LCRA move to increase water storage capacity is good for rice, ducks
AUSTIN, Texas – Jan. 16, 2013 – Ducks Unlimited strongly supports the Lower Colorado River Authority’s (LCRA) unanimous decision to move forward on the development of an off-channel reservoir to provide water in the lower basin for rice farming and wetlands management. DU represents the interests of waterfowl, other wetland-dependent wildlife and waterfowl hunters with respect to Texas water issues.
A cadre of migratory birds depends on the managed wetlands provided by rice agriculture.
“Approval of off-channel reservoirs is critical to planning and providing water in the lower basin for rice agriculture and other managed wetlands during extended dry periods, and it’s a crucial step in ensuring sufficient water supplies for all users. Having the capacity to store more water downstream will reduce demands on upstream supplies,” said DU Conservation Outreach Biologist Kirby Brown.
As planned, the reservoir at Lane City, Texas, will provide 90,000 acre-feet of water for irrigation. This water, captured from local rains and river overflows, would be available even during the drought of record. In addition, LCRA approved the pursuit of 10,000 acre-feet of groundwater at a site in Bastrop, Texas, to meet the board’s recent goal of 100,000 additional acre-feet in the lower basin.
Waterfowl and other migratory birds depend on the rice prairie wetlands complex for survival. Approximately 60 percent of the estimated 1.96-million-bird midwinter waterfowl population for the Texas Mid-Coast is expected to rely on ricelands (active and idle flooded rice fields) to meet their food needs. In addition, the Gulf Coast Joint Venture identifies specific population objectives for more than 12 million shorebirds and wading birds that are highly dependent on water in ricelands for nesting, migration and wintering habitat.
“DU thanks the LCRA board and staff for moving forward on the approval and looks forward to quickly getting the project on the ground,” Brown said. “In addition to rice agriculture’s tremendous role in the Mid-Texas Coast’s economy, the importance of ricelands to waterfowland other migratory birds cannot be overstated.”
For every 10,000 acres of flooded ricelands lost, the region loses the ability to support 120,000 waterfowl. Thus, the loss of LCRA water for rice fields on more than 50,000 acres in 2012 impacted 600,000 ducks, as well as additional wetland-dependent shorebirds and wading birds.
“The proposed off-channel reservoirs do benefit all users,” Brown said. “Therefore, we hope there will be widespread support to secure funding for their construction.”
Ducks Unlimited Inc. 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. For more information on our work, visit www.ducks.org. Connect with us on our Facebook page atfacebook.com/DucksUnlimited, follow our tweets at twitter.com/DucksUnlimited and watch DU videos at youtube.com/DucksUnlimitedInc.