Lower Colorado River Authority
|Motto||"Energy, Water and Community Services"|
|Purpose||Water conservation and reclamation, power generation|
|Headquarters||3700 Lake Austin Blvd, Austin, Texas 78703|
|Region served||All or part of 61 counties in Texas|
|General Manager||Phil Wilson|
|Main organ||Board of Directors|
The Lower Colorado River Authority or LCRA is a nonprofit public utility that was created in November 1934 by the Texas Legislature. LCRA's mission is to protect people, property and the environment by providing public services for more than 1 million people in Central and Southeast Texas. These services include electricity, water, flood management, public parks along the Highland Lakes and lower Colorado River, and community and economic development services to rural and suburban communities.
Power generation portfolio
The Fayette Power Project is a three-unit coal-fired power plant in Fayette County that provides 1,035 megawatts for LCRA. One of the units is owned by LCRA. The other two units (and the power they produce) are co-owned by Austin Energy. Lake Fayette is the cooling pond for the project. LCRA uses coal from the Powder River Basin in Wyoming as fuel.
The Sim Gideon Power Plant is a three-unit natural gas-fired plant in Bastrop County that provides 620 megawatts. The Lost Pines 1 Power Project (owned and operated by GenTex Power Corporation, a wholly owned affiliate of LCRA) is a natural gas-fired combined-cycle plant adjacent to the Sim Gideon plant and the two form the Lost Pines Power Park. This plant can generate up to 545 megawatts. Lake Bastrop is the cooling pond for the Lost Pines Power Park.
The Thomas C. Ferguson Power Plant is a single-unit gas-fired plant in Marble Falls that provides 420 megawatts. LCRA is replacing the plant with a 540-megawatt natural gas-fired power plant that will be one of the most efficient, reliable and environmentally responsible electric generating facilities in Texas. The new plant is scheduled to be in operation in 2014.
The Winchester Power Park in Fayette County provides 176 megawatts for use primarily during peak-demand periods.
LCRA buys natural gas on the open market and stores it at the Hilbig Gas Storage Facility, an underground reservoir near Rockne. The facility can hold up to 4 billion cubic feet of natural gas.
The Lower Colorado River Authority operates six hydroelectric dams along the Colorado River in the Central Texas area that provide a source of renewable energy, and also formed six lakes that collectively are known as the Texas Highland Lakes:
- Buchanan Dam (54.9 MW) - forms Lake Buchanan
- Inks Dam (13.8 MW) - forms Inks Lake
- Wirtz Dam (60 MW) - forms Lake LBJ, which also serves as a cooling pond for the Thomas C. Ferguson Power Plant
- Max Starcke Dam (41.4 MW) - forms Lake Marble Falls
- Mansfield Dam (108 MW) - forms Lake Travis
- Tom Miller Dam (17 MW) - forms Lake Austin
In keeping with its state-approved Water Management Plan, LCRA generates electricity from the dams only as it releases water for downstream use or as part of its flood-management operations. The plan allows LCRA to use water (if it is available) primarily to generate electricity during emergency situations.
LCRA purchases 316 megawatts of wind power from the Texas Wind Power Project (35 MW), the Delaware Mountain Wind Farm (30 MW), the Indian Mesa Wind Farm (51 MW) and the Paplote Creek Wind Farm (200 MW) under long-term contracts.
LCRA distributes electricity to its wholesale electric customers - mostly municipal utilities and electric cooperatives - and supports the statewide electric transmission network via a network of more than 4,800 miles of transmission lines and 330 substations, which are owned by LCRA Transmission Services Corporation, a nonprofit corporation owned by LCRA.
Parks and community services
LCRA manages water quality, water safety and recreation on the Highland Lakes (except Lake Austin, which is managed by the City of Austin). LCRA also monitors and protects water quality throughout the river basin.
LCRA's community services programs provide matching grants for community development projects and local park projects, assist communities in planning for economic development, help attract tourism and businesses, and train community leaders.
LCRA operates 43 public parks, recreation areas and river access sites along the Highland Lakes and lower Colorado River. LCRA's McKinney Roughs and Matagorda Bay nature parks have natural science centers that offer outdoor educational and recreational programs for youths and adults.
In November 1934, the Texas Legislature authorized the formation of the Lower Colorado River Authority to complete Buchanan Dam, where construction had been idled in 1932 following the financial collapse and bankruptcy of the Samuel Insull-controlled public utility holding company. LCRA opened for business in February 1935.
LCRA completed Buchanan Dam and a companion project, Inks Dam, in 1938—the first of six dams that form what are known as the Highland Lakes. LCRA completed this chain of lakes and dams in 1951. LCRA manages the chain to protect basin residents from the worst effects of Hill Country floods and provide the lower Colorado River basin with a reliable water supply during periods of drought.
With the encouragement of a young congressman, Lyndon B. Johnson, LCRA used the hydroelectric power from its dams to launch in 1938 a public power program that served communities and electric cooperatives in Central and South Texas.
For nearly three decades, hydroelectric generation was LCRA's primary power source. But growing demand for electricity led LCRA to build power plants that use natural gas and coal as their fuel sources. LCRA added the gas-fired Sim Gideon Power Plant and Thomas C. Ferguson Power Plant in the 1960s and '70s and the coal-fired Fayette Power Project in the 1970s and '80s. The Lost Pines 1 Power Project was completed in 2001, followed by the Winchester Power Project in 2010.
In 1995 LCRA became the first electric utility in Texas to provide wind-generated electricity to its customers from the Texas Wind Power Project, the first such project in the state. Through the years, LCRA acquired additional wind-generated power; this, along with its hydroelectric generation, makes LCRA the largest wholesale provider of renewable energy in Texas.
LCRA's water and community services operations have grown through the years. LCRA began programs in the 1970s and '80s to control water pollution and monitor water quality. It expanded its parks operations beginning in the 1990s to increase public access to the Highland Lakes and lower Colorado River. LCRA also worked with communities in its service area on projects designed to boost communities' economic development and improve their local quality of life.
In 2010 LCRA celebrated its 75th anniversary.
Ten people have served as LCRA's general manager—its chief executive officer. The current general manager, Rebecca S. Motal, is the first woman to serve in that position.
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