LCRA to Decide Water Allocation November 10th
RICHMOND, Tx. November 2, 2009 – Limited water resources in the Highland Lakes are driving the Lower Colorado River Authority to propose reductions in “interruptible” water, the lifeblood of rice farmers and other producers that rely on LCRA’s irrigation districts in Matagorda, Colorado and Wharton counties. Ducks Unlimited (DU) representatives expressed their concern over the proposed restrictions at a public meeting on October 20 in Matagorda.
“Ducks Unlimited is sensitive to the issue of water availability within the Colorado River watershed and realizes that there are many competing interests for water, but we urge the LCRA to recognize the importance of this water to agriculture and waterfowl conservation efforts on the Texas Coast,” Todd Merendino, manager of conservation programs, said.
Rice growers and other producers depending on that water for irrigation and waterfowl conservationists depending on it to provide crucial wintering habitat await the LCRA decision and the impacts it will have on families, economies, communities, and the wildlife that depend on LCRA’s irrigation system.
The Texas Gulf Coast provides critically important wetland habitat for millions of migrating and wintering waterfowl, waterbirds, and shorebirds, including resident species like the mottled duck, which is in a long-term decline due to loss of wetland habitat.
In 1991, with the assistance of private landowners, USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, DU launched the Texas Prairie Wetlands Project. TPWP is a cost-share program for private landowners to restore and enhance wetlands on their properties along the Texas Gulf Coast.
Collectively, TPWP has restored and enhanced over 43,000 acres of wetland habitat with over 14,000 acres in Colorado, Wharton and Matagorda counties. Approximately one third of these acres rely on canal water from the LCRA irrigation system.
“Without the availability of canal water, our conservation programs are severely hamstrung, and rice production, the breadbasket of food and habitat for waterfowl, is also lost,” Merendino said. “This loss of rice production will wipe out 20 years of conservation efforts by DU, private landowners, TPWD, USFWS, NRCS, and our many other partners.”
To date in the three counties, private landowners have invested $1.1 million in conservation projects, and DU and partners have invested another $2.7 million.
Current waterfowl habitat sustainability estimates provide an already gloomy picture for waterfowl, projecting a 150,000-acre deficit of habitat on the Texas mid-coast. Without rice production, approximately 50,000 additional acres will be lost, pushing the deficit to 200,000 acres.
“That is additional habitat loss for waterfowl and crop losses for rice producers that neither can afford,” Merendino said.
Ducks Unlimited is the world’s largest non-profit organization dedicated to conserving North America’s continually disappearing waterfowl habitats. Established in 1937, Ducks Unlimited has conserved nearly 13 million acres thanks to contributions from more than a million supporters across the continent. Guided by science and dedicated to program efficiency, DU works toward the vision of wetlands sufficient to fill the skies with waterfowl today, tomorrow, and forever.