Lake Travis photo 2 from website


April 09, 2010  -  Issue 11            Lake Travis - it's worth protecting

Collected Comments in Opposition to TCEQ's Proposal to Lower Surface Water Quality Standards
"If TCEQ is unwilling to protect Texas waters, then the Environmental Protection Agency will have to step in and disapprove this unjustifiable downgrade."
Thomas O. McGarity in American-Statesman, HERE
"..In addition, more stringent bacterial standards should be considered for any stream segments upstream of Lake Travis that might otherwise be classified at a lower level of aquatic recreational use. If higher bacterial levels are allowed in these tributaries it could result in the contamination reaching the higher use areas of Lake Travis, which include the coves and arms of the lake."
PLTA comment letter, HERE
"..TCEQ is undertaking a systematic effort to weaken existing clean water standards that protect the health of people who recreate in or on Texas lakes and streams."
Sierra Club comment letter HERE
"..The model indicates that Lake Travis is very sensitive to small changes in nutrient loads (both phosphorus and nitrogen), highlighting the need for protective nutrient criteria."
LCRA comment letter, HERE
"The proposed rules will have an impact on surface water quality within Travis County as well as on quality of life for Travis County residents."
Travis County comments, HERE
"Unfortunately, what started as a carefully considered effort to refine the recreation use criteria appears to have devolved into a wholesale retreat from adequately protecting contact recreation in Texas waters."
Nat'l Wildlife Federation, HERE
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Lonnie Moore, President
Ken Fossler, Vice President
Gloria Eckstrom, Secretary
Richard Eason, Treasurer
David Gavenda
John Strickland
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TCEQ Seeks To Lower Texas Surface Water Quality Standards 
In an effort reportedly to reduce their own costs, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has proposed reducing its surface water quality standards to the lowest level allowed by EPA. The proposed revisions include higher allowances for bacteria in all classifications of Texas waterways, as well as reclassification of many waterways as not being "primary contact" and thus subject to the highest levels of bacteria before being considered polluted. Other problematic changes are that water testing would only be done at the dam location and not in the coves and arms of reservoirs like Lake Travis, and that standards would require a 2-year period of sampling to determine water had become polluted.
In favor of the looser standards - large livestock operations and some wastewater utilities. Allowing higher bacteria and pollutant levels means farmers would not have to be as careful about manure runoff and wastewater plants could spend less money on treatment.
Opposed - just about everyone who likes to swim, ski, scuba dive or even drink from Texas' rivers and streams.
PLTA has gathered some of the oppositions' comments made during the public comment period which ended March 17th and provided links in the sidebar to the left.
Our favorite quote though, comes from a top aide to a Texas legislator, who referred to this proposal as coming from "the Texas Commission against Environmental Quality".
The TCEQ's target date for adoption is June 30, 2010.
For more background on this issue, see the 3/14/2010 American-Statesman article HERE and the TCEQ webpage HERE.
City of Burnet Discharge Plans
As last discussed in in PLTA eNews Issue 9, City of Burnet has applied for a permit to discharge up to 1.9 million gallons per day (MGD) of treated sewage effluent into Hamilton Creek, a tributary of Lake Travis. Following the TCEQ public hearing on 2/4/2010, LCRA submitted a proposed settlement agreement to Burnet. While the exact details of that proposed agreement are not known to PLTA, it reportedly would require a commitment by Burnet to continue to utilize land-based irrigation with creek discharge only under limited conditions. As of this writing, Burnet still has not responded officially to LCRA.
TCEQ has not yet provided written responses to the public comments it received from PLTA and many others. After it does respond, TCEQ would then normally publish its staff recommendations regarding the permit request and would schedule a hearing at the Commission to grant or deny the permit. If that scheduling occurs without a settlement agreement having already been reached between Burnet and LCRA, it is very likely that LCRA and COA (and probably PLTA and others) would file requests with TCEQ for a contested case hearing.
Meanwhile, a group of residents who live along Hamilton Creek has become increasingly alarmed about Burnet's plans and can be expected to add their voices to those expressing opposition.
Support PLTA at H-E-B During April
HEB tear-pad to donate to EarthSharePLTA is pleased to announce that for the fourth year in a row,  the EarthShare of Texas Tear Pad Campaign will return to H-E-B stores across Texas in April. Customers can purchase $1, $3 and $5 coupons that will help support over 70 non-profit organizations that do work across Texas,EarthShare Texas logo including PLTA. Look for the tear pad at checkstands in H-E-B stores all month!
LCRA Provides The Facts To Leander
In the March 4, 2010 edition of the North Lake Travis Log, Wayne Watts, engineer for the City of Leander, made some of the most incredible statements about Lake Travis we have ever heard. Among Mr. Watts' fallacious comments were, "Lake Travis basically has a constant flow to it. Because there's a turnover in the volume of the lake, there's no accumulation of nutrients."  and "Without a doubt, 20,000 homes on septic tanks are loading Lake Travis with more than the treatment plant." Perhaps our favorite attribution was "Watts said having water quality standards too high can actually be a detriment." WHAT?!
A number of individuals and PLTA contacted LCRA and requested they respond to set the record straight.
LCRA's full written response to Mr. Watts can be read HERE. Please take a look at the letter; hopefully it will help Mr. Watts understand the subject a bit better.
Caution - while Mr. Watts' remarks might appear almost humorous to some, it is no laughing matter that City of Leander still wants to discharge its treated sewage effluent into Lake Travis. Why? Because they believe it is cheaper to pollute rather than to protect. Despite their setback at TCEQ last year, they and others will continue their attempts to circumvent the Highland Lakes discharge ban, possibly through attempts at legislation during the next session. We must remain vigilant! Together, we can protect Lake Travis.