LCRA Historical Timeline - 1890s to Present

The Lower Colorado River Authority serves customers and communities throughout Texas by managing the lower Colorado River; generating, delivering and transmitting electric power; ensuring a clean, reliable water supply; and offering access to nature at more than 40 parks, recreation areas and river access sites along the Texas Colorado River, from the Hill Country to the Gulf Coast. In the years since the Texas Legislature created LCRA in 1934, it brought electricity to rural Central Texas and managed numerous floods and droughts. LCRA’s timeline uses archival photos and videos to provide a look into the work that shaped a public service organization and transformed the Hill Country and lower Colorado River basin.

1893-01-01 00:00:00

1893 – City of Austin builds Austin Dam

The City of Austin builds the first significant dam on the lower Colorado River in 1893.

1932-01-01 00:00:00

1932 – Bankruptcy leaves a half-built dam

In 1931, a subsidiary of the nationwide Insull utility company begins constructing the most ambitious dam project to date on the Colorado. Insull’s bankruptcy the following year will lead to plans to finish what would become Buchanan Dam – sowing the seeds for the eventual creation of LCRA.

1932-07-01 00:00:00

1932 – Blind Man's Vision

After the Insull utility company’s bankruptcy in 1932, the only available option to finish Buchanan Dam is federal funds that can go only to a public agency. The state’s power brokers spend more than a year wrangling funding before creating the Lower Colorado River Authority in November 1934.

1934-07-01 00:00:00

1934 – Gov. Miriam “Ma” Ferguson signs bill creating LCRA

Governor Miriam A. “Ma” Ferguson brokers the deal that enables passage of legislation creating LCRA during the fourth special session of the Texas Legislature. She signs the bill shortly after it passes Nov. 10, 1934. This photo of Ferguson, courtesy of the Austin History Center, shows a similar signing session.

1935-01-01 00:00:00

1935 – LCRA opens for business

In this 1995 interview, Gaynelle King, one of LCRA’s first employees, describes working at LCRA.

1935-02-01 00:00:00

1935 – Jobs at Buchanan Dam

In the mid-1930s, Central Texas was feeling the pain of the Great Depression. In this 1980s interview, LCRA’s R.A. Lucksinger describes the intense interest from jobseekers who learned LCRA was hiring construction workers at Buchanan Dam.

1935-02-01 00:00:00

1935 – LCRA's public power program

This segment from an LCRA 60th anniversary video in 1995 explains the impact of LCRA on the lower Colorado River basin and Central Texas area – and the appeal of reliable public power to rural residents.

1935-02-01 00:00:00

1935 – The LCRA seal

This video segment from the mid-1990s explains the meaning of the original LCRA seal designed in 1935.

1935-02-01 00:00:00

1935 – General Manager Clarence McDonough

Clarence McDonough becomes LCRA’s first general manager in September 1935. With a background as an engineer for the Tennessee Valley Authority, McDonough oversees LCRA’s initial construction phase, which includes completion of Buchanan, Inks and Tom Miller dams, the start of Mansfield Dam, and the beginning of LCRA’s electric transmission system.

1936-01-01 00:00:00

1936 – LCRA’s hydroelectricity campaign

LCRA offers to serve Central Texas communities with lower-cost electricity if they buy their local utility systems and switch to LCRA. By 1941, 16 communities have done so. The deal is a win for LCRA, which finds a market to sell power from its dams; a win for communities, which gain additional revenue by operating their own utilities; and a win for residents, many of whom see electric bills drop by almost half.

1936-01-01 00:00:00

1936 – LCRA's first major test

The Colorado River basin endures massive floods in the 1930s, including a 1935 flood that sweeps through downtown Austin. LCRA was still securing federal funding to resume construction of Buchanan Dam when the June 1935 flood struck the lower Colorado River basin.

1937-01-01 00:00:00

1937 – LCRA and Lyndon B. Johnson

Alvin Wirtz, LCRA’s general counsel, received help from Lyndon B. Johnson in the early 1930s, when Johnson was a congressional aide. After U.S. Rep. James P. Buchanan died in 1937, Lyndon B. Johnson wins a hotly contested election to succeed him. His main campaign promise: use electricity from LCRA dams to bring electricity to rural Central Texas.

1940-01-01 00:00:00

1940 – General Manager Max Starcke

Max Starcke becomes LCRA’s second general manager in May 1940. He receives letters asking about boating, picnicking and other activities at the reservoirs created by the LCRA dams, so he works with state and federal agencies to develop a marketing plan. The 1941 report recommends naming the chain “The Highland Lakes” to help promote their recreational potential. Starcke also develops LCRA’s public power program that puts LCRA in the business of providing electricity to much of Central and South Texas.

1940-07-01 00:00:00

1940 – The Highland Lakes take shape

By 1940, four LCRA dams – Buchanan, Inks, Mansfield and Tom Miller – are built or under construction, forming four reservoirs on the Colorado River.

1945-08-01 00:00:00

1945 – First Lake Austin lowering for vegetation control

LCRA lowers Lake Austin in August 1945 for the first time to control the growth of nuisance aquatic plants, popularly known as duckweed.

1947-01-01 00:00:00

1947 – Soil conservation

Under Lyndon B. Johnson’s strong urging, LCRA launches the nation’s first locally sponsored soil conservation program.

1947-08-01 00:00:00

1947 – Comal Power Plant

In 1947, LCRA acquires its first nonhydroelectric generation source, the Comal Power Plant, to meet its customers’ growing demands for electricity.

1950-01-01 00:00:00

1950 – LCRA builds transmission lines

This silent color movie documents LCRA’s construction of “Line 17” in the 1950s.

1951-03-01 00:00:00

1951 – LCRA completes Highland Lakes chain

LCRA completes the Highland Lakes chain during what will later become known as the decade-long “Drought of Record” that dropped lakes Travis and Buchanan to their all-time low elevations.

1951-07-01 00:00:00

1951 – The day LCRA dynamites a dam

As LCRA nears completion in July 1951 of what are today Wirtz and Starcke dams, it has to remove what would have been a major obstruction in the new Lake Marble Falls – the old Marble Falls Dam. The detonation turns into a field day for local residents and area visitors.

1951-08-01 00:00:00

1951 – Record-breaking drought

During the Drought of Record, the Colorado River basin is parched by the effects of the decade-long drought.

1955-08-01 00:00:00

1955 – Promoting the Highland Lakes

The conclusion of World War II allows LCRA and local communities to resume plans for promoting the Highland Lakes’ recreational potential.

1956-07-01 00:00:00

1956 – General Manager Sim Gideon

In 1956, Sim Gideon becomes LCRA’s third general manager. With a tenure of more than 17 years, Gideon is LCRA’s longest-serving general manager. He oversees a period of rapid growth in customer demand for electricity and LCRA’s response to meet those needs through construction of the Sim Gideon and Thomas C. Ferguson power plants, and expansion of its transmission network. He also increases LCRA’s water rights by acquiring the Gulf Coast Water Company.

1957-01-01 00:00:00

1957 – Floods end decade-long drought

On the Colorado, floods push Lake Travis well above full elevation, forcing LCRA to open floodgates at Mansfield Dam for the first time as part of flood-management operations. LCRA opens as many as six floodgates at Mansfield Dam – still a record.

1959-01-01 00:00:00

1959 – Gulf Coast Water Company

The drought prompts LCRA to look for additional water sources to meet projected population and industrial growth. After several years of negotiation, LCRA purchases the Gulf Coast Water Company in Bay City, which serves coastal rice farmers with irrigation water.

1965-03-01 00:00:00

1965 – Growing demand for electricity

This LCRA silent color movie documents the arrival of the Sim Gideon Power Plant’s Unit 1 steam drum at the plant site.

1965-11-01 00:00:00

1965 – Sim Gideon Power Plant

In the mid-1960s, LCRA builds Unit 1 of Sim Gideon Power Plant in Bastrop County. It is the first nonhydroelectric power plant built by LCRA.

1974-03-01 00:00:00

1974 – The "Energy Crisis" affects Central Texas

By 1974, the rising cost and unreliable supply of natural gas angers electric customers and forces LCRA to turn to coal as a lower-cost fuel source for its next power plant, the Fayette Power Project.

1974-03-01 00:00:00

1973 – General Manager Charles Herring

Charles Herring’s becomes LCRA’s fourth general manager in 1973. His first day on the job is marked by a total curtailment of natural gas to LCRA’s power plants. Herring and staff scramble to arrange for alternate fuel supplies to keep the plants running. Under Herring, LCRA expands its power generation to include the Fayette Power Project, focuses on energy conservation measures in response to rising energy prices, begins inspecting septic systems along the Highland Lakes, and revives a dormant parks operation.

1981-03-01 00:00:00

1981 – General Manager Elof Soderberg

In 1981, Elof Soderberg becomes LCRA’s fifth general manager. He started as a mail clerk at LCRA in the 1940s and worked his way to the top. Under Soderberg, LCRA expands its operations in water planning and quality as well as its energy and water conservation education programs. It also begins constructing a third generating unit at the Fayette Power Project with a controversial plan to use locally mined lignite as fuel – a plan that does not come to pass.

1983-04-01 00:00:00

1983 – Environmental challenges

The Austin area’s rapid growth takes a toll on water quality and other natural resources in the lower Colorado River basin by the early 1980s. LCRA responds with water quality monitoring and conservation programs, including trash collections along the Highland Lakes, as part of efforts to clean up the Colorado River and help protect the basin’s natural resources.

1986-07-01 00:00:00

1986 – General Manager S. David Freeman

S. David Freeman, former chair of the Tennessee Valley Authority, succeeded Soderberg as LCRA’s sixth general manager in 1986. He expands and accelerates LCRA’s environmental operations to make LCRA more of a major player with state agencies and basin communities in cleaning up or preventing much of the pollution that threatens the Highland Lakes and lower Colorado River. LCRA also abandons its plans to mine lignite for its new Fayette Power Project unit, using western coal instead.

1989-01-01 00:00:00

1989 –State-approved Water Management Plan

The state approves LCRA’s Water Management Plan, which governs LCRA's operation of the Highland Lakes to meet the needs of major water users throughout the lower Colorado River basin. The plan is the only one of its kind for any river basin in Texas.

1990-07-01 00:00:00

1990 – General Manager Mark Rose

Mark Rose becomes LCRA’s seventh general manager in 1990. Under the guidance of Rose, LCRA shapes its operations and programs to be more responsive to customer needs. He implements a freeze on wholesale electric rates that will last more than a decade and prepare LCRA’s electric business for competition and other changes in the electric utility market. LCRA will expand its water-utility and community service operations and acquire the last privately held blocks of water rights in the Colorado River. Rose will increase greatly public access to the Colorado River and Highland Lakes by expanding LCRA parks and creating the Colorado River Trail.

1991-12-01 00:00:00

1991 – The “Christmas Flood”

The “Christmas flood” of 1991 raises Lake Travis to its all-time high elevation, creating flooding throughout the lower Colorado River basin – and will began a decade of significant floods that changes how LCRA responds to floods. LCRA also continues to plan for the basin’s long-term water needs. (LCRA Corporate Archives, W00902)

1991-12-31 00:00:00

1991 – Increasing public access to the Colorado

LCRA begins expanding its parks system in 1991 with the addition of White Rock Park in Fayette County and Beason’s Park in Colorado County. (LCRA Corporate Archives, MI161702)

1992-01-13 07:30:00

1992 – The Colorado River Trail

The Colorado River Trail promotes LCRA’s parks system and community activities that help folks enjoy the Highland Lakes and Colorado River.

1993-07-01 00:00:00

1993 – The Great Colorado River Canoe Challenge

By 1993, the lower Colorado River is once again safe for contact recreation. LCRA moves to make the river and Highland Lakes more accessible to the public through creating or upgrading more than 40 LCRA parks and access points. Today, the parks system includes three nature parks specially designed to reflect the Colorado River basin’s natural habitat and provide learning opportunities about the river and its environment.

1995-07-01 00:00:00

1995 – Wind power

LCRA becomes the first utility in Texas to buy and use wind-generated electric power – furthering LCRA’s commitment as an environmental steward and beginning a statewide trend in the use of wind and other renewable energy sources. (LCRA Corporate Archives, EU00449)

1997-07-15 00:00:00

1997 – Summer 1997 flood

For many lake and downstream residents, the summer 1997 flood threatens to be a repeat of the Christmas 1991 flood. This “Wavelength” segment highlights scenes from the flood and the response from LCRA’s flood-management team.

1998-07-01 00:00:00

1998 – McKinney Roughs Nature Park

In 1998, LCRA opens its first nature park, McKinney Roughs, a 1,100-acre site on the Colorado River between Austin and Bastrop. The park offers day-use opportunities for hikers and equestrians, as well as a visitors center and natural science programs, including summer youth camps. The nature park’s facilities also are available to rent for special events and occasions. (LCRA Corporate Archives, LR00247)

1998-10-01 00:00:00

1998 – October 1998 flood

The October 1998 flood does greater damage to communities in the adjacent Guadalupe River basin, including Cuero and other communities in LCRA’s electric service area.

1999-01-13 07:30:00

1999 – Canyon of the Eagles Nature Park

In 1999, LCRA opens Canyon of the Eagles Nature Park at Lake Buchanan. Roughly 800 of the park's 940 acres are a nature preserve that is home to a variety of wildlife. This marks the second nature park LCRA opened along the lower Colorado River. (LCRA Corporate Archives, LR00236)

1999-06-01 07:30:00

1999 – LCRA-City of Austin Water Agreement

In 1999, LCRA and the City of Austin announced an agreement to help ensure adequate water supplies for Austin through most of the 21st century. (LCRA Corporate Archives, MI161894)

2000-01-13 07:30:00

2000 – General Manager Joe Beal

Joe Beal, who becomes LCRA’s eighth general manager in 2000, will preside over the “unbundling” of LCRA’s electric generation and transmission operations. He also will work to achieve long-term solutions to ensure adequate water supplies for the lower Colorado River basin through the end of the century.

2000-05-01 07:30:00

2000 – Securing water rights

With its acquisition of Pierce Ranch water rights in May 2000, LCRA secures the last major privately held block of water rights in the lower Colorado River basin.

2000-11-01 07:30:00

2000 – Rain ends severe drought

Following nearly two years of severe drought, heavy rains in November 2000 replenish lakes Travis and Buchanan from 16-year lows and returned LCRA to flood operations. In this video, meteorologist Bob Rose explains the factors that determine when a drought ends.

2001-07-01 00:00:00

2001 – Lost Pines 1 Power Project

In 2001, LCRA begins operating its new Lost Pines 1 Power Project, a natural gas-fired, combined-cycle unit owned by GenTex Power Corporation, an LCRA affiliate. The plant shares the Lost Pines Power Park in Bastrop County with LCRA's Sim Gideon Power Plant.

2002-10-15 07:30:00

2002 – Expanding transmission operations

LCRA Transmission Services Corporation begins operations.

2006-01-13 07:30:00

2006 – Matagorda Bay Nature Park

With the addition of Matagorda Bay Nature Park in 2006, LCRA has nature parks located at the Highland Lakes, the Austin area and the mouth of the Colorado River. The 1,600-acre site also fronts the Gulf of Mexico and is home to one of the nation’s best birding sites.

LCRA Historical Timeline - 1890s to Present

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