Bad Ideas: LCRA Defies the Texas Open Records Law

The Lower Colorado River Authority, the largest water and power supplier in Central Texas, has authoritatively said NO to releasing data backing their claim that a $255 million reservoir it is building in southeast Texas won’t reduce freshwater flows into Matagorda Bay enough to hurt aquatic life. That’s right. Aquatic life that is essential for a healthy ecosystem and economic viability of an important region along the Texas Gulf Coast.

Here’s what happened: The Matagorda Bay Foundation simply asked for the information. LCRA says its perfectly within their right not to.

There could be some simple assumptions made here. Just ask Jim Blackburn, the president of the Matagorda Bay Foundation.  “I’m drawing an inference that there is harm to Matagorda (Bay) from their refusal to provide the modeling. I don’t know if it’s true or not, but I certainly think it.”

Lane City Reservoir

Lane City Reservoir

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Here are my thoughts on when scientific data, especially during these fragile times for our natural environment and livelihoods, is blatantly hoarded and not released to the public:

  1. Data-driven decisions, whether at a governmental or community level, is effectively disrupted and undermines the accountability and transparency of projects funded by tax payers.
  2. As drought and floods plague Texas, data that drive better decisions is essential. Any data withheld due to an organization’s insecurity of public opinion is dangerous.
  3. River authorities are vital to Texas’ future economic health. As water becomes scarce and turf wars increase, the only driver for good policy is sound data. Don’t hoard it!

Sachin Shah