Austin Lawns Starve Matagorda Bay

E & E News reports:

The Lower Colorado River Authority, which is responsible for meting out water supplies from the reservoirs, voted 9-6 to request a temporary suspension of releases to Matagorda Bay. This decision will not be carried out until it is approved by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, which will review the request in late October.

When the salt content of the estuary gets too high, Walker explained, the juvenile shrimp, oysters and fish that develop there can no longer survive. The maximum salinity level needed to maintain the health of a marshy, 7,500-acre refuge area at the base of the Colorado River — where the bay’s species are now waiting out the drought — is less than 25 parts per thousand, she said.

But a September document by the LCRA states that the drought has already caused salinity levels to rise over 30 parts per thousand, making “much of the habitat in the bay … no longer suitable for many species — particularly oysters, crabs and juvenile fish.”

“Cutting off the life support flows for Matagorda Bay without requiring serious cutbacks on lawn watering is not fair or consistent with state laws,” Myron Hess, manager of Texas water programs for the National Wildlife Federation, said in a statement after the LCRA voted in favor of suspending flows.

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