Texas Hill Country Water Summit Promoting awareness of the precious water resources of the Texas Hill Country. Discussion of strategies for short and long term challenges. Click here for the Flyer... Click here for the Agenda... Friday, December 5, 2014, 8 AM to 5 PM GVTC Auditorium 36101 FM 3159 Smithson Valley, TX 78070 $25.00 Registration fee, including lunch. Registration deadline is November 21, 2014. Seating is limited. Registration fees are non-refundable...
Friday, December 5, 2014, 8 AM to 5 PM GVTC Auditorium 36101 FM 3159 Smithson Valley, TX 78070 $25.00 Registration fee, including lunch. Registration deadline is November 21, 2014. Seating is limited. Registration fees are non-refundable.
By Drew Joseph October 9, 2014 | Updated: October 10, 2014 1:56pmBilly Calzada / San Antonio Express-News SAN ANTONIO — After more than a year of cobbling together a deal, a group of public officials and private organizations will buy 1,500 acres near Bracken Cave, the seasonal home for millions of bats, and prevent any future development there, officials said.
Galo Properties has agreed to sell the land for $20.5 million, said San Antonio Councilman Ron Nirenberg, who has been spearheading the effort...
October 9, 2014 | Updated: October 10, 2014 1:56pm
Billy Calzada / San Antonio Express-News
SAN ANTONIO — After more than a year of cobbling together a deal, a group of public officials and private organizations will buy 1,500 acres near Bracken Cave, the seasonal home for millions of bats, and prevent any future development there, officials said.
Galo Properties has agreed to sell the land for $20.5 million, said San Antonio Councilman Ron Nirenberg, who has been spearheading the effort. More than $15 million has been lined up so far, although final approval still is needed for some of the money.
“It just took persistence, because when people realized what this was all about, it was just a matter of figuring out how we could pool our resources,” Nirenberg said.
The property, when combined with an adjacent parcel north of San Antonio purchased through a similar deal in 2011, creates about 2,800 acres of land preserved in the past three years that supporters of the deal say will protect the bats, their cave, endangered golden-cheeked warblers and San Antonio's water supply.
The funding for the new deal comes in part from Bat Conservation International and the Nature Conservancy, which will jointly own and manage the property and together have raised $5 million.
The City Council will vote Thursday to allocate $5 million from the city's aquifer protection fund for the property, which is in the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone. That money, known as Prop. 1 funding, comes from a 1/8th-cent sales tax approved by voters.
Nirenberg, who represents a Northwest Side district, said he's confident the council will approve the funding.
And a developer, Forestar Group, is putting in $5 million in return for credits that will allow it to have denser development elsewhere or that it can sell to other developers.
BCI, which owns Bracken Cave, and the conservancy are responsible for raising the rest of the money. The conservancy also took out a loan so the group could finalize the deal, which is expected to close on Halloween.
Andrew Walker, executive director of BCI, said the coalition was not taking anything for granted before all the money was in place. But he added that “it feels really good.”
The property sits just south of Bracken Cave, where millions of female bats come from Mexico every spring to give birth and rear their pups before flying south in the fall.
Negotiations over the land, which is in unincorporated Comal County and in San Antonio's extraterritorial jurisdiction, have become enmeshed with a larger discussion about how to balance conservation as the region grows.
Galo had proposed building a subdivision with more than 2,500 homes on the parcel.
Opponents of development argued the property is a vital foraging area for young bats learning to fly and that the cave itself is particularly vulnerable because it serves as a nursery.
They also raised concerns about the possible consequences of a new residential development under the flight path of so many bats, saying potential rabies cases could lead people to turn against the bats and bat conservation generally.
Supporters of development have pointed out that bats and people coexist in other places and argued that BCI's estimate that more than 10 million bats use the cave — the group says it's the largest colony in the world — could be overstated.
Besides voting whether to spend the $5 million in Prop. 1 funding at its meeting Thursday, the City Council would have to approve measures related to Forestar's contribution.
Pending the council vote, Forestar will get 86 acres worth of impervious cover credits in exchange for its $5 million, city documents show. Up to half of those could be used at Forestar's Cibolo Canyons development, allowing for denser building there.
The San Antonio Water System also has to approve the transfer of the impervious cover credits. Neither Galo nor Forestar responded to requests for comment.
Other agencies that have committed or intend to give to the conservancy to help it complete the purchase of the land include Bexar County, the Edwards Aquifer Authority and the U.S. Army. Bexar County and the EAA are expected to contribute $500,000 each, while the Army will provide about $100,000, officials said.
The Army's interest lies not with the bats, but with birds. It's concerned development in the area could push the endangered warblers to Camp Bullis, making it harder to use it for training.
In 2011, Bexar County spent $5 million to buy more than 1,200 acres adjacent to the property now in question to create a preserve for the warblers. The Army pitched in $2 million, and Forestar also was involved.
The latest deal to buy the 1,500 acres from Galo almost fell through several times, most notably when a Dallas-based land investment manager, Stratford Land, announced it had plans to buy the land in December 2013. But it backed out for unexplained reasons.
Throughout the process, proposals to either buy a portion of the property or try to negotiate a deal so development would be limited were discussed, especially because it was taking so long to get money in line for the whole parcel.
But people involved with the purchase said the deal to buy the land reflected what can happen when different groups have the same goal.
“This is just a terrific example of partners coming together, working hard on a very complicated conservation deal,” said Laura Huffman, state director of the Nature Conservancy, noting that the land was too expensive for any one group to buy.
Nirenberg added that he hopes the purchase will be a model for addressing regional challenges. “A regionally collaborative solution ... what a great story to tell for ... the state of Texas,” he said.
Join us this Saturday for the 5th Annual Rainwater Revival, 10:00am to 4:00pm in Dripping Springs. The 5th Annual Rainwater Revival is almost here! Join us this Saturday for a full day of education, entertainment and celebration.The Rainwater Revival is a day long edu-fest where you can learn all about rainwater harvesting and water conservation from expert speakers, get advice and services from knowledgeable exhibitors, enjoy local treats and live music, and let the little ones create and learn at the Raindrop Stop...
Join us this Saturday for the 5th Annual Rainwater Revival, 10:00am to 4:00pm in Dripping Springs.
The 5th Annual Rainwater Revival is almost here! Join us this Saturday for a full day of education, entertainment and celebration.
The Rainwater Revival is a day long edu-fest where you can learn all about rainwater harvesting and water conservation from expert speakers, get advice and services from knowledgeable exhibitors, enjoy local treats and live music, and let the little ones create and learn at the Raindrop Stop.
Saturday's Rainwater Revival is also your last opportunity to view and bid on your favorite custom-painted rain barrels in this year's RainBarrel Art Auction. Bidding has already begun at www.rainbarrelauction.com. Proceeds from the auction will fund grants for Hill Country Schools to be used for rainwater harvesting projects and water conservation education. You can also make a donation toward this worthy cause by visiting the auction site.
The Rainwater Revival will be on come rain or shine. We hope to see you there!
Texas Sees Significant Decline in Rural Landby Marcos Vanetta and Neena SatijaOctober 3, 2014
The vast majority of Texas land — 83 percent — is part of a farm, ranch or forest. But Texas is losing such rural land more than any other state, in large part because of the exploding growth of metropolitan areas, according to newly released data...
The vast majority of Texas land — 83 percent — is part of a farm, ranch or forest. But Texas is losing such rural land more than any other state, in large part because of the exploding growth of metropolitan areas, according to newly released data.
Scientists say that has serious implications for Texas' water supply because such acreage — known as "working lands" or "open space" lands — helps the state retain water resources by letting rain infiltrate the ground and circulate into aquifers.
The map below shows the results of the latest Texas A&M Institute of Renewable Natural Resources survey on land trends, which is performed every five years. According to the survey, Texas lost about 1 million acres of open space lands between 1997 and 2012. Click on a county in the map below to see how its open space acreage has changed.
A majority of the land loss happened in the growing urban areas around Austin, San Antonio, Dallas and Houston.
“Those lands are basically providing a public benefit in terms of water storage” and aquifer recharge, said Roel Lopez, director of the A&M institute and a co-author of the survey. “A good pastureland is like a sponge, versus a parking lot, which is actually like a rock. That rain just runs off, and it’s hard to capture it.”
At the same time, the market value of land is increasing in almost every Texas county, but it’s increasing the most in the booming metropolitan areas. Travis County, for example, lost almost a quarter of its open space while land gained an average of $8,297 per acre in value between 1997 and 2012. Click on a county in the map below to see the changes in market value.
In Texas, where more than 95 percent of land is privately owned, there are unique challenges for the conservation of open space lands. As land gets more expensive, those who own open spaces will have more of an incentive to sell their acres to developers. And governments trying to conserve land by buying up open spaces will have to spend more money to do so.
Disclosure: Texas A&M University is a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.
The October 2014 Aquifer Bulletin is now available. Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District staff have collaborated to put together a wide range of articles dealing with hot topics these days. Topics include: Summer Groundwater Roller CoasterDiscussion of unusual in-and-out of drought declarations this summer.Permitting SummarySummary of Mar-Sept 2014 permits.From the GM’s DeskDiscussion of Legislative groundwater activity and possible impact of proposed bills.Wells & Seller’s Disclosure NoticeChanges made to inform buyers, sellers, and realtors for properties with wells.Updated Hydro ZonesA new look at all areas that influence the Barton Springs segment of the Edwards...
Our Work Visit the Ceres website to learn more about our work Valuing Every Drop.
Ceres' water initiatives focus on three key sectors - water utilities, oil and gas, and agriculture. Together, these sectors are responsible for more than 90% of water consumption in the United States...
Ceres' water initiatives focus on three key sectors - water utilities, oil and gas, and agriculture. Together, these sectors are responsible for more than 90% of water consumption in the United States.
Bond Financing Distributed Water Systems Across the U.S., communities are planning major investments in water conservation and green stormwater infrastructure to manage droughts and floods. While these distributed approaches to managing water are often more cost-effective than building new reservoirs, pipelines, tunnels and treatment plants, figuring out how to fund them is challenged by old financing structures. With limited cash available for distributed water solutions, it is no surprise that these types of investments struggle to keep pace with debt-financed centralized infrastructure. This report asks the question, can we learn from U.S. cities how to make better use of the bond market to finance distributed infrastructure? Read the report. Measuring and Mitigating Water Revenue Variability As water utilities across North America look to finance the replacement and expansion of outdated water delivery systems, the need for confident revenue projections grows. This report examines real financial and water use data from three North American water utilities to demonstrate how rate structures can mitigate or intensify revenue variability. It also introduces alternative financial and pricing strategies that can assist water utilities in stabilizing revenue without compromising their commitment to water conservation. Read the report.
Dear friends, Last month 400,000 people - including representatives of the world's largest companies and financial firms - came together in New York City to march and raise their voices in support of climate action. Climate change is poised to affect every aspect of our economy and our lives - including the vital water supplies we all depend on. At Ceres, we are working to elevate the voice of businesses and investors in support of tackling climate change and protecting freshwater for the future. Increasingly, this means grappling with the trade-offs posed by the growing collision between energy development and strained water supplies. It means moving away from water utility revenue models that emphasize ever-increasing water sales in times of intensifying droughts. It means identifying ways for farmers who supply major food companies to irrigate their fields with less water while also saving energy. I believe that we are making progress on all these fronts. Although there is still much to do, with your partnership we can build an economy that is truly sustainable. Sincerely,
Brooke Barton Water Program Director Ceres
News & Updates
Examining Water Risks as Hydraulic Fracturing Goes Global Over 3,600 scientists, government representatives and businesses people from 140 countries came together last month at World Water Week in Stockholm to find solutions to the growing conflict between our energy and water demands. Ceres' Monika Freyman presented insights on water supply risks in regions of significant hydraulic fracturing and highlighted relevant lessons learned from the U.S. as shale energy development is poised to go global. Watch a video of the session.
Amidst Devastating Drought, California Companies Take Action It's in the news and on the minds of many - the ongoing drought in California, now entering its fourth year. In the face of growing water constraints, some California companies are advancing innovative solutions for reducing water use and stewarding resources for the future success of their businesses, communities and natural systems:
PG&E is helping Central Valley farmers reduce their water and electricity use at the same time - saving both resources and money;
Driscoll's Berries has partnered with local landowners, farmers and government agencies to help solve the Pajaro Valley's groundwater crisis;
KB Home is building "Double Zero" homes in Antelope Valley that are both energy and water efficient, using less than half the water of an average home;
Campbell's, which processes 14 million pounds of tomatoes every day at its plant in Dixon, California, is working with local farmers to reduce water use by 20% per pound of tomato by 2020.
Save the Date: Ceres' 2015 Conference May 13-14, 2015 San Francisco, CA Join us at the annual Ceres Conference next May 13-14 at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco. Each year the conference brings together more than 600 corporate sustainability leaders, the country's largest institutional investors, and leading social and environmental advocates to mobilize action on the world's most significant sustainability challenges, including water. Registration opens in December.
Scaling Up Distributed Water Solutions Wednesday, November 5 2:00-3:00 pm ET Cities from Philadelphia to Los Angeles are planning to spend billions of dollars on distributed water projects - including landscaping irrigation retrofits, stormwater infiltration and water-efficient building systems - to augment their water supplies and help them meet clean water mandates. This webinar explores how some of the largest U.S. cities are using bonds to fund distributed infrastructure. Learn more and register here. Wait, you missed it? Explore Ceres' Agricultural Stranded Assets webinar In September, Ceres hosted a webinar on the Environmental Drivers of Stranded Assets and Volatility in Agricultural Markets with guest speakers from the Smith School of Enterprise and GMO Renewable Resources. Download the presentation here.
Ceres is an advocate for sustainability leadership that mobilizes a powerful network of investors, companies and public interest groups to build a sustainable global economy.
Ceres is a non-profit organization. All gifts are tax deductible. Ceres has received high ratings from charity watchdog groups, a reflection of our effectiveness, integrity and impact.
Ceres 99 Chauncy Street, 6th Floor Boston, MA 02111 www.ceres.org
Can Dripping Springs, and developers there, bust out of the 19th century? Or will they choose to remain stuck there. Because, you know, that is a choice they are free to make. It’s a simple proposition, really. If your aim is to maximize use of the water resource we mistakenly call “wastewater” to defray demands on the area’s water supplies, then it just makes sense to design the “waste” water system around that principle...
Or will they choose to remain stuck there. Because, you know, that is a choice they are free to make. It’s a simple proposition, really. If your aim is to maximize use of the water resource we mistakenly call “wastewater” to defray demands on the area’s water supplies, then it just makes sense to design the “waste” water system around that principle. It doesn’t make sense to instead use a large majority of the money dedicated to this function to build a large-scale system of pipes and pump stations focused on making what’s misperceived as a nuisance to go “away”, then to spend even more money on another large-scale system of pipes and pumps to run the reclaimed water back to where it came from in the first place!
That’s the standard MO of our mainstream institutions, like the City of Dripping Springs and the engineers who advise it and developers whose projects would feed into the city’s centralized wastewater system. This centralized management concept was a response to the conditions considered paramount in the 19th century. The industrial revolution was in full force, city populations were exploding, the stuff was littering the streets, creating a stench and a serious threat of epidemic disease. The response was to pipe it “away”, to be deposited in the most conveniently available water body. Later, as it was realized those water bodies were being turned into foul open sewers, creating a threat of disease in downstream cities that withdrew their water supplies from them, treatment at the end of the pipe was considered, and eventually adopted as the standard.
The intellectual leadership of the centralized pipe-it-away strategy was centered in well-watered areas like northern Europe and the northeastern and midwestern areas of the US. So the resource value of that “waste” water was never part of the equation. This water, and the nutrients it contains, was viewed solely and exclusively as a nuisance, to be made to go to that magical place we call “away” – the working definition of which is apparently “no longer noticeable by me.” This centralized pipe-it-away strategy became institutionalized as the manner in which cities manage wastewater. Of course, that strategy flies in the face of the circumstances confronting us here in Central Texas in the 21st century – that water, all water, is a valuable resource which we can no longer afford to so cavalierly waste by addressing it solely and exclusively as if it were just a nuisance, simply because that is what the prevailing mental model dictates. Rather, it’s imperative we practically maximize the resource value of that water, using it to defray demands on the area’s water supplies, which are being stressed by both chronic drought and population growth.
In the Texas Hill Country, we also have an issue with surface discharge of wastewater, even when treated to the highest standards that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) has so far formulated. And before proceeding I’d note that this issue would remain even if the whole system were to operate perfectly all the time. But of course, it will not; there will inevitably be “incidents”. Which brings up the issue of the vulnerability created by centralization. I’ve often said, not entirely tongue-in-cheek, that the real point of regionalization – TCEQ-speak for centralizing flow from as far and wide as can be attained – is to gather all this stuff together at one point where it can really do some damage. Indeed, the whole organizational strategy is a “vulnerability magnet”. Large flows being run through one treatment plant or one lift station or one transmission main means that any mishap may create large impacts.
Back to the issue with discharge in the Hill Country, the major problem is those nutrients in the wastewater, in particular nitrogen. A discharge of the magnitude that an expanded Dripping Springs system would create, centralizing wastewater flow from developments for miles around the city in every direction, would make the receiving stream effluent-dominated. This would be partly an artifact of the drawdown of local aquifers drying up springs and thus reducing natural streamflow – again highlighting how critical it is to defray demands on these local water resources – but in larger part due simply to the magnitude of the wastewater flow. Highlighting the problematic nature of “permitted pollution” when the flow has been centralized so that, even with low concentration limits, the mass loadings may still be “large”. The nitrogen would cause chronic algal blooms in the creeks, making them very green most of the time, and then depleting oxygen in the water when the algae die off, degrading the riparian environment.
This is deemed an aesthetic affront by downstream landowners. But even more critical, the stream that would receive Dripping Springs’ discharge is Onion Creek, a major source of recharge to the Edwards Aquifer. That’s a sole source aquifer supplying water to about 60,000 people and is the source of Barton Springs, which is home to endangered species. So there’s great antipathy to any plan by Dripping Springs to discharge.
The “standard” option is to continue to “land apply” the effluent from its wastewater treatment plant – “irrigating” land for the sole purpose of making the water go “away” rather than to enhance the landscape or grow a cash crop – which the city does under its current permit. This practice is more accurately termed “land dumping”, and in this region, in this time, it is an unconscionable waste of this water resource.
At least discharge would have some utility, providing more constant flow in the creek, enhancing the riparian environment, and a more constant recharge of the Edwards Aquifer. That is, it would have utility if the water were to be treated to a standard that would preclude the “insults” noted above. In regard to nutrients, that is technically possible – albeit unlikely to be required by TCEQ – but it would be quite expensive. Burnet discovered that treating to a higher standard to allow them to discharge into Hamilton Creek, which eventually flows into the Highland Lakes, would add about $10 million to the cost of their treatment plant. But that still won’t attain the high removal rate demanded for discharge into Hill Country creeks that recharge the Edwards Aquifer. But nutrients aren’t all there is to be concerned about. There are also “contaminants of emerging concern” – pharmaceuticals, in particular endocrine disruptors. What it would cost to make discharge “safe” in this regard is an open question – another subject for another time. Suffice it to note here that TCEQ has no standards addressing these pollutants, thus there is no requirement to even consider what might be “safe”.
The latest word is that the overwhelming dissatisfaction with a discharge scheme has urged Dripping Springs to drop its plans to seek a discharge permit – for the present. It’s unclear if that means it would just expand its “land dumping” system (a rather costly proposition, due to the land requirements, so Dripping Springs might soon decide that’s just too expensive and would request a permit to discharge). Or would the city pursue any and all opportunities to route the treated effluent to beneficial reuse? Likely mainly within the developments generating the flow as few other opportunities have been identified, the 8-acre city park being the only one mentioned in the version of the Preliminary Engineering Planning Report (PERP) the city released last summer.
Which brings us to how the city would create a system plan predicated on beneficial reuse of this water resource to defray demand on other water supplies. The city appears to be leaning toward simply appending onto the already costly 19th century conventional centralized wastewater system another whole set of costly infrastructure to redistribute the water, once treated, back to the development that generated it. Note, however, that as TCEQ presently interprets its rules, the city will still be required to have a full-blown “disposal” system in place regardless of how much of that water they expect to route to beneficial reuse, making that whole concept somewhat problematic if indeed no discharge option would be sought. This focus of TCEQ rules, as currently applied, on “disposal” of a perceived nuisance, to the exclusion of focusing on integrated management of water resources, is an issue for any sort of plan the city may consider, highlighting the need to press TCEQ to reconsider that focus.
Indeed the city’s centralized plan would be costly. Dripping Springs is keeping its present engineering analyses close to the vest, but according to the version of the PERP released last summer, the three interceptor mains in that plan – denoted “east”, “west” and “south” (leaving us to wonder what will be done with development that may occur to the north) – and their associated lift stations would have a total cost of about $17.5 million. These are costs, along with the estimated $8.1 million for treatment plant expansion and an estimated $1 million for permitting, that must be sunk into the system prior to being able to provide service to the first house in the developments this system would cover. Then there is the cost of centralized collection infrastructure within the developments, to get their wastewater to those interceptors, no doubt running into the 10’s of millions at complete buildout.
And for this, all they get is “disposal” of a perceived nuisance! With, as noted, the issue of how the water would be “disposed of”, if it is not discharged, still to be resolved – and paid for. If it is to be redistributed back to the far flung developments generating the flow, the facilities to do that will add many more millions to the overall cost of the complete system. Far less costly, in both up-front and long-term costs, would be the creation of a 21st century system that would be designed around reuse, rather than “disposal”, of this water resource right from its point of generation. The city could pursue a decentralized concept strategy, focused on treatment and reuse of this water as close to where it is generated as practical, obviating the high cost of both the conventional centralized collection system and the reclaimed water distribution system. Entailing a number of small-scale systems designed into rather than appended onto development, it is highly doubtful that the city could unilaterally impose that sort of system. The large developments around Dripping Springs are all planning – indeed they have obtained TCEQ permits for – smaller conventional centralized systems within each of them, featuring “land dumping” as the intended fate of the water. In fact, Dripping Springs has “sponsored” the permit for one of those developments, so is actively promoting this strategy. The development agreement with another large project specifies that the wastewater generated in that development must be run into the city interceptor whenever it is built, despite the development-scale system being in place. So if the city does develop interceptors that would drain wastewater from those developments to an expanded centralized plant, then these development-scale systems would be stranded assets, sunk costs incurred simply to allow development to begin prior to completion of the city interceptor, then to be abandoned, basically wasting the fiscal resources required to install them.
It’s clear then that Dripping Springs could pursue a decentralized concept strategy to expand service capacity to encompass those developments only if each of them were to cooperate in planning, designing, permitting and implementing the decentralized system, instead of those development-scale centralized systems they’re presently planning to build. But of course, unless Dripping Springs presumes a leadership role, the developers have no impetus to consider that. They must presume they’d have to abandon any sort of development-scale system and run their wastewater “away” into the city’s centralized system whenever interceptors were extended to their properties. To pursue a decentralized concept strategy it must be determined how such a system would be organized and how it could be permitted, given the “disposal”-centric focus of how TCEQ wields its rule system. This is a complex subject that does not well lend itself to this medium. Complicated by the decentralized concept remaining “non-mainstream” despite it having been out there for quite a long time – I defined the decentralized concept in 1986, and it was “ratified” as a fully legitimate strategy in a 1996 report to Congress, among other milestones – so its means and methods remain largely unfamiliar to regulators, engineers and operating authorities. Further, being designed into rather than appended onto development, the details would be sensitive to context; while there are recognized organizing principles, there is no “one size fits all” formula.
For the interested reader, a broad overview is “The Decentralized Concept of Wastewater Management” (in the “Decentralized Concept” menu at www.venhuizen-ww.com), and a basic review of those organizing principles are set forth in this document, reviewing wastewater management options in the nearby community of Wimberley. But a review of exactly how to design a decentralized concept system for any given project in and around Dripping Springs is properly the subject of a PERP for each project, not something that can be credibly described here, absent any context. The means and methods are, however, all well understood technologies that can readily be implemented to cost efficiently maximize reuse of this water resource.
Highlighting that the most salient feature of a decentralized concept strategy in the context of this region is the “short-stopping” of the long water loops characteristic of the conventional centralized strategy, so that reuse of the water resource would be maximized at the least cost. It is this 21st century imperative that should motivate Dripping Springs and the developers working in that area to explore the decentralized concept. A necessary part of that exploration is to press TCEQ to consider how it interprets and applies its present rules, and perhaps to consider the need for “better” rules that recognize our current water realities. None of this can be served up for the city or the developers as a fait accompli in this medium; it is a job they have to undertake. One which we all need them to undertake, for the benefit of this region’s citizens, current and future. But from all indications to date, it does not appear they will even try – they just can’t seem to expand their mental model of wastewater management to encompass it. The result of which is that most of this wastewater will live down to its name for a long time to come, driving us ever further away from sustainable water. So the question is posed: Can Dripping Springs, and the developers there, bust out of the 19th century – or will they choose to remain stuck there?
Neighbor to Neighbor NewsPass it on... October 14, 2014 Hill Country News
Summit addresses Hill Country issues "Everything from urban development to dance hall preservation was on the agenda at the Hill Country Alliance 2014 Leadership Summit, held Thursday at the Nimitz Hotel Ballroom." Read the full article from the Fredericksburg Standard.
Keeping Open Spaces Open “We are reaching a point in Texas where simply standing on common ground is not enough...
Neighbor to Neighbor NewsPass it on...
October 14, 2014
Hill Country News
Summit addresses Hill Country issues "Everything from urban development to dance hall preservation was on the agenda at the Hill Country Alliance 2014 Leadership Summit, held Thursday at the Nimitz Hotel Ballroom." Read the full article from the Fredericksburg Standard.
Keeping Open Spaces Open “We are reaching a point in Texas where simply standing on common ground is not enough. The lives of urban and rural Texans are irreversibly intertwined, so we must all join forces to create and define initiatives and policies that conserve the common good, while protecting the heritage of private landowners.” Read more of David K. Langford's guest blog for the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation.
Harvest that Rain! Most food growers rely on tap water to keep their plants alive during dry weather, but gardeners are discovering that chemicals in tap water harm the soil organisms that plants depend upon to absorb nutrients. As a result, more and more gardeners are storing rainwater. Read more from Sustainable Food Center.
Bracken Bat Cave needs your help For the past year, San Antonio City officials, Bat Conservation International, The Nature Conservancy and many other organizations and community leaders have been searching for a solution to avert a 3,500-home development over the Edwards Aquifer and adjacent to Bracken Cave Preserve. Next week, San Antonio's city council will meet to vote on whether to invest $5 million from their Edwards Aquifer Protection Program toward the purchase of the property and a conservation easement to protect aquifer recharge. Learn more from BCI.
Citizens Rule the Night at City Council City Council chambers filled Wednesday evening with more than 100 people who signed up to speak for or against the proposed SAWS-Vista Ridge Consortium water agreement. Individuals were given two minutes to express their views, while group representatives were allotted five minutes. Read more from the Rivard Report.
When private property rights clash with the public good “I have never understood why in Texas zoning laws are good for city mice but not for country mice, especially as we lose more and more of the open land that is necessary to our survival as a species every year, but that is the way it is and there seems to be no way to change it until Texans get tired of seeing our state gobbled up by strip malls and truck stops and march on the state capitol armed with shotguns and pruning hooks.” Read this personal story about the Hill Country, by Lonn Taylor, featured in The Big Bend Sentinel. Learn more about County Authority in Texas here.
Public Meeting: Vision for FM 150, October 16 in Driftwood The public is invited to learn more about the process to develop a Roadway Character Plan for FM 150 from near Arroyo Ranch Road northwest through the Driftwood to RR 12 in Dripping Springs at an October 16 meeting. Hays County Commissioners Will Conley and Ray Whisenant are hosting the meeting to share information about the roadway and gather ideas from the public about what this important cross-county road needs to look like as changes are phased in to improve mobility and safety. Details
Art Rain Barrel Auction raises funds for Hill Country Schools Artists from around the Hill Country have donated their time and talent decorating beautiful rain barrels to help raise awareness about rainwater harvesting and the 2014 Rainwater Revival. These unique custom painted rain barrels are being auctioned off through the end of the Rainwater Revival, October 25 at 4:00pm. All proceeds from this auction will fund grants for local schools to be used for rainwater harvesting projects and water conservation education. Even if you don't need a rain barrel you can still support the Rainwater Revival School Grant Fund with a donationby visting the auction page below.
October 15 in Junction - SLWA Guadalupe Bass Workshop - Details
October 16 in Driftwood - Public Meeting: Vision for FM 150 - Details
October 16 in San Antonio - Teaming with Wildlife: The State of Nature in Texas, presented by Compassionate San Antonio - Details
October 16 in Boerne - Hill Country Water: Myths and Truths - Milan J Michalec of the HCA and CCGCD will lead a hands on presentation on the myths of groundwater supplies, policy, and planning - Details
October 16 in Boerne - Hill Country Agri-land workshop - Details
October 17-19 in Alpine - Society for Ecological Restoration Annual Conference: Ecological Restoration in the Southwest - Details
October 23 in Boerne - 2014 Boerne Water Forum: Community Growth and Water Quality ARE Compatible - Details
October 24 in Utopia - Stars over Utopia - Learn how to protect our night skies and do some stargazing - Details
October 25 in Dripping Springs - HCA's 5th Annual Rainwater Revival! - Details
October 25 in Wimberley - A Whole Farm Approach to Improving the Water Cycle, presented by HMI - Details
October 29 in Austin - Great Places and Healthy People, presented by Congress for the New Urbanism - Details
October 30 in Austin - Balcones Canyonland Preserve Infrastructure Workshop - Details
The Big Bend SentinelOctober 9, 2014The Rambling BoyBy LONN TAYLORWhen private property rights clash with the public good When my wife, Dedie, and I ramble over to San Antonio or Austin we always try to time our trip so that we arrive in Junction at lunch time. The attraction there is Cooper’s Bar-B-Que and Grill, located on US 377 just a few hundred feet north of its intersection with Interstate 10...
The Big Bend Sentinel
October 9, 2014
The Rambling Boy
By LONN TAYLOR
When private property rights clash with the public good
When my wife, Dedie, and I ramble over to San Antonio or Austin we always try to time our trip so that we arrive in Junction at lunch time. The attraction there is Cooper’s Bar-B-Que and Grill, located on US 377 just a few hundred feet north of its intersection with Interstate 10. It is an easy turn off the Interstate and if you have your car windows down you can smell the meat cooking on the outdoor open pit before you make the turn. Cooper’s beef brisket is delicious and their sauce is mouth-watering.
Junction is about the size of Marfa, with a population of 2,545, and it is the county seat of Kimble County. The town was laid out in the 1870s at the confluence of the North and South Llano rivers, thus its name. Both rivers run over limestone bottoms there and the water is clear and cool. There is a lovely park with picnic tables under some live oak trees along the river on the east side of town, where the Interstate swoops down from cliffs above the river. A billboard on the Interstate describes Junction as “The Front Porch of West Texas.” Dedie and I always feel that we are halfway home when we get there, even though it is still a long way to Fort Davis. It is a lovely place.
It is also the site of a tragic environmental disaster, one that should be a warning to all Texans. About a thousand feet south of Cooper’s US 377 crosses the Llano on a concrete bridge. Until recently, both banks of the river were lined with live oaks. One on the north bank, estimated to be several hundred years old, was known to local residents as the Heritage Oak. James Bradbury, a rancher killed by Indians in 1869, was said to be buried under it in an unmarked grave. As of last week the oaks, including the Heritage Oak, were gone, bulldozed to make way for an 8-acre Pilot Flying J truck stop. No one bothered to look for Bradbury’s remains before the trees went down.
The property belongs to a Kerrville woman, Janet Meek, who leased it to Pilot Flying J. She told the Junction Eagle that she had a verbal agreement with Flying J to preserve the Heritage Oak but that they disregarded it. She had an attack of lessor’s remorse and camped out under the tree all night in protest, but got out of the way when the bulldozers arrived.
The trees are actually the least of the problem. Local environmentalists point out that the runoff from the truck stop’s 8-acre paved parking lot could pollute the fragile but currently pristine Llano River. Buzz Hull, the co-owner of Cooper’s, says, “This could be the end of the Llano River as we have known it for all of our lives.” Bill Neiman, whose Native American Seeds farm is several miles downstream, says, “We have a very real fear that the river will be harmed and polluted.”
How can this happen in this age of environmental awareness? The answer lies in a combination of short-sighted civic vision and Texans’ obsession with private property rights.
It seems that Junction’s public officials are in favor of the truck stop, which will be outside of the city limits. They see the promised 61 jobs and the thousands of truckers who will stop there overnight as short-term economic benefits that outweigh the possible long-term damage to the river. The city council might have prevented construction by annexing the site and bringing it under the city’s zoning ordinances, but they declined to do that. Now they are trying to persuade Ms. Meek to agree to a voluntary annexation of the site so that the city can collect an estimated $180,000 in sales tax revenues.
The heart of the problem is that no one in Texas can control the use of land that is not within city limits where zoning laws apply. In many states county commissioners have zoning authority and can use it to regulate land use and prevent undesirable construction, but not in Texas, where unlimited property rights are somehow connected with the Alamo, and a rural property owner can do anything he wants to with his property, no matter how disastrous the results may be for future generations.
My sister-in-law in England lives in Cassington, Oxfordshire, an idyllic village of 500 people that is exactly 5 miles from the center of Oxford, a city of 160,000. Cassington is surrounded by green fields and forests. Oxford stops dead at the Woodstock Road Roundabout. Beyond that woods and pastures stretch all the way to Cassington, because that land is strictly zoned for agricultural use. There is no straggle of used-car dealers, motels, and welding shops. Oxford is on one side of the traffic circle, green and pleasant England is on the other.
I have never understood why in Texas zoning laws are good for city mice but not for country mice, especially as we lose more and more of the open land that is necessary to our survival as a species every year, but that is the way it is and there seems to be no way to change it until Texans get tired of seeing our state gobbled up by strip malls and truck stops and march on the state capitol armed with shotguns and pruning hooks.
There is one stop-gap until the revolution comes. Various nonprofit groups have created conservation easements, through which a landowner essentially sells his development rights to the non-profit, which pledges not to use them so that the land will remain forever undeveloped. The Nature Conservancy has done this in the Big Bend, to the benefit of all. Several years ago the state legislature created a program that would let the state get into the game. It is called the Texas Farm and Ranch Lands Conservation Program, and it provides funds through the General Land Office for nonprofit land trusts to use for the purchase of development rights. The only problem is that the legislature neglected to appropriate any money for the fund, so the program is pretty much on the shelf. If you care about Texas, write your legislator and let’s get it dusted off. In the meantime, mourn with me for those trees along the Llano, and for the river itself, and make sure it doesn’t happen where you live.
Lonn Taylor is a historian and writer who lives in Fort Davis. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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By Amy Hardberger October 06, 2014This blog (http://texaslivingwaters.org/vista-ridge-project-creates-questions-answers/) was written with the assistance of Tyson Broad with the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club.
For those who are keeping track, we are in year 4 of a statewide drought. Although some areas have received rainfall relief, the continuing drought has led many communities to ponder whether they have enough water for their future and, if not, where more water can be procured. Unfortunately, new water isn’t something that can easily be bought or delivered...
was written with the assistance of Tyson Broad with the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club.
For those who are keeping track, we are in year 4 of a statewide drought. Although some areas have received rainfall relief, the continuing drought has led many communities to ponder whether they have enough water for their future and, if not, where more water can be procured. Unfortunately, new water isn’t something that can easily be bought or delivered. It’s expensive, the infrastructure is lacking and the locals often don’t want it exported away from their region.
Last spring, we posted a piece about a groundwater pipeline project brewing in San Antonio that touches on many of these issues. Since then, we haven’t written anything because most of the project details were in active negotiations and unavailable to the public. In July, a draft of the 500 page Vista Ridge contract finally appeared, but the final draft of the ever-changing agreement wasn’t made available until late September.
Despite a previously denied request for more time to review the document by two San Antonio Water Systems (SAWS) board of trustees, the SAWS board voted unanimously to approve the contract on September 29th, just one week after the contract was finalized. The approval process now shifts to San Antonio City Council. Based on the current schedule, council has approximately one month to digest the deal and vote on it. There is a lot to say about an estimated $3.4 billion deal to move 50,000 acre-feet of water a year 142 miles across Texas and a lot of questions still need to be answered.
Demand Projections: What Defines “Need”? Underlying any discussion about a water purchase and transfer process is the need to demonstrate that the water is needed and, if so, when is it needed and for what uses. This project is essentially a take-or-pay contract for 50,000 acre-feet of water annually; meaning, if the water arrives, the city must pay for it. This represents roughly a 20% increase of the city’s current supplies. SAWS has argued that this water is necessary to supply the predicted growth in the city. Clearly, no one wants the city to run out of water, but is that really a possibility? Not according to SAWS.
SAWS’s own projections show that under normal rainfall conditions, the city will not need any additional water for many decades. This water is for drought, but it’s more complex than that. SAWS has articulated that bringing this project online means we will have abundant, not just adequate, water during a drought of record. The word abundant is important here. It demonstrates that SAWS is not just preparing the city to survive a drought of record; they are trying to avoid stage 3 and 4 drought restrictions during such a drought, should it occur. This means that the city is agreeing to commit ratepayers to a huge financial commitment for something we may only use in very limited circumstances, but will pay for it all the time.
Using a power analogy, the city is building a base load power plant – one that will work 365 days a year – in order to meet limited peak needs in summer. This makes no financial sense. If you are going to build something to manage high demands over limited periods of time, you should build something that can be turned on and off and only provides resources to cover the peak needs, not provide excess water for years. In a presentation given by SAWS’s own Chief Financial Officer, he explicitly stated it is not a prudent business practice to purchase an ongoing water supply only for drought needs. Further he explained that if the city chose to do this, the maximum amount SAWS could spend to be fiscally responsible is $1,400 per acre-foot and should be much less to ensure the utility doesn’t lose money. Current projections for this project are $2,220 per acre-foot.
Another problem with the demand projections is that they are based on assumptions that aren’t supported by actual measured data. SAWS’s projections are built on assumptions about how the city will behave under extended drought. The problem is that San Antonio is actually using less water than was predicted in the fourth year of low rainfall. If this trend continues, the point at which the city may actually need water is later than predicted; therefore, we will be paying for water we don’t need for an even longer time.
Finally, there is the unknown factor of how much the increase in rates will reduce use. SAWS’s board trustee Reed Williams has publically stated that higher bills will reduce usage. He’s absolutely right. Water is interesting economically because there is a certain demand level that is static: water we need to live. But there is also an elastic portion: water we could forego using without affecting our daily lives. This includes many outdoor water needs, but could also include reductions in the commercial and industrial sectors when high prices motivate increased efficiency. This project will greatly increase bills, which will most certainly reduce demand. This reduction in demand is another reason why this is more water than the city needs.
Who Pays and How Much Once a utility has demonstrated that the need for the water is there, the discussion shifts to cost and who is going to pay for it. All of the SAWS messaging has been clear that the project is to provide for new growth while avoiding drought stages 3 & 4. Yet, existing ratepayers will pay for the new project in its entirety. This raises several concerns.
First, it contravenes a clear message given last May by the city council and ratepayers that growth should help pay for itself. That debate about impact fees involved a proposed 3% rate hike over 10 years and council voted 9-2 that new supply infrastructure costs should be borne in part by homes creating the demand. Unfortunately, due to limitations in the law, the expenses for the Vista Ridge Project can’t be passed along because the city won’t be paying the capital costs. Ratepayers will foot the bill. Second, if ratepayers are going to be responsible, SAWS needs to provide a clear picture of how much more they will be paying each month. SAWS has stated that this project will require a maximum of a 16% increase, but haven’t publically explained how that number was calculated. It is hard to imagine they can guarantee that number when we won’t know the final cost of the project until it is built, plus integration and O&M costs are also not yet known. Further, SAWS expects several other rate increases will be needed for wastewater and other water supply needs yet they haven’t released a cumulative total of all these increases and what it will mean to the average ratepayer. The median income of San Antonio is roughly $42,000 a year. A large rate increase will greatly affect the bottom line of thousands of local households.
Understanding both the demand scenarios and the final costs of the project are critical in ensuring the city can truly afford the project. Utilities pay for projects through rates. If the citizens aren’t using the water because they are conserving it or because it is raining, the city will have to find a way to pay for that water. SAWS has maintained that in the short term, the city will execute short-term contracts to sell portions of the water to other municipalities, but none of these buyers have been identified yet, which means city council needs to be sure San Antonio can pay for the water if those contracts don’t come to pass.
What about the Water? Even if all the above concerns are quelled, there are still significant questions about whether the water will be available over the life of the 30-year contract. Texas groundwater law isn’t an easy thing to figure out, but what we do know is that groundwater is the property of the landowner, but can be regulated by groundwater conservation districts through a permitting process.
The Post Oak Savannah Groundwater Conservation District has regulatory authority over this project. Although they authorized (in 2009) the partners in the Vista Ridge project to withdraw more the 70,000 acre-feet from the aquifer, there are several questions regarding the reliability and sustainability of pumping this volume of water. First, Post Oak Savannah District has, through their groundwater management area process (completed in 2010), determined that only about 50,000 acre-feet of water can be pumped within the district. But even this of volume of pumping will result in 300 feet of drawdown from the Simsboro Aquifer.
Given that the groundwater district has already granted permits for more than 100,000 acre-feet, it is uncertain how this dilemma will be resolved. While the partners in the Vista Ridge project have agreed to assume this risk, SAWS should provide the results of their own analysis of groundwater availability to assuage concerns that this project is not sustainable and will only mine the aquifer.
The Need for Public Process Finally there is the issue of process. If this project is the right project at the right time and at the right cost, it requires the education and endorsement of those who will ultimately pay for it: the ratepayers. The right project will withstand the scrutiny of review and time.
Thus far, a truly public process has been lacking. SAWS did make 5 contract negotiation sessions open to the public, but these were during the day and didn’t allow any public input. People were only able to sit in the back of the room and listen to negotiators talk. The size of this deal requires more public vetting.
During the 2012 roll out of their Water Management Plan (WMP), in addition to private presentations to neighborhood and interest groups, SAWS held five public meetings over several months. Presentations were given that discussed demand projections, water supply projects and projected rate increases. These meetings also gave the public the opportunity to make statements and ask questions. The rate increase approved by city council along with the WMP was 5.1%. The Vista Ridge project alone is over three times that increase, but to date, there have been no similar meetings for this project.
Last week, one hearing was finally scheduled after a town hall demonstrated the need for public input. The hearing will take place 6:00 this Wednesday, October 8th at city council. We encourage anyone who wants more information or wishes to state their opinion to attend the meeting. You can sign in to speak on-line or in person. Please take this chance to encourage council to take a hard look at all the dimensions of this project before making a decision. It may be the only chance you get.
Friends of Blue Hole For Immediate ReleaseOctober 3, 2014 Friends To Host Lecture by Andy Sansom, Texas Conservation Leader
The Friends of Blue Hole will host a lecture about "Water in Texas" on Sunday, October 12 at 4 pm in the Wood/Grinstead Amphitheater at Blue Hole Regional Park. Please bring a lawn chair as there is limited seating available. Sansom BiographyAndrew Sansom is one of the leading conservationists in Texas...
Friends To Host Lecture by Andy Sansom, Texas Conservation Leader
The Friends of Blue Hole will host a lecture about "Water in Texas" on Sunday, October 12 at 4 pm in the Wood/Grinstead Amphitheater at Blue Hole Regional Park.Please bring a lawn chair as there is limited seating available.
Andrew Sansom is one of the leading conservationists in Texas. As executive director of The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment, formerly the River Systems Institute, he leads Texas State’s broad and comprehensive efforts to ensure sustainable water resources.
Before coming to Texas State, Sansom was executive director of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, where in 1997 he was one of the state leaders instrumental in the passage of Senate Bill 1, landmark legislation affecting the development and management of water resources in Texas. He also created the Parks and Wildlife Foundation of Texas, which funds a number of department programs through private donations, and new urban fish and wildlife programs designed to promote conservation awareness in urban areas.
Early in his career, Sansom worked for the National Recreation and Park Association in Washington, D.C. He has served as environmental coordinator for the White House Conference on Youth; special assistant to Interior Secretary Rogers C.B. Morton; director of conservation education at the Federal Energy Administration; and deputy director of the Energy Institute at the University of Houston.
Sansom has also served as executive director of the Texas Nature Conservancy, and on the board of trustees of the Texas Historical Foundation, Bat Conservation International, KLRU Public Television in Austin, and the National Audubon Society. He has written for numerous publications and is the author of six books.
Director and President Bob Dussler | Founding Director Peter Way| Executive Director Laura Linhart-Kistner Advisory Director Mayor Steve Thurber | Jim Braniff | David Berman | Tevis Grinstead | Mel Hildebrandt
Stephen Klepfer | Suzanne McCord | Andy Sansom | Marilee Wood
PO Box 1601 •Wimberley TX 78676 • 210.867.3939 • www.friendsofbluehole.org • Federal ID# 20-3415046
Vista Ridge water deal hearing this Wednesday evening in San Antonio City Council will hold a public hearing Wednesday, Oct. 8 on the proposed 30-year, $3.4 billion contract between SAWS and the Vista Ridge Consortium to deliver 50,000 acre-feet of water from Burleson County to San Antonio every year for 30 years starting in 2019 or 2020. Read more from the Rivard Report. Community members including HCA are asking for more time to learn...
Vista Ridge water deal hearing this Wednesday evening in San Antonio City Council will hold a public hearing Wednesday, Oct. 8 on the proposed 30-year, $3.4 billion contract between SAWS and the Vista Ridge Consortium to deliver 50,000 acre-feet of water from Burleson County to San Antonio every year for 30 years starting in 2019 or 2020. Read more from the Rivard Report. Community members including HCA are asking for more time to learn.
The Vista Ridge pipeline project raises a lot of questions The Vista Ridge pipeline isn’t just about San Antonio, it will affect our regional landscape and economy. “Underlying any discussion about a water purchase and transfer process is the need to demonstrate that the water is needed and, if so, when is it needed and for what uses.” Read “Vista Ridge creates more questions than answers,” from Texas Water Solutions. San Antonio is one step closer to buying some of the most expensive water ever sold in Texas, just as the deal is drawing more critics. Read more from Texas Tribune. And to help us all read and stay informed, the Alamo Area Sierra Club has created this clearing house of information related to the Visa Ridge pipeline deal. Have You Thought about the Hill Country Soundscape? “..the effects of human endeavors all around the planet can be gauged by listening to the sounds of different habitats. Wild, urban, rural — they all can be interpreted.” Read more from Bernie Krause in “Call of the Wild,” featured in Sun Magazine. Find out what neighbors are doing through the Noise Pollution Clearning House.
Texas A&M reports loss of farms, ranches and forests “Through Texas Land Trends, we have been able to raise awareness that ‘Yes, we have a lot of land in Texas,’ but we are losing it at a faster rate than most other states in the country, and that loss is having profound impacts on our agricultural base, our water resources and our native wildlife habitat.” Read More about Land Trends.
The Oak Hill “Y” – A gateway to the Hill Country A community workshop to be held October 9th from 6–8 pm as part of a “Context Sensitive Solutions (CSS) process,” a planning approach that invites the surrounding communities and neighborhoods to influence the design, so that it reflects their cultural and historic values and aesthetic preferences. Learn more about the event hosted by the CTRMA and TxDot. Explore www.Fix290.org for more information.
Be a citizen scientist for Wildlife Field Research at Cibolo Nature Center & Farm on Oct. 6-11 Volunteers interested in learning about Hill Country wildlife and contributing to its scientific study are encouraged to become citizen scientists during the Wildlife Field Research “bio-blitz” taking place Oct. 6-11 at the Cibolo Nature Center & Farm. Wildlife Field Research is open to participants of all ages and skill levels. Learn more
"Can the Guadalupe Bass save our Hill Country Rivers?" October 15th in Junction Come hear about a TPWD initiative to help landowners work together on a watershed scale to protect water quality, quantity and riparian health in the Hill Country. Presentations from Texas Tech, TPWD and the South Llano Watershed Alliance. Learn more
HCA's 2015 Calendar is Available for Sale! HCA has released their 9th Texas Hill Country Calendar. Once again, this calendar delivers stunning photography while remaining an informative resource on Hill Country conservation. The stunning photographs featured throughout the 2015 calendar were chosen from nearly 400 submissions to HCA’s 2014 Photo Contest.
Dear GEAA members and friends, The Vista Ridge pipeline is being sold as a regional water supply project to serve growth in the IH 35 corridor. We predict that this will result in an explosion of growth in the areas where we least want it – over our Edwards and Trinity watersheds. For a great description of the project, read what SOS Alliance has to say here...
Dear GEAA members and friends,
The Vista Ridge pipeline is being sold as a regional water supply project to serve growth in the IH 35 corridor. We predict that this will result in an explosion of growth in the areas where we least want it – over our Edwards and Trinity watersheds. For a great description of the project, read what SOS Alliance has to say here.
At a briefing of the SAWS water rates advisory board that I attended, it was mentioned that SAWS intends to sell short term water contracts from the Vista Ridge pipeline to supply water in Wimberley. San Marcos, Dripping Springs, Spring Branch, and Blanco. The cities of Austin and San Marcos have already announced that they do not want this water. I don’t know of any entities other than MUD’s that would pay the $2,200/arce foot for a five to ten year contract. This project is a developer’s dream.
At the San Antonio City Council meeting last night, several groups, including GEAA, presented our concerns. Former Texas Water Development Board Attorney, Michelle McFadden presented an excellent analysis of the risks of this project. We are grateful to the League of Independent Voters of Texas for commissioning Ms. McFaddin to take a close look at the Vista Ridge contract (something, it seems, that few here in San Antonio have done).
It appears that the SAWS Director of Public Relations, upon receiving GEAA’s press release announcing that we would be at City Council to speak on the Vista Ridge Project, spent the afternoon drafting comments for representatives of the various Chambers of Commerce to present, as well. We were astonished to hear for the first time - from a Chamber of Commerce representative - that the City is planning on having a public hearing at their next weekly Council meeting.
So, please mark your calendars to attend a public hearing on the Vista Ridge Water Supply project.
When: Wednesday, October 8th at 6:00 pm
Where: San Antonio City Hall Complex, City Council Chambers, 114 W. Commerce, San Antonio, Texas
What: A Public Hearing to allow citizens and other interested parties the opportunity to provide comments to the City Council on the proposed Vista Ridge Water Supply Agreement. For information on signing up to speak on line, click here. You may park at the Frost Bank garage across Commerce Street.
If you are a SAWS ratepayer, we urge you to come down and express your concerns. If you can't make it, please contact your Council Representative and let them know what you think. This project is estimated to boost your water rates by at least 16% over the next three years. You are essentially being asked to subsidize an explosion of growth over the Edwards and Trinity aquifer watersheds via a financially risky project.
For Immediate Release Contact: Christy Muse, Executive Director Hill Country Alliance email@example.com 512.560.3135 2015 Texas Hill Country Calendar Available for SaleCalendar captures the beauty of the Texas Hill Country and the importance of protecting it for future generations (October 2, 2014) The Hill Country Alliance (HCA) recently released their 9th Texas Hill Country Calendar...
For Immediate Release
Christy Muse, Executive Director
Hill Country Alliance
2015 Texas Hill Country Calendar Available for Sale
Calendar captures the beauty of the Texas Hill Country and the importance of protecting it for future generations
(October 2, 2014) The Hill Country Alliance (HCA) recently released their 9th Texas Hill Country Calendar. Once again, this calendar delivers stunning photography while remaining an informative resource on Hill Country conservation – addressing such issues as groundwater resource protection, native habitat conservation, land stewardship, night sky protection and more. HCA hopes their calendar will inspire people to learn more and become involved in the issues important to keeping the natural resources of this beautiful and fragile region intact.
The photographs featured throughout the 2015 calendar were chosen from nearly 400 submissions to HCA’s 2014 Photo Contest. The annual photo contest calls for photographs that capture the unique qualities of the Texas Hill Country that need preserving as well as examples of good land stewardship being put into practice. This year, HCA also called for photos that reflect a struggling region amidst drought and sometimes misunderstood land stewardship practices.
The cover of the 2015 calendar features grand prize winner, Mark Holly’s photo, “No Bluebonnets this Year,” taken in early spring along the Willow City Loop, a spot normally famous its lush spring landscape of bluebonnets and other native wildflowers. “We felt especially compelled to use this image on the calendar cover because of the story it tells — of stress and hope and resiliency,” said Christy Muse, executive director of HCA.
The calendar is available for sale through the HCA website, www.hillcountryalliance.org. Wholesale prices for Hill Country retailers and special bulk order prices for businesses and organizations are available.
The Hill Country Alliance is a non-profit organization whose purpose is to raise public awareness and build community support around the need to preserve the natural resources and heritage of the Central Texas Hill Country.
San Antonio is one step closer to buying some of the most expensive water ever sold in Texas, just as the deal is drawing more critics. The San Antonio Water System board on Monday unanimously approved a $3.4 billion contract to pipe in 50,000 acre-feet, or 16 billion gallons, of water a year from underneath Central Texas' Burleson County starting in 2019. The contract is with two companies, Austin-based BlueWater and the Spanish company Abengoa, whose joint venture is called the Vista Ridge pipeline...
San Antonio is one step closer to buying some of the most expensive water ever sold in Texas, just as the deal is drawing more critics. The San Antonio Water System board on Monday unanimously approved a $3.4 billion contract to pipe in 50,000 acre-feet, or 16 billion gallons, of water a year from underneath Central Texas' Burleson County starting in 2019. The contract is with two companies, Austin-based BlueWater and the Spanish company Abengoa, whose joint venture is called the Vista Ridge pipeline. “The time for courage is now,” Berto Guerra, chairman of the SAWS board, said in a statement urging the San Antonio City Council to approve the contract as well. “Further delays will only serve to create uncertainty in our water future and risk increased project costs.” The proposal could come before the City Council as early as next month. With the encouragement of groups like the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, SAWS says the historic deal is the best way for the growing region to wean itself off the Edwards Aquifer, whose supply is uncertain in the wake of drought and concerns over endangered species. The Vista Ridge pipeline would serve 162,000 new families, according to the utility.
But critics say the plan is financially risky and premature, because the city will have to pay for the full amount of water the pipeline can deliver every year — even though it may be decades before San Antonio actually needs all of it. Sixteen billion gallons of water is 20 percent of the city's current annual water demand today. “People are starting to wake up ... [and ask], ‘Does this smell as bad to you as it does to me?’” said Amy Hardberger, an assistant professor of law at St. Mary’s University who teaches water law and land use. “I think that the next month is going to get pretty hairy.”
At $3.4 billion for a 30-year supply contract, the cost of the water, including treatment and delivery, will be about $2,300 per acre-foot — as much as seven times the rate that San Antonio pays for water from the Edwards Aquifer. By 2050, increasing electrical and maintenance costs could put that number closer to $2,700, SAWS spokesman Greg Flores said. The utility estimates that residents will see a water rate hike of about 16 percent to pay for the pipeline.
Other rate increases are expected in the next few years to help pay for upgraded water delivery and sewer infrastructure, and to bring in other new supplies like desalinated water. Combining those increases with what is needed to pay for the new pipeline means that San Antonio residents could pay 41 percent more for water and wastewater in 2019 than they are paying today. Such a hike would push the average household water bill, at $53 per month today, up to $88. Of that bill, $12 would pay for the Vista Ridge pipeline. (Many of these numbers could be slightly lower if SAWS secures a lower interest rate on the deal.)
The City Council will be deciding on a project that just a few months ago had even drawn objections from Guerra and SAWS President Robert Puente because of its high cost.
“I don’t think we’ve ever, in one fell swoop, committed to a $3.4 billion project before,” said Ron Nirenberg, a San Antonio city councilman. “This is one and a half times the city budget,” which is $2.4 billion, he said.
San Antonio isn’t the only city where water rates are climbing; this summer, drought-stricken Wichita Falls boosted its water rates by 53 percent. Industry experts say Americans have been underpaying for water for decades. The cost of the raw water for the Vista Ridge project will be fixed over 30 years, prompting SAWS board members to declare the utility is buying “tomorrow’s water at today’s price.”
Not everyone is so sure of that, however. “If we really cared about the cost, we would be going after a project that could be financed with SWIFT money,” Hardberger said. She was referring to $2 billion that voters approved to be taken out of Texas’ Rainy Day Fund last November, to be given out by the state as low-cost loans for water projects.
The Vista Ridge pipeline is ineligible for those funds because it is privately financed. Abengoa, a private company, will build the pipeline, not SAWS, a public utility that could have gotten the cheaper loans from the state.
Puente had made the same point several months ago, suggesting that the city should instead expand its desalination plant because that public project would be eligible for more low-cost state loans. (The plant is being financed in part by such funds, which SAWS can still pursue for other water projects.)
But Puente and Guerra now say the Vista Ridge deal is better than it was several months ago. For instance, the contract now ensures that SAWS will only pay for the water that the companies can physically deliver. If only 40,000 acre-feet is available one year because groundwater managers in Burleson County force cutbacks, SAWS will only pay for that amount of water, and Vista Ridge will have to bear the loss. The companies also scrapped their initial demand of a $5 million annual “reservation” fee for the water and capped the interest rate at 6.04 percent. SAWS could still negotiate a lower interest rate before the deal closes, which the utility hopes would happen within the next 18 months.
But critics say that’s not a justification for such an expensive deal, and the interest rate is twice as much as what state loans on public projects could offer. “That tells me it’s very risky,” said Michelle McFaddin, a water lawyer who has reviewed the 581-page contract between SAWS and Vista Ridge. McFaddin, who was the lead attorney for infrastructure loan programs at the Texas Water Development Board for six years, now works for the League of Independent Voters. The Central Texas activist group, which is vocal on water issues, opposes the SAWS deal. “This is an example of public-private partnerships gone awry,” said McFaddin, adding that the company Abengoa carries its own risks because its “credit rating is two levels below investment grade.” Moody’s rated the company at B2 in August, which suggests a higher level of risk for potential investors.
Flores, the SAWS spokesman, argued that “regardless of their credit rating, if they’re able to secure the financing and the interest rate is capped, then our ratepayers are protected.” He added that the ability to sell bonds for the pipeline will depend not on Abengoa's credit rating but on San Antonio's ability to pay for the project.
Nirenberg, the San Antonio city councilman, said he supports the efforts to expand the city’s water supply beyond the Edwards. But he worried that by the time the city actually needs the full 16 billion gallons of water per year, it may not even be available. Many other water provider hopefuls are placing their straws in the Carrizo-Wilcox aquifer, where the Vista Ridge project will draw from, and some hydrologists are concerned there isn’t enough to go around.
“What happens to that water, knowing that that aquifer is going to be sold to other parties as well?” Nirenberg asked. “If the water’s not there in 30 years, what are we doing? We’re just building a pipeline to nowhere.”
Disclosure: The San Antonio Water System is a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.
Wimberley Valley Watershed Association Fall Membership Picnic at Jacob's Well Join us Saturday September 27th at the Retreat at Jacob's Well to connect with the Wimberley Valley community and celebrate nearly two decades of conservation and stewardship of our land and water. Enjoy a casual picnic dinner with music by Dave Moretz and meet the Friends of Jacob's Well Volunteers, Science Dive Teams and water lovers from across the Hill Country. Come early for a dip into Jacob's Well!
Wimberley Valley Watershed Association
Fall Membership Picnic at Jacob's Well
Join us Saturday September 27th at the Retreat at Jacob's Well to connect with the Wimberley Valley community and celebrate nearly two decades of conservation and stewardship of our land and water. Enjoy a casual picnic dinner with music by Dave Moretz and meet the Friends of Jacob's Well Volunteers, Science Dive Teams and water lovers from across the Hill Country. Come early for a dip into Jacob's Well!
Water Crisis: Time to Get Serious!September 23, 2014
Last week’s “Water Crisis” event hosted by The Hays County Citizens Alliance for Responsible Development (CARD) drew a huge crowd and continues to create meaningful conversations about how rural lands west of I-35 will be developed. CARD advocates that responsible, sustainable development within western Hays County be concentrated along established growth corridors, ie: I-35, Hwy 130, FM 46, US 290 and US 281. They also recommend that the interior of Hays and northern Comal Counties remain at rural densities...
Last week’s “Water Crisis” event hosted by The Hays County Citizens Alliance for Responsible Development (CARD) drew a huge crowd and continues to create meaningful conversations about how rural lands west of I-35 will be developed. CARD advocates that responsible, sustainable development within western Hays County be concentrated along established growth corridors, ie: I-35, Hwy 130, FM 46, US 290 and US 281. They also recommend that the interior of Hays and northern Comal Counties remain at rural densities.
CARD’s intention was to bring people together for a serious and respectful conversation about serious water issues that will determine the future of Hill Country development.
The backdrop consists of simmering controversies such as the over-pumping of the Trinity Aquifer, the legal separation between groundwater and surface water, the importation of water from the east to fuel development along the I-35 corridor, and the failure of the TCEQ to create adequate aquifer protection in this highly stressed area.
These controversies coupled with Central Texas’ spiraling growth and the inability of Texas counties to contribute to significant land planning are the driving forces that led CARD to call this “Water Crisis” Summit and to lay the groundwork for future dialog and action.
CARD invited a panel of speakers to present their vision of the state of water to the public in Wimberley, Texas. The panel included Andy Sansom of the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment, Hays County Commissioner Ray Wisenant, Peter Newell, of HDR Engineering (planning consultant for the San Antonio and Blanco River Basins - Region L), and SAWS’ (San Antonio Water Supply) COO, Steve Clouse.
Presentations relied on the suppositions that the I-35 growth corridor will continue to grow at an exponential rate without limitation westward into the Hill Country, and without regard to advanced conservation strategies and low impact development strategies that can and should be part of the equation. The proposal that SAWS and the Hays County Commissioner’s Court are presenting is to import at least 141,000 Acre-Feet (about 46 Billion gallons) per year, every year, from our neighboring counties to the east over the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer. Landowners to the east strongly object to this volume of water moving out of their area.
HCA views water transfers as something to take seriously and avoid without full comprehension and assurance that the sending basin isn’t compromised simply to benefit another basin’s unbridled growth.
HCA also recognizes and struggles with the fact that here in the Hill Country (and all of Texas) we do not have the ability to practice land development/land-use planning outside of our municipalities or on a large landscape scale. The result is that infrastructure proposals such as these actually become the region's land-use plan by default. Every pipeline that stretches outside of a city, leads sprawling development further away from existing urban infrastructure. Who exactly will this new supply serve, at what cost, and at whose expense?
A prosperous Hill Country economy is achievable with careful planning and sustainable supply solutions. We need to embrace the idea that our growth needs must be met without over-drafting our resources - and that means financial resources as well as natural resources. Just as Hill Country ranchers have known for generations, this landscape has a carrying capacity that must be calculated and honored.
CARD’s leadership continues to provide the Hill Country with well-reasoned planning input and thoughtful forums in which the community has the ability to participate and make a difference. Their website is a valuable resource, and contains an event summary with links to each of presentations from the Summit.
As a counterpoint, or perhaps an expanded point, Linda Curtis from Independent Texans had this to say:
WELL MEANING PEOPLE CAN STILL POISON YOUR WELL
Thursday night, I attended a forum in Hays County put on by the Citizens Alliance for Responsible Development (CARD). I have good friends in CARD and I know they mean well. I also believe they had no intention of letting this happen. Nevertheless, I want to tell you what I think – me, Linda Curtis. The League of Independent Voters will have its own response to my report soon.
What went down is that local Hays County Commissioners, Will Conley and Ray Whisenant, together with San Antonio Water Systems (SAWS) Senior VP CEO Steven Clouse, stole the show peddling their respective plans to drain the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer and its deep Simsboro formation in rural counties just east of Austin where I happen to live.
The confusing blather of the Hays County Commissioners – which might explain why so many people just up and left before the end – had many scratching their heads. But it was the scientists on the panel who really got to me. They began with a conclusion. The conclusion is that our growth rate in central Texas will continue for decades, ignoring the basic truism we all learn in Biology 101, expressed in the graph below. We put this together for our friends in Austin who are choking on out-of-control growth and its intimate partner – unaffordability.
In other words, dear Hays County friends, we Central Texans are on an unsustainable path. But you already know this. So why was this perspective not represented at the CARD event? I really don’t know. But I think Hays Countians need to hear another viewpoint and some basic facts.
It is important that you understand that the projects being sold to you on Thursday night represent a virtual siege by water marketers and some municipalities on the aquifer east of Austin – the Simsboro formation of the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer under Burleson, Milam, Lee and Bastrop counties. It is a fact that you cannot effectively evaluate the effect of one project on the aquifer without acknowledging the total projected pumping on the same aquifer.
It surprised me that no one from Hays County took on their Commissioners for using taxpayer dollars for a “reservation agreement” with Forestar Real Estate Group for 45,000- acre-feet per year, after the Lost Pines District granted Forestar a more reasonable 12,000 acre-feet permit based on a desire not to mine (and harm) the Simsboro. That’s almost 14 billion gallons per year compared to a little less than 4 billion gallons --- however, 4 billion gallons is estimated to serve up to 35,000 homes.
Hays County has no way to deliver, much less need for, water for 125,000 homes until maybe 2060! What’s more, ask the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District that represents you if they would ever agree to the amount of drawdown on your aquifer being forced on us out here east of Austin. (Yours is approximately 30 feet, ours is 200+ feet drawdown “average”, which means much higher drawdowns near the mega-well fields themselves.) I think the answer is likely not just no, but hell no!
Forestar is suing not only the Lost Pines GCD, but each of our volunteer board members individually, no doubt using Hays County dollars for their litigation kitty. Are these the kind of people Hays County citizens want their tax dollars supporting? I doubt it. But no one peeped a word.
There’s also water marketer, End Op, LP, owned by former Williamson County Commissioner, Frankie Limmer, a notorious good ole boy. End Op is trying to secure a permit from Lost Pines GCD for 46,000 acre-feet from the same aquifer.
The most imminent contract for Simsboro water is the Vista Ridge Project for 50,000 acre-feet brokered between SAWS and a consortium of the Spanish-based Abengoa Water USA and Austin-based Blue Water Systems. Post Oak Savannah Groundwater Conservation District (Milam and Burleson counties), just to the north and east of the Lost Pines District, has already approved a permit for Blue Water totaling 71,000 acre-feet that will be used for the SAWS project as well as for the SR 130 corridor, much to the chagrin of Milam and Burleson County landowners, businesses and newly arrived board members of Post Oak GCD who are just realizing that they’ve been had. That’s right. It’s the same aquifer that Lost Pines is getting sued out the ying-yang for trying to protect.
The SAWS Vista Ridge deal may well be inked on September 22, but it must be approved by the San Antonio City Council. This was really why I attended the Hays County meeting. I went there to ask for help from our Hays County friends to appeal to the San Antonio officials to put a stop to this.
If we, together, can bust the SAWS Vista Ridge deal, this will be a signal to the Hays County Commissioners Court and municipalities along the IH-35 corridor to take their foot off the growth pedal by continuing to enable real estate developers building in areas without adequate local water supply. If we unite as a region, we can do powerful things. If we don’t, the SAWS deal is likely to be the beginning of the end of groundwater sustainability for us all.
Photo courtesy of the LCRA......Lake Travis is heading towards its lowest levels in history if we have a dry fall.September 19, 2014 | 11:32 AM By Terrence HenryCentral Texas is having a pretty decent year, rain-wise. We’re sitting just below normal. And it’s been a good week, too: early Thursday, one part of Austin got over seven inches of rain.
So much rain fell over downtown Austin that the statue of Stevie Ray Vaughan along Lady Bird Lake looked like he was walking on water...
Photo courtesy of the LCRA......Lake Travis is heading
towards its lowest levels in history if we have a dry fall.
Central Texas is having a pretty decent year, rain-wise. We’re sitting just below normal. And it’s been a good week, too: early Thursday, one part of Austin got over seven inches of rain.
So much rain fell over downtown Austin that the statue of Stevie Ray Vaughan along Lady Bird Lake looked like he was walking on water. It brought back memories of the Halloween floods last fall — back then Stevie was standing in water waist-deep. But these big rain events all have something in common: They really haven’t fallen where we need them most.
“The watershed that helps our water supplies isn’t here in Austin; it’s way up into the counties to the north of us. It’s the drainage that goes into Lakes Buchanan and Travis,” says John Hofmann, Executive Vice President of Water for the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA).
Hofmann says while the areas around the lakes got some decent rain earlier this summer, other than that it’s been pretty dry up there. So while Lake Austin is getting doused, the creekbeds that go into the Highland Lakes can stay relatively dry. Lake Travis has risen over a foot this week, and could go up another foot today. But it’s still nearly 40 feet below where it should be, and lower than it was a month ago.
And it’s not just where the water is falling that’s preventing the lakes from recovering. It’s the condition of the ground that it’s falling on.
If the ground is dry, it can soak that rain right up.
“You know, the water falls from rain. Some of it runs off into the reservoir, some of it recharges the groundwater. But a lot of it stays right near the surface. And it’s taken up by the plants. Or it just evaporates,” says Michael Young, an Associate Director at UT’s Bureau of Economic Geology. “Even though 2014 so far has been near-normal precipitation or maybe a couple of inches behind,” Young says, “we’re getting no response from the reservoirs, and it’s because most of the water is soaking into the soil.”
“Outside of precipitation, [soil moisture] is one of the most important components of the water balance in this state,” Young says. “And we don’t know what that component is. It’s a complete black box across the state.”
Those water losses to dry soil continue today. “The first inch or two of rainfall in most of these events that we’ve had scattered around the summer are immediately soaked up by the soil,” says Hofmann with the LCRA. The rain this week has basically bought Central Texas a few weeks of water supply, he says.
All of this adds up to a struggling reservoir system for Central Texas. If you look at the water levels of Lake Travis over the years and graph them out, it’s almost like a heartbeat monitor. And starting in the mid-2000s, the lake looks likes it could use some life support.
If we have a dry fall, the Highland Lakes could reach their lowest levels by the end of December, and that would mean that from a reservoir standpoint, this drought is worse than the drought of record in the fifties.
So what would it take to bring the lakes back?
“A series of rain events that would result somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 to 20 inches of rainfall, widespread throughout that area, before we could see real meaningful improvement in our supplies,” says Hofmann with the LCRA.
There is a silver lining, however. Even though the lakes aren’t recovering yet, rainfall over the city still helps reduce the demands on them. It cools things down, reducing evaporation; it increases soil moisture, setting the stage for better runoffs next time it rains; and hopefully it keeps you from watering your lawn.
“We’re all optimistically watching the skies right now,” Hofmann says.
Steve Arthur's crew works drilling a well for farmer Juan Carrera that will provide water for his orange grove in Terra Bella, Calif. (Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times) By Melanie Mason contact the reporter Laws and LegislationJerry BrownRoger DickinsonGov. Jerry Brown on signing the state's first plan to manage groundwater: 'This is a big deal'Many agriculture interests remain staunchly opposed to the groundwater regulation lawsGov...
Steve Arthur's crew works drilling a well for farmer Juan Carrera that will provide water for his orange grove in Terra Bella, Calif. (Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times)
Gov. Jerry Brown on signing the state's first plan to manage groundwater: 'This is a big deal'
Many agriculture interests remain staunchly opposed to the groundwater regulation laws
Gov. Jerry Brown signed a trio of bills Tuesday establishing a framework for statewide regulation of California's underground water sources, marking the first time in the state's history that groundwater will be managed on a large scale.
"This is a big deal," Brown said at a signing ceremony in the Capitol. "It's been known about for decades that underground water has to be managed and regulated in some way." Since the state's founding, water has been considered a property right; landowners have been able to pump as much water from the ground as they want. But increasing reliance on underground water, particularly during droughts, has led to more pumping from some basins than what is naturally being replaced.
Some areas already have begun managing their groundwater sources, but other key basins remain unregulated.
Even with the management structure in place, experts say it could be decades before the state's most depleted basins recover.
The regulatory plan signed by Brown is broken up into three bills: SB 1168 by Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) instructs local agencies to create management plans. A measure by Assemblyman Roger Dickinson (D-Sacramento), AB 1739, establishes when the state government can intervene if the local groups don't sufficiently do their job.
A third measure, SB 1319, also by Pavley, seeks to allay some concerns of farmers by postponing the state's action in certain places where surface water has been affected by groundwater pumping. Brown touted the plan's emphasis on local agencies, which he described as "pushing the responsibility to where people really are."
He insisted his administration and lawmakers did not "shove aside those who were not totally comfortable" while crafting the legislation.
"We've made some concessions, we've taken into account concerns that farmers throughout California have," he said, adding "we've gone as far as we thought was appropriate" to address those concerns.
But many agriculture interests remain staunchly opposed to the bill. Paul Wenger, president of the California Farm Bureau Federation, said the bills "may come to be seen as 'historic' for all the wrong reasons" by drastically harming food production.
Assemblyman Jim Patterson (R-Fresno) said the legislation did not go far enough in protecting local interests because the state can step in to enforce regulation.
"Waiting in the wings is the all-powerful reach of state government," Patterson said in an interview. "That should scare anybody.
"There's really going to be a wrestling match over who’s going to get the water," Patterson said, predicting the regulation plans will bring a rash of lawsuits.
Groundwater will likely remain on the agenda for the Legislature next year. In a signing statement, Brown indicated he would also propose legislative tweaks next session to streamline the process in which courts determine groundwater rights.
Livestock Weekly September 18, 2014Trend Of Land Fragmentation, Rural Loss Continues In TexasBy John Bradshaw LUBBOCK — Land fragmentation has been a growing problem for Texas, and by all appearances it isn’t going to slow any time soon. The state’s population continues to grow rapidly, and those residents have an insatiable appetite for land. Todd Snelgrove brought some facts and figures on fragmentation trends to a recent landowner forum presented by Texas Agricultural Land Trust. Snelgrove, who is with the Texas A&M Institute of Renewable Natural Resources, began by talking about the state’s continued population growth...
September 18, 2014
Trend Of Land Fragmentation, Rural Loss Continues In Texas
By John Bradshaw
LUBBOCK — Land fragmentation has been a growing problem for Texas, and by all appearances it isn’t going to slow any time soon. The state’s population continues to grow rapidly, and those residents have an insatiable appetite for land.
Todd Snelgrove brought some facts and figures on fragmentation trends to a recent landowner forum presented by Texas Agricultural Land Trust. Snelgrove, who is with the Texas A&M Institute of Renewable Natural Resources, began by talking about the state’s continued population growth.
In 1997 there were 19 million Texas residents. Today that number has climbed to 26 million.
“That’s a 36 percent increase, or about 500,000 new Texans every year,” Snelgrove said.
Of that increase, 63 percent moved to 10 counties, which are all around Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, Austin, and San Antonio.
“There has been massive population growth over the last 15 years in those areas,” he said.
Looking at the top 25 most-populated counties, in 1997 there were 13 million residents. Now there are 19 million.
“We’re seeing the sprawl,” Snelgrove said.
It thundered outside just as he said this, and Snelgrove remarked that it was a sign of impending doom.
Those top 25 counties represent only 10 percent of the total acreage in Texas but hold three-fourths of the state’s population.
In 1997 the highest-value land was concentrated in the close vicinity of the large cities, but since then the market value of land surrounding those cities for some distance has increased dramatically.
“It is expanding out into traditional rural counties,” Snelgrove said.
In the last 15 years one million acres of what is considered open space were lost to fragmentation. Much of that occurred during a nationwide economic boom.
However, from 2007-2012 the trend slowed considerably due to the economic recession.
“We’re still losing open space land, but not quite as quickly as we did in the previous decade,” he said.
There has been a significant increase in the number of farms of fewer than 500 acres over the last 15 years surrounding Dallas and Houston.
“That is a massive indication of ownership fragmentation,” Snelgrove said.
Those small farms are coming from the fragmentation of tracts in the 500-2000 acre class.
However, in areas where profitability from land ownership has been high over the last 15 years, where someone can make a living from their land, there has been some consolidation of smaller tracts into larger holdings.
Areas around Lubbock have been consolidating, as are some areas in South Texas. It’s too early to tell, but Snelgrove said his gut is saying that as landowners continue to receive financial benefits from oil and gas production there will be an increase in consolidation in those areas.
“I think in this next generation of land trends, looking from 2012 to 2017, we’ll see an increase in consolidation in those areas that have reaped the benefits, like the Eagle Ford Shale and the Permian Basin,” he said.
The upturn in oil and gas will cause more fragmentation near the cities, though, as more companies and people move to Texas.
“If you’re living near any of the major transportation corridors through the middle part of the state, those rural lands are going to be under extreme pressure.”
Although there has been consolidation in a few select areas around the state, the majority has continued to be broken up. Areas where it is particularly evident are along the Gulf Coast and through the Edwards Plateau, Rolling Plains and into East Texas.
Looking at the future, the increasing population coupled with the economic rise should trigger an acceleration of open space decline, Snelgrove predicted. It is projected that by 2040 the population of Texas will reach 36 million.
Aquifer is No Quick Fix for Central Texas Thirst Water marketers who want to sell to cities say there’s plenty of groundwater, however landowners and conservationists warn that this precious resource could drain in a few decades. What’s the long-term impact on the Colorado River as the groundwater table declines? Who exactly is this water for and what are they willing to pay? Neena Satija, Texas Tribune...
Aquifer is No Quick Fix for Central Texas Thirst Water marketers who want to sell to cities say there’s plenty of groundwater, however landowners and conservationists warn that this precious resource could drain in a few decades. What’s the long-term impact on the Colorado River as the groundwater table declines? Who exactly is this water for and what are they willing to pay? Neena Satija, Texas Tribune.
Wild Pigs! Landowner groups and Wildlife Coops – Here’s something worth passing along to your member lists. Wild Pigs are an issue throughout the Hill Country region. Here’s an opportunity to learn from the comfort of your own ranch/home computer. Dial in September 18th to from noon to 1:00. Find out how to access this webinar made possible by the Texas Wildlife Association.
No Land. No Water. As the current drought reminds us, water continues to impact the sustainability and growth of Texas' economy. Unfortunately, land is disappearing faster than in any other state, threatening the water resources on which our economy depends. Land conservation is a cost-effective water resource protection strategy. Join TALT October 1st in Austin.
"I’m a NIMBY and proud" “The effects of population growth on traffic are easy to understand. More people equal more cars on the road. More cars on the road equal more congestion. Duh! The real culprit is the rate at which new people are moving here.” Read one bold Austinite's views (who happens to also be a Real Estate Developer) about the real issue facing Austin (and the Hill Country) population. Ed Wendler, Special to the Austin American Statesman.
Fall Camping Workshops Announced for Outdoor Families With cool weather around the corner, the Texas Outdoor Family program has scheduled outdoor recreational workshops statewide though the beginning of December. The workshops offer a low-cost weekend trip where families can un-plug, reconnect with nature, and learn the basics of camping. Read more from Texas Parks and Wildlife.
Interested in getting more actively involved in HCA?
Join HCA leaders and volunteers as well as invited elected officials, GCD board members, landowners and conservationists for a day dedicated to vibrant towns, healthy landscapes, protected natural water systems and people making a difference in our Hill Country. HCA Leadership Summit, September 25th at the Admiral Nimitz Museum in Fredericksburg. Space is limited Register today.
September 17 in Lakeway - Water Matters by Central Texas Water Coalition - Details
September 18 in Austin - The Barstow Speakers Series: Wat're the possibilities? Strategies to Reduce the Strain on the Colorado River - Details
September 20 in Fredericksburg - Fredericksburg Shines 2nd Annual Sustainability Green Homes Tour - Details
September 22 in Kerrville - Monthly meeting of the Texas Master Naturalists - Topic: Hill Country Land Trusts, Speaker: Bill Lindemann, Vice President of Hill Country Land Trust - Details
September 25 in Fredericksburg - Hill Country Alliance Leadership Summit - Details
September 26 in Kerrville - 2014 New Landowner Series: Back to Basics, Home Gardening, Chickens, Natural vs. Organic - Presented by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service - Details
September 26-28 in Belton - Renewable Energy Roundup - Details
September 27-28 in Boerne - Texas Hydro-Geo Workshop - Details
September 28 in Austin - 7th Annual Celebration of Children in Nature - Hosted by The Children in Nature Collaborative of Austin and the Westcave Outdoor Discovery Center - Details
October 1 in Austin - No Land, No Water: Tools & Strategies for Conserving Land to Protect Water Resources - Presented by Texas Agricultural Land Trust - Details
October 8 in San Antonio - Water Forum V: A regional forum on our future - Details
October 16 in Boerne - Hill Country Agri-land workshop - Details
October 17-19 in Alpine - Society for Ecological Restoration Annual Conference: Ecological Restoration in the Southwest - Details
October 24 in Utopia - Stars over Utopia - Learn how to protect our night skies and do some stargazing - Details
October 25 in Dripping Springs - HCA's 5th Annual Rainwater Revival! - Details
Darwyn Hanna grows pecans and runs cattle on some of the
land he owns in Bastrop County. He is contesting a water
marketer's bid to pump about 15 billion gallons a year from the Carrizo-Wilcox
Aquifer in Bastrop County, saying the plan would devalue his property.
As drought continues to grip Central Texas, those looking to provide water to the region’s fast-growing cities and suburbs see a solution in a relatively untapped aquifer.
Water marketers, who bundle groundwater rights and sell the water to cities, say the region’s Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer holds hundreds of trillions of gallons of water. They say that is enough water to sustain growth for centuries in areas around Austin, whose reservoirs are only 34 percent full, and San Antonio, whose own aquifer is at such low levels that federally protected species are at risk.
But those who live above the Carrizo-Wilcox in rural Central Texas counties tell a different story, along with some environmental advocacy groups. They say bids from three prospective water providers to pump a combined 50 billion gallons of water a year from the aquifer will accommodate urban growth at the rural counties’ expense and drain a precious resource within just a few decades. Scientists say determining who is right depends on the answers to a few key questions: Who is the water for? How much is the user willing to pay to get it? And how much will that user compensate others who may no longer be able to access the water as a result?
“It’s not a matter of availability,” said James Beach, a hydrologist for the firm LBG-Guyton who studies the Carrizo-Wilcox for a groundwater management district, the Central Texas water provider Aqua and San Antonio’s water utility. “The volume of water is there. It’s more a question of impact,” and how to measure and deal with those impacts, he added.
For example, shallow farm wells could run dry because of other pumping unless their pumps are lowered — which could cost thousands of dollars. Most hydrologists say those wells would have to be deepened if proposals to remove large amounts of water from Burleson, Bastrop and Lee counties proceed.
But they also say that water companies can compensate landowners, pointing out that many — including mining companies and water utilities — have done so in recent decades across Texas and in other portions of the aquifer. The water marketer End Op, which hopes to pump about 15 billion gallons a year from underneath Bastrop County, has agreed to pay millions of dollars into a fund to help landowners who may have to lower their pumps.
Not everyone is satisfied by that response. “I think that’s just saying, ‘We’re going to throw money at this so that we can bankrupt the system and overpump it,” said Darwyn Hanna, whose family has owned land in Bastrop County for five generations. Hanna grows pecans and runs cattle on some of his 250 acres, and while he does not pump groundwater, he is contesting End Op’s permit because he believes it will devalue his land.
Even the water marketers themselves could run into trouble as the region continues to grow. Drilling in the deepest portions of the Carrizo-Wilcox should help minimize the impact on rural landowners with shallower wells, and water marketers argue that they only need to remove a small percentage of the total water believed to be stored in the aquifer.
But sustained groundwater removal from even the deepest portions will cause water levels there to decline, and lowering pumps will not always do the trick. Eventually, the user will have to drill more wells to continue removing water at the same rate, said Robert Mace, deputy executive administrator at the Texas Water Development Board, the state’s water planning agency. “If you wanted to set out and drain 5 percent of the storage of the Carrizo, I think you could do it” and leave most of the aquifer intact, said Mace. “But would it be economical to do that?” Adding extra, deeper wells can be a significant expense, he said.
Aqua Water Supply Corporation, which sells Carrizo-Wilcox water to thousands of Central Texans, has already protested attempts by other marketers to pump from the aquifer, saying that they would impact its ability to provide water to its customers.
James Bene, a hydrologist who consults for BlueWater Systems, which hopes to pump 16 billion gallons a year from the Carrizo-Wilcox in Burleson County to sell to San Antonio said pumping by nearby users “a substantial risk for the financial backers of projects like this.”
“They’re trying to figure out what a good payback on a 30-year loan will be,” Bene said. “Well, that’s easier said than done when you’re not sure whether you’ll be pumping water from 100 feet below ground level or 300 feet below ground level. So nobody is really sure.” But, he added, “I can tell you that any reasonable designer of a well field builds in some safety margin.”
Another related concern for environmental advocates is the relationship between the Carrizo-Wilcox aquifer and the Colorado River, whose flow has been at its lowest in decades. Studies show that the aquifer contributes some water supply to the river each year.
Modeling by George Rice, a former Edwards Aquifer Authority hydrologist, suggests that pumping by companies like End Op and BlueWater Systems could cause Carrizo-Wilcox to begin pulling water out of the river instead of putting water into it. That could cause further damage downstream to fishermen, who depend on the river’s freshwater flows for a steady supply of oysters and shrimp in Matagorda Bay. But no one has ever firmly established the relationship between the river and the aquifer.
“Give us a million dollars and give us a 20-year time to study it, and we’d come to an inconclusive result,” said Alan Dutton, a professor of hydrogeology at the University of Texas at San Antonio who has worked on state models of the aquifer. “The margin of error is much greater than the effects we’re trying to distinguish.”
There is also less funding for such research, and technical staff for groundwater modeling at the state water planning agency has been reduced by half.
But no matter how much more data is collected, basic questions will still remain over how to allocate a limited resource — especially one that is considered private property under Texas law. “That’s going to be a political and socioeconomic issue in 30 years,” Bene said. “Is the economic growth along the I-35 corridor worth a little bit extra drawdown for ranchers or farmers or landowners to the east? I can’t answer that,” Bene said. “But again, I can speak to the inevitability. We have no other source of water, really. We have to look to our major aquifers.”
Disclosure: The University of Texas at San Antonio is a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Texas Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.
In This Issue CEC NotesWelcome new subscribersDowntown Fall FestCOALITION NOTESThe Future of Transportation in The WoodlandsSierra Club Evening Benefit EventA Story of Memorial Park: People in NatureHouston Green Film Series: Come Hell or High WaterClean Waters Initiative: Water Rights and Water ReusePublic Interest Design Institute at RiceHouston Speaks: My Houston 2040Native Plants at Home and Garden ShowGalveston Bay Foundation Rain Barrel ProgramXtreme Hummingbird ExtravaganzaFifth Ward/Buffalo Bayou/East End WorkshopsCall for Livable Center Study and Special Districts Study PartnersScenic Galveston's 28th Event: GLO Adopt-A-Beach-EstuaryTree & Wetland Plant Nursery Open HouseKPFT 90...
CEC recently received a lovely letter from Justus Baird, a former CEC board member. Justus is now the dean at the Auburn Theological Seminary in NYC, where he works to train leaders for faith-rooted social justice work, including environmental issues. He writes that the Seminary is participating in the People's Climate March in New York on Saturday. The school had a strong role in the creation of a 'Noah's Ark' that will make an appearance.
Sometimes it is hard to consider things that are happening in New York, when we have so many environmental opportunities here in Houston. Nevertheless, the People's Climate March does merit our attention. Organizers are expecting over 100,000 people in NYC alone, in what is expected to be the largest climate march in history.
World leaders are coming to New York City for a UN summit on the climate crisis. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is urging governments to support an ambitious global agreement to dramatically reduce global warming pollution. With our future on the line and the whole world watching, people will take to the streets to demand a world we know is within our reach: a world with an economy that works for people and the planet; a world safe from the ravages of climate change; a world with good jobs, clean air and water, and healthy communities.
As you might imagine, I am delighted that the greater Houston environmental community will have at least some representation at the event. Are you planning to attend?
If you aren't heading to New York, you might want to participate in a local support event (please use the links to RSVP). The event listing is provided by 350.org, which is one of over 1000 organizations who are part of the event.
Other Texas events are being held at the Texas Capitol Grounds, Austin City Hall, Georgetown, Nacogdoches, and at the Texas Railroad Commission Fort Worth Office (that ought to be a good one). I expect more events will be added.
Welcome new subscribers
Please welcome our new subscribers: Jimmy, Paige, Morgan, Caroline, Samantha, Alma, Julia, and Yaw. We're glad you joined out community!
Downtown Fall Fest
CEC will be at the free 2014 Downtown Fall Fest this Thursday, September 18, 2014, from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm, at 611 Walker. Come visit!
Re-enroll with Kroger
Each year, Kroger Shoppers must re-enroll with the community rewards program for CEC--and other nonprofits--can receive donation based on your purchases. Visit www.krogercommunityrewards.com to re-enroll. CEC's organization number is 91019.
The Future of Transportation in The Woodlands: What's Next?
September's Going Green Sustainability Lecture, sponsored by The Woodlands G.R.E.E.N., will focus on The Woodlands area's transportation issues. The Woodlands is facing major transportation challenges with the growing traffic levels that are accompanying new development in and around The Woodlands. This added traffic impacts air quality, noise levels, storm runoff, and public safety. Mike Bass, Director on The Woodlands Township Board, will provide an update about these conditions and options considered in two major studies launched in 2013. The lecture will be held on September 16, 2014, at 7pm at the South Regional Library. More at www.thewoodlands.net.
Sierra Club Evening Benefit Event
Gather with like-minded folks, enjoy good company, as well as some great appetizers, and donate to both the local Houston Regional Group Sierra Club and the Lone Star Chapter Sierra Club. The benefit will be held on September 17, 2014, 6:30-8:30pm at teh Houston Arboretum & Nature Center. Hear from the new chapter Executive Director, Scheleen Walker, about past successes and upcoming challenges (including the next legislative session); as well Jennifer Walker, chapter Water Resources Coordinator about what we can't live without. Tickets are $30 for individuals and $50 for couples. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for purchase and information.
A Story of Memorial Park: People in Nature
Please join the Memorial Park Conservancy on September 17, 2014, from 6pm to 8pm for a public update meeting about the current Memorial Park Master Planning process. The evening will include a presentation by the master planning design team (Nelson Byrd Woltz - www.nbwla.com) and a Q & A session following the presentation. Join the Memorial Park Conservancy, Houston Parks and Recreation Department, and Uptown-Houston who are jointly leading the Memorial Park Long-Range Master Planning effort to learn about Memorial Park's soils, ecology, cultural history and preliminary design ideas for the park. For more information, visit http://www.memorialparkconservancy.org/visit-memorial-park/calendar.html.
Houston Green Film Series: Come Hell or High Water. Houston Green Film Series will begin again for the fall semester, commencing with the documentary Come Hell or High Water. Come Hell or High Water: The Battle for Turkey Creek follows the painful but inspiring journey of Derrick Evans, a Boston teacher who moves home to Mississippi when the graves of his ancestors are bulldozed to make way for the sprawling city of Gulfport. Over the course of a decade, Evans and his family and neighbors stand up to powerful corporate interests and politicians and face Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil disaster in their struggle for self-determination and environmental justice. Come out on September 17, 2014, at 6:30pm, to the Rice Media Center. A light dinner will be served, courtesy of Dr. Pat Speck and Dry Bones Cafe. The film is free to the public, though donations are suggested and kindly appreciated. Learn more and RSVP at the facebook event.
Clean Waters Initiative: Water Rights and Water Reuse
The next Clean Waters Initiative will be held on September 18, 2014, at 1:30pm in H-GAC Conference Room A, Second Floor. The topic will be Water Rights and Water Reuse. Subjects to be covered include Region H water supply, Environmental Flows, Rain Barrels, Desalination and Energy Production, and Water Conservation. You can register at http://events.r20.constantcontact.com. CWI offers workshops that help local governments, landowners, and citizens develop effective strategies to reduce pollution in our area waterways. For more information, contact Aubin Phillips at 832-681-2524.
Public Interest Design Institute at Rice School of Architecture
Through September 18, you can register at a reduced rate for the two-day Public Interest Design Institute at the Rice University School of Architecture. Nine national experts, pictured above, will present best practices and case studies in public interest design on October 4 and 5 in Room 117 in Anderson Hall. Navigate now to publicinterestdesign.com/houston to register!
Houston Speaks: My Houston 2040Air Alliance Houston will present a cross-cultural, cross generational and cross-communal dialogue of issues voiced by eight Houston residents, with the aim of promoting "sameness" that exists throughout the Houston community. Networking begins at 5:30, with the show starting promptly at 6:00. Please rsvp to the Facebook Event Page for more information.
Rain barrels are an efficient, low-cost method for collecting rainwater. They are placed at downspouts in order to reduce runoff into storm drains, and can be used for watering a garden or houseplants, among many other uses. Come learn about rain barrels at Galveston Bay Foundation's Rain Barrel Workshop on September 20, 2014, from 2-4pm at the Brown Education Hall at the Houston Zoo. The cost is $30 per registration, which includes admission to the workshop, a 35-gallon recycled barrel, and a connector kit. All purchases are final and attendance at the workshop is required to receive a barrel and kit. Register at www.galvbay.org. There will be another workshop on October 4, 2014, 9:30-11:30am at the McGuire Dent Recreation Center in Galveston.
Xtreme Hummingbird Extravaganza. Autumn is hummingbird season in Texas, as thousands of these tiny creatures move through the state on their southward migration to Mexico and Central America. Join Gulf Coast Bird Observatory on September 20, 2014, to see hummingbirds being banded, adopt a hummingbird, browse the Nature Store, walk the nature trails, or buy a plant to attract hummingbirds and butterflies. More at http://gcbo.org.
Fifth Ward/Buffalo Bayou/East End Workshops
The Fifth Ward CRC, East End Management District, and Buffalo Bayou Partnership are launching a Livable Centers study that will create a plan to improve transportation and housing, create walkable and mixed-use places, and promote economic development. We need your input so that the final plan reflects the vision of the community. The first half an hour will be for networking, and the discussion will start at 6:00pm. Come speak directly to members of the planning team to share your ideas and concerns for the neighborhood.
Fifth Ward workshop: Monday, Sept 22, 2014, 5:30-7:30 pm, The Silo, 4601 Clinton Drive
East End workshop: Tuesday, Sept 23, 2014, 5:30-7:30 pm, HCC Felix Fraga Campus, 301 North Drennan St.
Buffalo Bayou workshop: Saturday, Sept 27, 2014
10:30 am -12:30 pm at Ripley House, 4410 Navigation Blvd.
12:30 - 2:30 pm at Eastwood Park, 5020 Harrisburg Blvd.
Call for Livable Center Study and Special Districts Study Partners
The Houston-Galveston Area Council (H-GAC) is seeking proposals from local governments or other eligible project sponsors to conduct Livable Centers and Special Districts planning studies.The objective of the Livable Centers planning studies is to help create quality, walkable, mixed-use places, create multi-modal travel choices, improve environmental quality, and promote economic development and housing choice. Study recommendations will ideally lead to locally sponsored Livable Centers projects for possible inclusion in the Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) and future Transportation Improvement Programs (TIP). Note: this is not a request for funding proposals from consulting firms. Pre-submittal meeting: September 24, 2014. Deadline for notice of intent to apply: September 30, 2104. Learn more at www.h-gac.com.
SCENIC GALVESTON's wetlands partnership cleaning event with the General Land Office is fast approaching! It's time again for volunteers to step through and into the Tide to remove tons of debris, invasive plants, ugly objects from SG's estuarial habitat conservation preserves and shorelines. There will be on site registration between 8-9am. The cleanup will be held on September 27, 2014, 9am-noon. After, teams will return to the O'Quinn Pavillion for a custom lunch (required RSVP) with a lively report on latest habitat conservation work, team leader reports, and the day's bird count. Learn more at www.guidrynews.com.
Tree & Wetland Plant Nursery Open House
Trees for Houston and the Texas Coastal Watershed Program, in conjunction with the Clear Lake City Water Authority and the Exploration Green Conservancy, are holding a joint open house for the tree and wetland nurseries at Exploration Green, October 4, 2014, 9am-12pm. Tours will be offered and information provided about volunteer opportunities in the nurseries, which are growing trees and plants for the conservation and recreation area in Clear Lake City. The nurseries are accessible from the trail that heads northeast from the bridge on Neptune Lane, approximately 2 ½ blocks north of Bay Area Blvd. Learn more at www.explorationgreen.org.
KPFT 90.1 Tennis Fun Fest
Come out to the Homer Ford Tennis Center on October 11, 2014, for a fun day of tennis! This event will be hosted by KPFT 90.1. The day begins at 8:30am with a 45-minute clinic led by tennis star Lori McNeil (formerly ranked #9 in the world) and her coach and mentor, John Wilkerson. There will be 3 levels of play: Youth to age 16; Adult: Novice; Adult Intermediate/Advanced. The matches will be twenty minutes. This day will be fun for the whole family! Come out for music, food, playground, and auction. Spectators are welcome! Find out more at http://kpft.org.
Houston Canoe Club turns 50!!!
October 11, 2014, 2:00 pm to 10:00 pm, at the Bay Area Community Center, 5002 East NASA Parkway, Seabrook. The HCC 50th Anniversary Flotilla will paddle from the launch site to Horsepen Bayou and back, a distance of about 4 miles. Help getting your boat off and back on your vehicle and to the docks will be available. Any decorations including flags, which will be available for the first 50 or so boats on the scene, will make this HCC 50 Boat Flotilla an attractive and notable newsworthy event. The launch is set for 3pm, so, be sure to arrive around 2pm to allow enough time to prepare and launch your boat.
Save the Date! Friends of Woodland Park Trails at Twilight
For 100 years, Woodland Park has provided Houstonians a haven of natural beauty. Help us preserve this precious resource for coming generations by joining in the celebration. Our wish list includes: park benches, playground equipment, trail signage, foot bridges, game tables and much more. There will be live music, a silent auction, bar and heavy hors d'oeuvres. October 17, 2014. www.friendsofwoodlandpark.org.
Southeast Houston Community Affected by Toxic Waste
Air Alliance Houston reports: "Last month, after almost four years of public outcry, the EPA finally agreed to begin cleaning up an abandoned industrial waste facility in southeast Houston. The waste was left there by CES Environmental Services Inc., which filed for bankruptcy in 2010 after being fined $1.5 million for countless safety violations." Read more.
Houston Anti-Idling Ordinance Petition
Idling from diesel engines creates air pollution and health risks all over the city. From the scores of trucks lined up in neighborhoods around the ship channel to school buses waiting to bring our children home for the day, it is safe to say that all of us are adversely affected by this issue. Help Air Alliance Houston gain traction on an Anti-Idling Ordinance in Houston by signing the petition today! Lean more about anti-idling programs for our region from the H-GAC Engine Off Program.
Natural History and Aesthetics - Why Should We Care About Nature?
Harry Greene, Ph.D., Cornell, Monday, September 22, 6:30 pm, Houston Museum of Natural Science, Public $18, CEC members* $13, Museum members $12. The diversity of life on Earth is under serious threats from multiple human-related causes, and science plays well-known roles in addressing management aspects of this problem. Dr. Harry W. Greene will describe how natural history also plays a vital role in enhancing our appreciation for organisms and environments, thereby influencing value judgments that ultimately underlie all conservation. I will first explain how an 18th century philosopher's distinction between "beauty" and "sublime" can be used in the context of Darwin's notion of "descent with modification," then illustrate this approach with frogs, snakes, African megafauna, Longhorns, and California Condors. Dr. Harry Greene is professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Cornell University. He is a popular author and will be signing copies of his latest book Tracks and Shadows: Field Biology as Art following the lecture. This lecture at the Houston Museum of Natural Science is co-sponsored by Rice University's Glasscock School of Continuing Studies. Register at hmns.org. * For discount code, CEC members should contact email@example.com or call 713-524-4232.
Double Bayou Riparian & Stream Ecosystem Workshop
The Texas A&M Institute of Renewable Natural Resources | Texas Water Resources Institute and the Double Bayou Watershed Partnership invite you to attend the Texas Riparian & Stream Ecosystem Workshop on September 24, 2014 from 8am - 4pm at White's Park Community Building an Hankamer/Anahuac. Learn more about the riparian workshop, and register by Sept. 19, 2014.
2014-2015 Energy Symposium Series: Critical Issues in Energy
The second annual Energy Symposium Series will be held on September 30, 2014, 5:30-8pm at the University of Houston. The topic of this event is US Energy Independence: Good for the Nation? Guest speakers include Edward Chow, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Ed Hirs, Hillhouse Resources LLC and University of Houston, and Jane Kleeb, Bold Nebraska. The event will be moderated by Dave Fehling of Houston Public Media. This is a free event. Visit www.eventbrite.com to register.
Coastal Resiliency Conference: Living on the Edge
Texas Medical Branch's Center in Environmental Toxicology, is organizing a three day conference on coastal resilience scheduled for October 8-10, 2014. This conference will provide a platform to discuss the challenges and strategies for building and preserving a resilient Gulf Coast. Attendees will explore the connections between the natural environment and the cultural heritage of coastal populations. The cost is $120, and $25 for students. Register at www.galvestonhistory.org.
Captain Planet Foundation Small Grant
The Captain Planet Foundation primarily makes grants to U.S.-based schools and organizations with an annual operating budget of less than $3 million. Grants are made for activities that conform to the mission of the Captain Planet Foundation and MUST have all three of the following to be considered for funding: be project based; projects must be performed by youth; and projects must have real environmental outcomes. Captain Planet Foundation will accept small grant requests for amounts between $500 - $2,500. Preferential consideration is given to requests who have secured at least 50% matching or in-kind funding for their projects. The application for spring and summer projects is September 30, 2014, and January 31, 2015, for fall and winter projects. Read more and apply at http://captainplanetfoundation.org.
Children's Environmental Health Institute's Scientific Symposium
Biennial Scientific Symposium. Register now for the Children's Environmental Health Institute's Eight Biennial Scientific Symposium: Prenatal Environmental Exposures as a Determinant of Early Childhood Disease. Hear global experts challenge us to elevate critical thinking on ways to address the prevention of environmental health risks to children. Keynote speakers Jeanne Conry, MD, PhD, and Philippe Grandjean, MD, PhD, among other distinguished speakers will provide prevention-oriented research on how toxic chemicals in the environment harm our ability to reproduce, negatively affect pregnancies, and are associated with numerous health problems and chronic disease. The symposium will be held November 13-14, 2014, at McKinney Roughs Education Center, close to Austin Texas. Learn more and register at http://cehi.org.
Save the Date: Texas Wildlife & Woodland Expo
Last year, over 5,000 families, scouts, and adults attended the daylong event. 150 educational booths, classes, hands-on clinic, exhibitors, and activities on the campus of Lone Star College-Montgomery. Free. Visit expo.tamu.edu for more information and booth information. March 28, 2015.
Additional Dates of Note
9/21/2014: Fall Interfaith Environmental Stewardship Event--Contact Lisa at firstname.lastname@example.org or 713-372-7345
Broadcast on KUHT Channel 8 at 3:00 PM each Saturday and on municipal access cable channels in Baytown, Deer Park, Houston, Nassau Bay, Pasadena, Seabrook, Sugar Land, and on HCC TV. More info on the TPWD website (* indicates a segment about the Houston area). For a preview, visit TPWD's YouTube Page.
(Harvey Rice - Houston Chronicle, 9/7/2014) Galveston tax collector-assessor Cheryl Johnson has seen lawsuits by oil companies suck millions of dollars out of local government coffers in recent years. The Republican officeholder watched as Valero used a quirk in tax law to twice win lawsuits forcing the Texas City school district to refund taxes. Valero is still suing for even more tax refunds. When Marathon Petroleum Corp. recently used the same tax law to sue for a reduction in property taxes for one of the country's largest refineries, Johnson vowed to try to convince legislators to do something about a problem she estimates is costing local governments about $1 billion annually. www.houstonchronicle.com
Houston getting $10 million for traffic tracking systems
(Houston Chronicle, 9/10/2014) An ongoing project to expand and upgrade traffic systems in the Houston area has received $10 million from a highly-competitive federal transportation program, officials confirmed. Though it won't build a new road or add another bus route, officials said the money will improve traffic by bolstering Houston's transportation monitoring system, which relays traffic information to drivers and helps city workers address congestion. The money gives Houston officials another $10 million to invest in work already going on around the area to upgrade or add traffic monitoring data, city of Houston public works spokesman Alvin Wright said. http://blog.chron.com
Houston offers sweet deal on park to Sugar Land
(Mike Morris - Houston Chronicle, 9/5/2014) In the 25 years since the city of Houston and the Houston Parks Board purchased Cullinan Park off Highway 6 near U.S. 90A, creating the city's fourth-largest park, the site has languished. Far outside Houston city limits next to Sugar Land Regional Airport, the park boasts just one entrance road, some picnic tables, and a few hiking trails to complement the wooden walkways overlooking White Lake, abuzz with dragonflies and coated with lily pads. "This is a great resource out here, but it has a long way to go before you can really call it a good all-purpose park," said Don Gallo, local resident and park regular. Houston is now considering transferring responsibility for the park to the city of Sugar Land. www.houstonchronicle.com
James Nielsen / Houston Chronicle
Planning for future water use a conundrum for Houston
(Matthew Tresaugue - Houston Chronicle) Beneath Houston, miles of the city's aging water mains are leaking billions of gallons each year. The repairs will require years of work and millions of dollars. So what's a city to do? Houston is raising the possibility of a new rate structure as the city finalizes the first update to its conservation plan since enduring the worst one-year drought in its history in 2011. www.houstonchronicle.com
More Headlines at Scoop.it
CEC has collected even more headlines at scoop.it.
NEW! Nature Discovery Center seeks Executive Director
The Executive Director of the Nature Discovery Center (NDC) is responsible for managing all aspects of the Nature Discovery Center's operations through strong, creative, and strategic leadership. The ED builds consensus, stimulates staff development, and delivers results related to the organization's mission and goals. The ED is responsible for effective implementation of policies set by the Board of Directors as well as annual goals and objectives related to fiscal management, programming, and administration. For view the job description, visit www.cechouston.org. Learn more about the Nature Discovery Center at www.naturediscoverycenter.org.
NEW! Artist Boat seeks Accounting Manager
The Accounting Manager is primarily responsible for assisting the Executive Director and Treasurer with the financial management of the organization. The Accounting Manager is required to have a formal and strong foundation in accounting, best practices in financial management, grants management and grants reimbursements, and nonprofit accounting. The purpose of this position is to provide the financial management infrastructure to maintain and grow all programs, track and report on all finances regarding grants and accounts, assure educational program staff have the proper support for procurement of materials and equipment needed for programs, assist the Executive Director with financial management of all funds, and process payroll. The Accounting Manager reports to the Executive Director, participates in the board of directors' finance committee, and maintains a positive roll in communicating with all members of the board of directors and staff. If interested, submit resume, cover letter, and three professional references via United States Postal Service to Karla Klay, Executive Director, 2415 Avenue K, Galveston, Texas 77550. View the full job description at www.artistboat.org.
NEW! The Nature Discovery Center seeks Weekend Naturalist
The Nature Discovery Center is looking for an energetic and enthusiastic individual to join its education team: someone who loves science, nature, and children. This part-time position manages the weekend operations of the Center, with a focus on visitor services and education. Major responsibilities include: oversee the Center on Saturdays & Sundays, 9am-5:30pm (flexible); provide interactive, hands-on experiences in our science-based Discovery Rooms; update materials and curriculum in the Discovery Rooms as needed, with additional staff support; conduct birthday party programs with nature themed topics; conduct nature experiences such as nature walks and talks, as needed; manage weekend volunteers; manage animal care; and be a crucial member of the team, attending staff planning meetings as available. To apply for the Weekend Naturalist position, please provide a short cover letter and resume to Anne Eisner, Program Coordinator, at email@example.com. Learn more about the Center at naturediscoverycenter.org.
NEW! Cypresswood Water Conservation Garden seeks Part-time Webmaster
NEW! Southern Alliance for Clean Energy seeks Solar Power Program Manager & Energy Policy Staff (Tennessee)
The successful candidate will have several years of experience working on policy, development or procurement of solar power in the electric power sector. The applicant must demonstrate solid skills in most of the following areas: writing, public speaking, analytic and computer applications. Experience with state agencies, decision-makers, media, or non-profit advocacy necessary. More info at cleanenergy.org.
The Galveston Bay Foundation (GBF) seeks a full-time Grants Billing Specialist to fulfill reimbursement billing duties related to GBF's government grants, accounts payable, and accounts receivable as a member of the Administrative Team. Qualifications include a bachelor's degree in Accounting (received or in progress), ability to pass an intermediate level accounting test, and experience with QuickBooks financial software (preferred, not required). For a full job description, including duties and qualifications, please visit the GBF website. To apply, please e-mail resume by September 19 to firstname.lastname@example.org.
BikeHouston seeks three new staff members: Development Director, Director of Government and Community Affairs, and Marketing/Communication Associate
Development: This person will lead the development effort and build a multi-faceted approach to raising income to support our programs and advocacy work. They will have an entrepreneurial style and build a dynamic development program to diversify and expand BikeHouston's revenue. The primary responsibilities will be to secure new foundation grants and corporate sponsorship, and increase the number of individual donors and members. Additional responsibilities will include growing our membership as well as convert members into donors. The new staffer will bring structure, systems, creativity, positive energy and a track record of fundraising to the job. Government & Community Affairs: The position is responsible for identifying, monitoring and shaping policy initiatives within the city and county governments, management districts and super neighborhoods which relate to the BikeHouston mission. S/he helps communicate and advance the mission and goals to governmental programs through direct engagement with the Mayor's office, City Council Members, COH Health Department, Parks & Recreation Department, the Planning Department, and Houston Police Department, as well as related regional governmental and non-governmental organizations.The position is also responsible for identifying and securing public funding and monitoring policy initiatives within the city, state and federal levels of government, with the support of the Director of Development.
Marketing/Communications Associate:The position begins as soon as possible and ends after 4 months, when an evaluation of eligibility for a renewal may be considered. You'll be expected to ask a lot of questions, but also to think independently. There's not a lot of room for passivism. You'll need to be proactive and pretty on top of your day-to-day to succeed here. The benefit of this is that this position can be as big or small of an experience as you let it. The position begins as soon as possible and ends after 4 months, when an evaluation of eligibility for a renewal may be considered. You'll be expected to ask a lot of questions, but also to think independently. You'll need to be proactive and pretty on top of your day-to-day to succeed here. The benefit of this is that this position can be as big or small of an experience as you let it.
The positions will remain open until filled. The positions may be full or part-time. Substantial flexibility around working hours and vacation may be offered for outstanding candidates. The positions do require some work on weekends and during the evenings given the stakeholders we serve. Complete job descriptions are available at www.bikehouston.org/jobs/.
Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Nature Tourism Program seeks Associate
Associate will act as on site manager and Assistant to the Director. In this capacity the Extension Associate will provide day to day management of the Long Acres Ranch Nature Center property and programs. All programs and development of new programs and facilities will be guided by an existing plan of action developed as part of the service contract with the foundation that owns Long Acres Ranch and is supporting this project. This person will be responsible for implementing the existing action plan, leading tours and education programs, recruiting and managing volunteers and potentially future paid staff as hiring becomes feasible. This person will be responsible for budgets and community relations, on going data collection, visitor evaluations and regular activity reports. This person will work closely with the Fort Bend County Extension office staff to support 4H Youth Natural Resource program, Adult volunteer programs and natural resource educational programs. Please fill out the online form to apply.
Memorial Park Conservancy seeks Administrative Assistant
The Administrative Assistant position for Memorial Park Conservancy (MPC) provides administrative support to the office, with a focus on supporting the Executive Director. This position manages and maintains the Executive Director's schedule, and supports all office and administrative functions and programs. The Administrative Assistant provides support to the Board of Directors and committees as determined by the Executive Director. Essential job functions include: creating and modifying meeting notifications, and sending and responding to invitations; attending Board and select committee meetings, taking minutes, and preparing final summaries; answering and returning phone calls and emails; greeting visitors and providing general information about the organization; routing, managing, and preparing responses to public inquiries and requests; and more. If interested, submit resume, two writing samples, and one letter of reference to email@example.com. Full job description: MPC Administrative Assistant.
Houston Audubon seeks Development Administrative Assistant
The mission of Houston Audubon is to advance the conservation of birds and positively impact their supporting environments. Our vision is the creation of a healthier, natural environment and more beautiful place to live by leading and nurturing a community which values and supports birds. The Development Administrative Assistant (the Admin) provides critical office support to the Development Department. Advance the mission of Houston Audubon by executing a high level of donor and member related services by providing essential administrative support including data entry and external correspondence. The Admin is responsible for data entry as it pertains to gifts processing, providing all donors and members with formal receipts, gift acknowledgements, welcome packets, written correspondences, general service calls and performing other administrative tasks as needed. This position reports to the Development Director and will remain open until filled. Essential duties include: carrying out all aspects of development administrative work including data entry, basic record keeping, research, reporting, mailing/emailing correspondence and from time to time calling constituents; assisting with annual gala and other events as deemed appropriate by the Development Director; recommending member and annual fund prospects to the Fund Development Officer and major gift prospects to the Development Director; and working cooperatively and collaboratively with all Houston Audubon staff, board, and volunteers in the spirit of teamwork and mutual respect that complies with all Houston Audubon policies. Full job description: Development Admin Asst Aug 2014.
Travis Audubon (Austin, TX) seeks Executive Director
Travis Audubon (Austin, Texas) is seeking a dynamic Executive Director to lead the organization through a time of growth and change. Founded in 1952, Travis Audubon promotes the enjoyment, understanding, and conservation of native birds and their habitats. The organization is an independent chapter of National Audubon and serves over 1,200 members within a four-county region consisting of Travis, Hays, Williamson, and Milam counties. Travis Audubon owns and manages three nature preserves - Baker (690 acres), Chaetura Canyon (10 acres), and Blair Woods (10 acres). With an annual budget of approximately $300,000, 3 full-time and 3 contract staff, and scores of skilled volunteers, Travis Audubon conducts both formal and informal programs in schools, public venues, at events, and at its sanctuaries. Last year, the organization's vital land conservation work, environmental education programs, and community outreach influenced over 432,000 people. Executive Director duties include, but are not limited to administration and management, policy development, fund raising, strategic planning, public relations, membership growth, financial health, and cultivating new and existing funding and program opportunities. For more information about the position: http://travisaudubon.org/job-opportunities. To apply, please submit a resume and cover letter, including salary requirements, to firstname.lastname@example.org. Both documents are required and must be submitted in .doc or .pdf format. Applications will be accepted until 5:00 p.m. September 12, 2014.
Hermann Park Conservancy seeks Horticulturist, Gardener, Irrigation Technician, Maintenance Coordinator, and Maintenance Staff.
The McGovern Centennial Gardens (MCG) in Hermann Park will be a unique display garden and destination, free to the public, open daily, and available for special events on occasion. It is a place of beauty designed to stimulate learning and a love of gardens in an urban setting. Join a dedicated staff responsible for the daily operation of the garden, to ensure the highest standards of landscape displays, and to implement environmentally responsible maintenance practices. Interested applicants should submit the following via e-mail to email@example.com: (a) cover letter explaining interest in the position, (b) current resume, and (c) two references including contact information. No phone calls, please. Full job descriptions: http://www.hermannpark.org/employment-opportunities/.
Air Alliance Houston seeks Texas Coal Organizer
Air Alliance Houston (AAH) and Public Citizen are members of the Clean Gulf Commerce Coalition (CGCC), which works to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and impacts to local communities and environments through a reduction of coal exports in multiple U.S. Gulf Coast states. The organizer will be based in Houston and will be an employee of Air Alliance Houston. They will help build the grassroots movement within Texas, and coordinate with the overall efforts of the Clean Gulf Commerce Coalition. Responsibilities include: building grassroots support against coal terminal expansions and against coal exports; working with activists and elected officials to win state and local support calling for a stop to coal terminal expansions, transportation restrictions, and closure of existing facilities; organizing trainings and convening stakeholders to present the cast to stop coal terminal expansion and limit the transportation of coal in the state; and more. Applications will be considered until the position is filled. Interested applicants should send resume and cover letter to firstname.lastname@example.org. Find the full description at http://airalliancehouston.org or Texas Coal Organizer job description.
The Woods Project seeks Club Program Instructor
The Club Program extends The Woods Project mission (visit www.thewoodsproject.org for more information) into the classroom building leadership and life skills through hands-on projects and activities. Utilizing both individual and team-based skills and frameworks, Club Program breaks down outdoor, social, environmental, and scientific concepts into exciting and hands-on units such as Leave No Trace, camping/backpacking skills, local flora and fauna, conservation, governance, and environmental science. Students participating in the club program are highly encouraged and often required to attend weekend camping trips and a two-week Summer Trip to a wilderness site such as Yosemite National Park. The club program instructor will be responsible for representing TWP and the mission as mentors and teachers for approximately 20 low-income, high school students per club; building and maintaining yearlong mentor relationships with students; traveling to a school and conduct clubs for an hour, sometimes longer; working with TWP curriculum requirements and suggestions to adapt and deliver existing lesson plans; and more. To apply please send cover letter and resume to email@example.com. View the full job description: 2014-15 Club Instructor Job Description.
Urban Harvest Seeks After-School Garden Educators
Are you passionate about growing healthy communities in urban areas? Have you ever wanted to improve your vegetable gardening skills but wasn't sure how? Do you have experience working with kids who might be just as excited as you are about eating fresh from the garden? Do you have a few hours a week to spend in a school garden with students? If you answered, "yes" to any of these questions, then you're the type of Garden Educator that our Youth Garden program likes to grow! This is a part time contract position. Starting dates in August and September. Training is included. Find the full job description at http://urbanharvest.org. Urban Harvest promotes healthy communities, sound nutrition and respect for the environment by educating children and adults and facilitating harvest and habitat gardens.
Galveston Bay Foundation seeks Land Stewardship Specialist
The Galveston Bay Foundation (GBF) seeks a full-time Land Stewardship Specialist to work within our Land and Habitat Conservation Program. The Land Stewardship Specialist will provide assistance with and develop land conservation transactions, update and implement habitat management and stewardship plans, seek out and apply for habitat conservation and management grants, monitor conservation easements and draft annual reports, and assist with habitat restoration and enhancement projects. Qualifications include a Bachelor's degree in a field of study such as environmental management, natural resources management, rangeland management, wildlife biology, environmental law, or another related field; a minimum of two years of professional experience; and a passion for land conservation and habitat management. To view the job description, including a full list of duties and qualifications, please visit galvbay.org. To apply, please email resume to firstname.lastname@example.org by August 31, 2014.
Buffalo Bayou Partnership seeks Buffalo Bayou Park Maintenance Technician
The Maintenance Technician performs many necessary functions. The skills to keep machines, mechanical/motorized equipment, tools/devices and structures in good repair and good working order by inspecting, testing, repairing. Diagnose, correct and/or identify problems, malfunctions or safety concerns. Read and interpret maintenance manuals, service bulletins, and other specifications/regulations to problem solve. Have the ability to determine the method of repairing or replacing malfunctioning items that may be damaged. Identify unsafe components. Ensure that all safety rules and regulations are followed involving all machinery and equipment as well as other safety requirements of regulatory agencies. Maintain a clean and orderly work area that pertains to maintenance responsibilities. To apply, submit resume and cover letter to Mr. Gregg Burks, Park Director / Buffalo Bayou Partnership / 1113 Vine St, Suite 215 or to email@example.com. Maintenance Technician 2014 Job Description
Nature Discovery Center seeks part-time Bookkeeper
The Nature Discovery Center is a non-profit organization with a mission to ignite lifelong curiosity, understanding, and respect for nature through education. This part-time position manages the financial and administrative responsibilities of the Nature Discovery Center. For a more detailed description of specific responsibilities, please visit www.naturediscoverycenter.org. To apply for this position, please send a brief cover letter and resume to Sarah Flournoy, Executive Director, or bring it by the Center in person 7112 Newcastle, Bellaire, TX 77401.
Even More Jobs!
The following jobs have been featured in past newsletters, but are probably still open:
ABOUT THIS PUBLICATION This weekly update is brought to you by the Citizens' Environmental Coalition, established as a 501(c)3 in 1971. CEC is a coalition of over 100 environmental organizations dedicated to fostering dialogue, education, and collaboration on environmental issues in the Houston / Gulf Coast region. Visit the CEC online at www.cechouston.org.
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HCA Celebrates 10 years of great work! September 4, 2014
Dear HCA Supporters: Ten years ago today, a small group of Hill Country citizens gathered in my home to talk about development, water supply, and other threats to our beloved Hill Country. The inviting email to that meeting read: “We’ve all talked about the idea of getting the various interest groups out here together to form a coalition and unite our causes...
HCA Celebrates 10 years of great work!
September 4, 2014
Dear HCA Supporters:
Ten years ago today, a small group of Hill Country citizens gathered in my home to talk about development, water supply, and other threats to our beloved Hill Country. The inviting email to that meeting read: “We’ve all talked about the idea of getting the various interest groups out here together to form a coalition and unite our causes. I think now is the time to take action.”
This occurred at a time when LCRA was proposing major waterlines into the unincorporated areas of Hays, Travis, Blanco and Burnet Counties—where rules were weak or non-existent regarding development density, water supply planning, land use compatibility, water quality protection, groundwater management, roadside billboards, and night sky lighting. The costs and consequences were alarming.
While the LCRA board ultimately approved the water line expansion plans, the foundation was laid for the need and mission of the Hill Country Alliance at that first meeting on September 4th, 2004. We moved forward to become recognized as official 501c3 non-profit on December 5th 2005 and we haven’t slowed down since.
Our purpose has always been to align people and organizations, to build relationships and support one another throughout the larger Hill Country region. Three core goals drive our purpose: (1) to protect water quality and supply; (2) to preserve open space; and (3) to promote responsible growth in the Hill Country.
People ask me all the time how things are going at HCA, and my answer is always, “Wonderful!” Not because we have won or succeeded in protecting water supply, heritage ranch lands and all the precious and unique features of the Hill Country, but “wonderful” because HCA has united the most amazing group of people who are dedicated to making a difference every day.
Together we are advancing good science, stewardship, innovation, policy, and community involvement. We understand that while the challenges we face are enormous, we have an opportunity to create change, and we have a responsibility to become involved in shaping the future of this great region.
Today, HCA is led by a dedicated group of 17 HCA board members and more than 130 advisors, team members, and volunteers, and five staff members. Nine thousand supporters receive our regular HCA news feeds. Diverse educational events regularly draw 100 or more attendees. Our reach extends throughout 17 counties from Austin to San Antonio and west to Junction covering more than 11 million acres. We have grown up over these past ten years, and our base of support is far and wide and diverse.
The people that have built this organization are passionate and generous, and while I can never thank them all here, I feel I must recognize and express gratitude to some.
Pam Reese was our first board president, followed by Karen Ford, Damian Priour, Nell Penridge, Ira Yates, Carolyn Chipman Evans and Sky Lewey. HCA is now led by Milan J. Michalec of Boerne, TX.
All of these leaders remain involved in HCA today, with the exception of our dear friend Damian Priour who has since passed away and will be forever loved and missed. We have lost two other significant inspirations, Kent Butler and Charles O’Dell. We will always honor and draw from the wisdom and spirit of these three amazing individuals.
Pam Reese and Bob Ayres were the first major donors to put their faith in the HCA mission, and we are beyond grateful as both continue to support and guide HCA today.
Ira Yates has individually supported HCA with his presence, commitment, support, and vision since day one—actually since before day one. Ira deserves much of the credit for who HCA has become, and he continues to push HCA to be stronger and more effective.
Karen Ford and Karen Huber, both current board members, have demonstrated that there comes a time when the clear path to change is to actually run for public office. Both of these leaders ran and won county commissioner races and have remained active in leading HCA on water issues.
David Baker, Ann Newman, Leo Tynan, Pepper Morris, Mary Sanger, Mike Reese, Bill Neiman, Ric Sternberg, David K. Langford, Mary Kelly, these are but a few of the many mentors, supporters and leaders who have nurtured this organization. More recently Sharlene Leurig, Garry Merritt and a new generation of leaders have emerged. Clearly HCA has a rock solid foundation and is here to stay.
We almost never make an “ask” for donations via email, but today we calling for HCA Birthday Presents! Please show your support, help us celebrate and donate to HCA today.
Thank you for an amazing ten year ride – and now, to the future!
Christy Muse Executive Director Hill Country Alliance HCA’s 2014 Board of Directors: President Milan J. Michalec, Leo Tyan, Karen Huber, Paul Sumrall, David Baker, David Clear, Pete Dwyer, Carolyn Chipman Evans, Karen Ford, Chris Hale, Kathleen Krueger, Sharlene Leurig, Sky Lewey, Garry Merritt, Bill Neiman, Sarah Schlessinger and Ira Yates.
HCA Staff: Christy Muse, Katherine Romans, Charlie Flatten, Shannon Chambers and Sheila Holt.
The Mission of the Hill Country Alliance is to bring together an ever-expanding alliance of groups throughout a multi-county region of Central Texas with the long-term objective of preserving open spaces, water supply, water quality and the unique character of the Texas Hill Country.