The Lower Colorado River Authority plans to draw down the usually constant level Lake Austin in early 2017, in order to allow homeowners to perform maintenance and to help in fighting invasive aquatic vegetation.
“It’s been years since we’ve lowered any of the Highland Lakes,” said LCRA Executive Vice President of Water John Hofmann. “Property owners need to maintain their boat docks and perform other maintenance, and I’m pleased our water supplies have been replenished enough that a drawdown is possible. Our lakes are nearly full, and conditions in the basin are better than they have been in several years.”
The entire process of lowering Lake Austin approximately 10 feet is expected to take about six weeks. Instead of actively releasing water from the lake, the LCRA will allow it to lower naturally over the course of two to three weeks. This drawdown will be a result of no water being sent downstream from Lake Travis, as well as general customer use of the water supply.
This time period will allow Lake Austin homeowners to repair and maintain their docks, retaining walls, bulkheads, and other shoreline property. The drawdown is expected to curb vegetation such as hydrilla and Eurasian watermilfoil. City of Austin fire station personnel also expect to use the time to maintain a boat ramp.
Water will begin being moved back into Lake Austin from Lake Travis on approximately February 9, 2017. The water will be equivalent to about eight inches of water in Lake Travis. Rain, of course, may be a factor, and the LCRA may change plans if water needs to be moved through the Highland Lakes chain. Due to the potential immediacy of these types of weather situations, equipment and tools should not be left in the lake bed when not in use.
The temporary drawdown is expected to be the only one for several years, due to an upcoming LCRA project to strengthen and modernize the floodgates on Tom Miller Dam, which will require water levels to be at a normal operating range for safety and accessibility and to keep the five-year-project on time.
Homeowners: You must obtain authorization from the City of Austin to perform work on structures in or along Lake Austin during the drawdown.
For minor repairs, removing sediment beneath existing docks, and repairing up to 25 percent of a bulkhead, contact the City of Austin Development Assistance Center at One Texas Center, 505 Barton Springs Road, Austin, TX, 512-974-6370.
For larger projects such as new dock construction or to add, change, or replace structural components (load bearing beams, piers, pilings, etc.) an approved site plan signed and sealed by a licensed professional engineer is required. Contact the City of Austin Development Assistance Center at One Texas Center, 505 Barton Springs Road, Austin, TX, 512-974-6370 or Liz Johnston, Watershed Protection Division, 512-974-2619 for more information and for application requirements.
Lake LBJ also will be lowered about four feet during approximately this same time period. Lake LBJ was last lowered in 2008. Lake Marble Falls was last lowered in 2009. And Lake Inks and Lake Austin last were drawn down in 2011. There were no drawdowns in 2012-2016 because of the drought.