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Rains Aren't Expected To Save Struggling Texas Rice Farmers
Record-breaking drought conditions have taken a toll on Lakes Travis and Buchanan. The Lower Colorado River Authority says the lakes are currently only 41 percent full. And with the bulk of rain expected to fall east of I-35, the LCRA doesn't expect the water levels to increase at all.
By Tuesday night, not much rain water had accumulated on the ground. Central Texas lakes remain low and dry. Rainfall in Texas is more than 16 inches below normal.
"I've never seen a point where we didn't have water, enough to plant rice," said Harold Ross.
Harold Ross' company dries the rice grown by farmers around Eagle Lake. He's had to lay off 11 employees due to the drought.
"Because of the water, we haven't had the rains up north of Austin to put water in the lakes, and when the lakes are at a certain level, they won't allow us to get water," said Ross.
"They" are the LCRA. Tuesday afternoon, the board of directors voted to deny requests to send more water downstream to rice farmers, citing record-breaking drought conditions. Central Texas lakes supply the drinking water to cities - like Austin and Round Rock.
In a statement released to KEYE TV, the LCRA says:
"We welcome all the rain we can get but it doesn't look like this rain event will be a drought buster. The soil is so dry that it's possible that a lot of the rain that falls will soak in rather than run off into the lake."
Leaving rice drying plant workers, like Norris Powell, with nothing left to do but trust in God.
"We just have to pray, and pray that god will send the rains," said Powell.
State forecasters expect the drought to last until at least march. Meanwhile, many rice farmers are surviving on crop insurance. But they don't expect to get it for a third straight year.
By Alex Boyer