Marble Falls city leaders will keep pressing LCRA to dredge lake after historic 2018 flood

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MARBLE FALLS, Texas (KXAN) — The back and forth over a problem caused by last year’s historic flooding is playing out Tuesday in Marble Falls, and Marble Falls city leaders aren’t taking “no” for an answer.

The Marble Falls City Council will continue to ask the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) to dredge sediment from Lake Marble Falls even though the agency already told the city no once.

“I don’t see how we can ignore it,” said City Council Member Reed Norman during the Tuesday night meeting.

On Oct. 4, City Manager Mike Hodge sent a formal request to the LCRA to “consider dredging conditions on Lake Marble Falls.”

The City Council directed the city manager to author the letter in September because members agreed that it’s the responsibility of the LCRA to deal with the debris and silt deposited by flooding in 2018.

“They’ve taken control of the lakes,” Council Member Dave Rhodes said about the LCRA. “They technically own the water. We bought water rights from them. They police them in a lot of different ways, so, yes, it’s their issue.”

Rhodes said city leaders worry the built-up sediment will keep away visitors from the lake and potentially put residents in danger.

“It is going to flood again,” Rhodes said. “It just makes common sense, or so it seems, that the more buildup in the lake, the less room there is for water. Therefore, instead of going down the lake, it’s going to spread out more, and it’s going to do more damage in our community and for our citizens in our community. It’s costly in a lot of ways.”

Guadalupe Martinez of Marble Falls said he noticed a big change in the conditions at the lake since last year.

“You have to be real careful now,” Martinez said. “I don’t know why they won’t dredge it, but they should. It was a lot more enjoyable not having to go on the lookout all the time so that you make sure you don’t hit something, which wasn’t there before, but you do have to keep your eye on it.”

Marble Falls resident Barry Burton said, in some parts of the lake, “It was about 30 foot deep, and it’s changed to about 8 foot deep.”

Marble Falls City Council holds a meeting Tuesday Oct. 15 (KXAN/Yoojin Cho)

He said last year’s flooding devastated homes and destroyed people’s property. “It seems that we just weren’t prepared all up and down the Highland Lakes because there was a tremendous amount of property loss on this particular flood.”

The city received a response from the general manager of the LCRA on Oct. 10. Phil Wilson wrote a letter declining the initial request.

“Lake Marble Falls, created by construction of Starcke Dam in 1951, is a hydroelectric impoundment with no water supply or flood control storage,” Wilson wrote. “It’s fundamental purpose of providing hydroelectric power has not been affected by sediments moved into or around the lake during the recent flood events.”

(KXAN/Will DuPree)

The general manager’s letter further suggested that Marble Falls could hire its own dredging operation, adding that the LCRA has no plans or the millions needed for the project.

Rhodes told KXAN that he found that suggestion unacceptable because of how much the city already spent on cleanup and recovery after the flood.

“No’s not a good answer, and we’re not stopping there,” Rhodes said.

The city council decided Tuesday to ask the city attorney to explore different options. They discussed talking to other communities along the lake, as well as state lawmakers.

Rhodes said, “It’s time to make an official, ‘Hey, guys. We have an asset here. You have an asset here. We really need to get it taken care of.”

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