The Lower Colorado River Authority named Ross Phillips its interim general manager on Wednesday. Phillips joined the agency as a computer programmer in 1990 and has worked primarily on the electric side of the agency's business. He replaces Becky Motal, who is retiring at the end of this year. 

The LCRA said it is still searching for a permanent replacement for Motal, who has worked at the LCRA for 27 years. "This is an important job, and the search for the right candidate shouldn't be rushed," said the agency's board chairman, Tim Timmerman. 

Phillips will take over at one of the most turbulent times in the LCRA's history. After an emotional meeting Tuesday, the board voted 8-7 on a drought plan that will likely cut off irrigation water to coastal rice farmers — who are among the agency's oldest customers — for the third year in a row.

The decision on the drought plan was met with criticism from all sides. Public officials from coastal counties that grow rice said it could devastate their economies, while environmental advocates said the plan didn't leave enough room for the freshwater needs of wildlife in the river downstream from Austin. And, some critics from Central Texas said the LCRA should have further limited water to the rice farmers. 

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Motal promoted Phillips to deputy manager of LCRA in April. Before then, he served for 13 years as executive manager of the agency's transmission services division, which handles a large network of transmission lines and power substations. 

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