in full flood management mode and will do so for the next couple of weeks. But as flood gates are opened and closed, lakes are rising, putting many businesses in danger.
“I’m sitting on the building, these two pieces used to come together as a bridge, and now they don’t,” said Rusty Ruder Restaurant Operations Manager Steven Rossi.
Just two days ago, Rossi says the restaurant was sitting on solid ground, but that was before Lake Travis began to rise. “That’s a six foot tall fence,” Rossi said, while walking around the restaurant, “Now, it’s completely under water.”
Luckily for Rossi, the Rusty Ruder restaurant floats saving the main levels of the business from the rising lake. But everything outdoors, like their sand volleyball court or their walk-up bar, is completely under water.
LCRA says they did everything possible to prevent the flooding and the process they currently have in place has been working as planned.
“The flood pool at Lake Travis was engineered, designed and built specifically to store flood waters to protect the downstream communities, and it’s doing its job, it’s doing exactly what it was designed to do,” said Hofmann. “Anything that’s in that 33 foot range of the flood pool at Lake Travis has the potential to be inundated.”
To open a floodgate, it all depends on the flow of the water. “It has to happen exactly at the right time, not any sooner, not any later,” said Hoffman.
Because if the timing is off, those downstream could be hit even harder than they already are. “We can’t exacerbate the flooding with our operations up here. It’s a difficult balance that you have to straddle,” Hoffman said.
The lake will continue to rise as more water comes downstream; LCRA says it could last for at least a few more days. However, they say the lake levels upstream are beginning to stabilize which is a good sign for the area.