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County won't see any water for rice farmers

East Bernard Express of East Bernard, Texas

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Wharton County rice farmers will likely not see any downstream water again this spring, a move that threatens to cut rice production in half for the second year in a row.

Friday is the deadline for the Highland Lakes to reach the 850,000 acre-feet needed before any water is released to lower counties. As of early Tuesday afternoon, water levels were holding at about 825,387 acre-feet of water. One acre-foot equals about 326,000 gallons of water.

This is part of the Lower Colorado River Authority's request through the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to establish an emergency drought relief amendment for an unprecedented second year in a row.

The amount of water flowing into the Highland Lakes, called inflows, was the lowest on record in 2011 and the fifth lowest on record in 2012, according to the LCRA.

LCRA board member Scott Arbuckle said the emergency amendment will not change LCRA's water management plan. It is not a permanent resolution.

"The resolution will expire June 1," he said. "And it will always require board action."

Wharton County AgriL-ife Extension Agent Cor-rie Bowen said local rice production has dropped to about half of what is was before the LCRA amendment.

'We had about 27,000 total irrigated acres of rice in 2012," he said.

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Original Publication Date: February 28, 2013

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