Lake LBJ refill moved up to accommodate residents, local businesses

Austin

BURNET COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — The Lower Colorado River Authority announced Thursday that it’s moving up the timetable to refill Lake Lyndon B. Johnson.

The refill of Lake LBJ is now scheduled to begin Feb. 24 and is expected to be completed in three days. Lake Marble Falls will begin March 18 as previously scheduled.

Lake LBJ initially had its refill scheduled for March 18, too, but officials felt moving up the date by three weeks would be easier for residents and businesses dependent on tourism. 

“After further evaluating the timetable for the drawdown, elected officials on Lake LBJ have now informed us that shortening the drawdown to February 24 works better for their constituents,“ said LCRA general manager Phil Wilson. “LCRA is pleased to be responsive to our local elected officials, and at their request, we’ll begin refilling Lake LBJ on February 24.”

The date change took Matthew Orlando by surprise. He owns On the Rocks restaurant, which overlooks Lake LBJ in Cottonwood Shores. He planned to write the LCRA about his concern that the initial refill date of March 18 would keep away visitors during their Spring Break. 

“We were projecting about a 56 percent loss from last year and the previous years if the water wasn’t raised back up,” Orlando said. 

While he welcomed the LCRA’s decision, Jamie Webb was less excited about it because she said it will affect the ongoing cleanup from the Oct. 2018 floods. 

“My husband owns a dock repair company in which we’ve already purchased a substantial amount of materials to complete jobs through March 18,” Webb explained. “Now we’re out the money for those supplies, plus the labor.” 

She said her husband is working to figure out which projects he’ll have to call off now that the refilling is happening earlier than expected. 

“My husband is working seven days a week to already complete projects by March 18, and now at this point there’s clients that we’re going to have to return money to for 50 percent deposits for materials we’ve already purchased,” Webb explained. 

According to LCRA, the change in the lake’s refill schedule has also been praised by local leaders.

The statement sent out Thursday included this quote from Llano County Judge“We are appreciative of LCRA collaborating with the 2018 flood-affected counties and cities to meet the needs of our citizens and businesses,” Llano County Judge Ron Cunningham said in the LCRA statement. 

However, Cunningham told KXAN Friday that while the economic impact is important, his overall concern is about health and safety.

He is working with other county officials to figure out how to address the debris and safety hazards, like exposed tree limbs, that are still present along the exposed lake bottom. When the lake is refilled, they will be hidden just under the surface and present problems for swimmers and boaters.

Lake LBJ was lowered in late December to give lakeside property owners the ability to remove debris and make repairs after the devastating floods back in October 2018.

Ron Lynn Mitchell, the vice chairman, president and CEO of the Horseshoe Bay Resort at Lake LBJ, sent KXAN the following statement in support of the LCRA’s decision: 

With gratitude, Horseshoe Bay Resort Destinations and the Club at Horseshoe Bay Resort  acknowledges the assistance provided the resort, the community of Horseshoe Bay and the many retail and professional businesses that will no longer be faced with a  huge financial  negative effect on tourism by LCRA General Manager Phil Wilson, LCRA Board Member Ray Gill,  Country Judge Cunningham, and the City of Horseshoe Bay Mayor, Steve Jordan as to the amended schedule for the revised drawdown of Lake LBJ.  Lake LBJ is a major tourism attraction for the Texas Hill and Lake Country and Spring Break is one of the largest time periods for lake access and use enjoyment by not only Horseshoe Bay Resort, but also the thousands of second home owners, vacation home owners of which many have waterfront residences.  The decision to retract the revised down time of Lake LBJ will see a positive ripple effect for marinas, restaurants, hotels, winery, and retail outlets.  The quick action by individuals mentioned above has the potential of saving the Resort alone hundreds of thousands of dollars of lost income of which that is compounded many times by the hundreds of businesses that would have been effected if the lake lowering had extended past the two week spring break season.    Refilling the lake beginning on February 24, will allow the opportunity to retain current hotel occupancy and offer the opportunity to regain cancelled reservations and place Lake LBJ back into  the spring break plans for residents and vacation home residents. 

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