By Becky Motal
LCRA General Manager
Many of you know that the Lower Colorado River Authority generates electricity, provides raw water, operates parks and manages the beautiful Highland Lakes. But you may not know about LCRA’s long history of community involvement in the areas we serve.
Maybe you’ve seen a blurb in a local newspaper about an LCRA grant or heard a “thank you” announcement over the public address system at a Little League ballgame. But it may not have registered that an LCRA grant helped buy that new fire truck for the volunteer fire department or helped purchase the lights for the baseball field.
Since 1995, LCRA’s Community Development Partnership Program has awarded 1,244 grants for local projects. That’s more than $21 million in grants for recycling facilities, visitor centers, emergency vehicles and other local needs. And those communities added another $115 million in matching funds for those projects. Working together, LCRA and our community partners have helped improve the quality of life in many corners of our service area.
When Bastrop County needed matching funds to qualify for federal assistance after last year’s wildfires, LCRA was there. Our Board of Directors approved a $5 million grant to be used as matching funds to leverage more federal and state funds. Then-Bastrop County Judge Ronnie McDonald said the grant provided “much-needed hope and faith in the future of our community.”
We don’t just invest in our communities financially. We also invest in relationships to improve communication between LCRA and those we serve. Our Regional Councils, for instance, are local volunteers from around the lower Colorado River basin who provide an important link between LCRA and our communities. Regional Council members give us insight into local interests and share information from LCRA with local leaders and others who are interested in LCRA matters.
We work to build relationships in many ways. LCRA hosts an annual workshop with county judges from across the service area to share information about LCRA operations and listen to what the judges have to say to us about their local issues and challenges. It’s always informative to hear directly from them. We learn a lot that way.
After a recent County Judges Workshop, Milam County Judge Dave Barkemeyer remarked that “the LCRA’s of the world must be concerned about the local interests of the rural areas where the water exists.” It was an interesting observation, and one that I took to heart. Water is a statewide issue in Texas, of course, but it’s also about as local as it gets.
At LCRA, we care about local issues. That’s why we have a staff whose jobs are to work directly with community leaders. Those employees don’t spend a lot of time in the office. They’re out in the field finding out what’s important in the communities they work in, getting a handle on local concerns. At the County Judges Workshop, Wharton County Judge Phillip Spenrath said that “LCRA has been such a great member of our community. They’ve contributed in so many ways.”
I loved hearing that. We don’t invest our time, money and resources in our service area as an afterthought. It’s a vital aspect of what we do at LCRA. We want LCRA to be more than just a source of water and power. We want it to be a partner in our communities, to help them grow and prosper.
LCRA is a nonprofit with a mission that includes community service. We want to be a good neighbor, an effective partner, and a source of pride. Community service has long been an important part of LCRA, and we intend to keep it that way.