Washington County Emergency Medical Service soon will purchase a new swift-water rescue boat thanks to an $18,500 community development grant from the Lower Colorado River Authority and Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative.

The grant, along with about $6,500 in local matching funds, will allow the department to purchase a new water rescue boat, motor, trailer and rescue accessories.

“Our original water rescue boat was purchased over eight years ago and was recently deemed non-certifiable as a rescue watercraft,” said Kevin Deramus, Washington County EMS director. “This grant will allow us to continue the water rescue program and use the ‘retired boat’ as a training vessel, which will extend the life of the new watercraft.”

Washington County has more than 90 miles of lake and river shoreline. In 2007, Washington County EMS formed a special operations division trained for swift-water rescues and purchased its first rescue watercraft to help respond to the increasing number of emergencies on the water. The team also joined Texas Task Force 1, a highly trained urban search-and-rescue team, as a responding member. Since then, the team has logged more than 4,000 hours of training, completed more than 250 missions and saved dozens of lives. In May 2016, Washington County EMS rescued 54 victims from swift and rising water after Washington County received 23 inches of rain in 18 hours.

“This is not a program that is being developed in hopes it could one day save lives or benefit a community,” Deramus said. “This is a well-established, proven program that has and will continue to save lives across this state.”

LCRA and Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative representatives present an $18,500 grant to the Washington County EMS for a new swift-water rescue boat. The grant is part of LCRA’s Community Development Partnership Program. Pictured, front row from left to right, are: P.J. Ellison, LCRA Board member; Lori A. Berger, LCRA Board member; Ben Flencher, Bluebonnet board chair; Kenneth Mutscher, Bluebonnet board vice chair; Phil Wilson, LCRA general manager; Hondo Powell, Bluebonnet chief of staff; and Johnny Sanders, Bluebonnet representative. Back row, from left to right: Clint Harp, LCRA chief of staff; John Brieden, Washington County judge; Kevin Deramus, Washington County EMS director; and Robert Mikeska, Bluebonnet director.

LCRA General Manager Phil Wilson applauds the team’s efforts.

“As a water manager in the middle of Flash Flood Alley, we at LCRA understand the power of water and how quickly flash flooding can strike,” Wilson said. “During a water emergency, every second of response time is critical, and we are pleased to help provide a boat to enable Washington County EMS to continue its water rescue efforts. The team’s dedication is inspirational, and we are proud to help a community doing so much to keep its residents safe.”

Washington County EMS serves 700 square miles of mostly rural Texas and more than 200,000 people. The special operations team not only serves Washington County, but also all of its neighboring counties and the entire state as a member of the Texas Task Force 1 water rescue division.

The community grant is one of a number of grants recently awarded through LCRA’s Community Development Partnership Program. The program provides economic development and community assistance grants to cities, counties, volunteer fire departments, regional development councils and other nonprofit organizations in LCRA’s wholesale electric and water service areas. The program is part of LCRA’s effort to give back to the communities it serves. Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative is one of LCRA’s wholesale electric customers and a partner in the grant program.

Applications for the next round of grants are due Jan. 31. More information is available at

About LCRA
The Lower Colorado River Authority serves customers and communities throughout Texas by managing the lower Colorado River; generating and transmitting electric power; providing 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. LCRA and its employees are committed to enhancing the lives of Texans through water stewardship, energy and community services. LCRA was created by the Texas Legislature in 1934. For more information, visit

About Bluebonnet
Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative is one of the largest electric cooperatives in Texas and has been serving its members since 1939. Bluebonnet serves nearly 95,000 meters and owns and maintains more than 11,000 miles of power lines, located across more than 3,800 square miles within 14 Central Texas counties. Bluebonnet’s service area stretches from Travis County to Washington County, and from Milam County to Gonzales County. For more information about Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative, go to  and follow the co-op on Facebook and Twitter.

Story and photo courtesy of LCRA

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