Uncertain future for Walter E. Long Lake

Rick Link said he's been coming to Walter E. Long Lake for the past year and a half.  And the fishing is great.

"Well, we're fishing for black bass, large-mouth bass so we can catch 2, 3, 4 pounders for myself but I know guys who have caught 6 plus pounders maybe 10," said Link.

Link said he heard rumors of the lake's ambiguous future and did some research.

"I was only concerned, wondering if they were going to drain the lake...I didn't know if the lake was going to go away entirely that was my biggest concern," Link said.  

Link is not alone in the community wondering about the lake's untimely demise.  So we reached out to Austin Energy to explain.

Don't worry, they say there are no plans to get rid of the lake.  It just might end up having some new caretakers.

According to Austin Energy's "Resource, Generation and Climate Protection Plan to 2027," the goal is to start retiring the two old steam units at the Decker Creek Power Station starting in 2020.  

Cyrus Reed, Conservation Director with the Lonestar chapter of the Sierra Club explains.

"Honestly we don't use them that much, we only use them a little in the summer when demand goes high.  And so the idea is by transitioning to other forms of energy we're not going to need them anymore.  And they're pretty inefficient.  They're old," Reed said.

Austin Energy said they'll be working with other city departments to figure out how to transition management of the lake after retiring the steam units two years from now.

"Our understanding is that once Austin Energy stops needing the water for their steam units or for the cooling of those plants that it could potentially be turned over to another department.  The most obvious would be Austin Water.  Austin Water could then utilize the water as part of water planning," Reed said. 

Austin Energy also pointed out that Lady Bird Lake was created as a cooling pond for the Holly Street Power Plant which is now closed.  They said management of that lake moved to Austin Water.  

So we reached out to Austin Water to see if they are considering taking over the lake.  A spokesperson there said at the moment, they haven't been a part of that conversation.

"My hope would be that it remains pretty much the way we see it today, it's got a great shoreline," said Link.  

"I don't foresee the lake ever going away.  I would think the community would want to maintain it.  But I would encourage all citizens to always be in touch with City Council, always make their views be known because that's the way we make policy in our democratic city," Reed said.

Austin Energy told Fox 7 Monday they also maintain the dam at Walter E. Long as well as the pipe and pumps that bring in water from the Colorado as needed.
Austin Energy officials said what departments take over that responsibility is still to be determined but again pointed out that Austin Water assumed responsibility for Longhorn Dam after the Holly Plant closure.