Friday, December 27, 2013

Florida legislative water policy proposal

'Landmark' water proposals coming in 2014 session

Multi-year legislative focus would put money behind comprehensive effort to protect state's fresh water

Dec. 12, 2013   | 

Florida lawmakers say they plan to take major steps to protect the state’s springs and freshwater supply during the next legislative session.
In recent weeks, the incoming leaders of the state House and Senate have signaled that they intend to make water issues a priority when they take the helm after the 2014 elections.
But a bipartisan group of state senators plan to get started before then. They are working on a proposal to protect Florida’s springs.
Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee, chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee and has been taking part in regular meetings with four Republican colleagues. He said they are working on “landmark” legislation intended to serve as “the opening play ... for a tremendous and significant approach to addressing water issues” over the next few years.
“I think you’re going to see that this spring, this session, there is going to be a concerted effort to take a first major step in a comprehensive solution to preserving both quantity and quality of water resources in the state of Florida — something not only for our children but our children’s children,” said Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs.
Simmons said Sen. Charlie Dean, R-Inverness, is the leader of the quintet, which also includes Sens. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, and Alan Hays, R-Umatilla. All three chair key committees overseeing environmental issues.
They are working on proposals intended to:
• Require regulators to create protection zones and curb pollution around the state’s major springs.
• Limit water withdrawals that could harm flow levels in those springs.
• Encourage the use of reclaimed water and water-storage systems that would give businesses and farmers alternative water sources while reducing pumping from the aquifer.
• Ensure property owners are not stuck with the bills for connecting their homes to municipal sewer systems or cleaning up runoff from their septic tanks.
The legislation aims to attach deadlines to the state’s water-quality and water-quantity requirements, make them stronger around dozens of Florida’s most prized springs, and provide substantial state funding to help meet them, Simmons said.
He said the senators will likely revise their proposal as they hear from state agencies, local governments, industry groups and farmers. But he said he has advice for anyone who denies there’s a problem: “Get a reality check. Go down to one of our endangered springs and take a swim.”
“Doing nothing is not a solution, and that is unacceptable to us,” Simmons said. “Compromise is acceptable.”
Montford and Simmons said they hope to encourage those compromises by tackling a range of issues in a single bill, from water supplies to water-quality threats from septic tanks to wastewater treatment to agricultural runoff. By providing state funding, they intend to reduce, and in some cases eliminate, the costs to local governments, farmers and homeowners.
Eric Draper, the executive director of Audubon of Florida, said any effort to curb pollution affecting rivers and springs is going to face pushback from developers and agricultural interests. But with the economy rebounding and concerns about the health of Florida’s environment mounting across the state, he said he senses a growing appetite for springs legislation.
“I think we’re seeing the pendulum swinging back toward the legislators recognizing that Floridians want environmental protection,” he said.
Future legislative leaders have indicated they plan to wrestle with water-quality issues in the coming years. After his colleagues voted to designate him as the next Senate president, state Sen. Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, said protecting the state’s natural resources, including water — and promoting them to boost tourism — would be one of his three main priorities leading the Senate.
His counterpart in the house, Rep. Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, has sent a similar message. In a recent newspaper guest column, he called for statewide water planning.
“If there’s one issue issue that I’ve identified, having the opportunity to become speaker (after the 2014 elections), this is the one,” he said.
Last session, lawmakers approved $10 million for springs protection, and Environmental Protection Secretary Herschel Vinyard said the state was able to turn that into $36 million in projects by working with local governments and water management districts.
Crisafulli said he expects the House to take a “project-based approach” in the upcoming session, and lay the groundwork for an overhaul of the state’s water policies in the years that follow, noting that lawmakers are not going to untangle Florida’s complex water issues in a single 60-day session.
Montford said he agrees it will take a multi-year effort.
“We did not get into the position we’re in overnight, and we will not get out overnight,” he said. “We’ll make a tremendous start on it this year.”

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Forestar BULLETIN: Rehearing Report

First: Last night the Board of Directors held a rehearing on the Forestar application requesting 45,000 acre-feet of groundwater per year.  The Board has previously granted Forestar a permit for 12,000 acre-feet per year. 

The hearing was a well attended and well organized.  We thank the Board and staff for working with Environmental Stewardship and others to ensure that the public had an opportunity to hear the arguments of the Applicant (Forestar) and District Staff prior to making public comments.  We also thank the Board for allowing the public to pool its time so that we could make our arguments in a manner that could be heard and understood by the Board, the Applicant, and the Public. 

At the conclusion of the hearing, the Board adjourned the hearing but did not take action on the application. Our impression is that the Board will take some time to review the information provided at the hearing and make a written response to the Applicant early next year.  At that time the decision of the Board on the application will be final.  The board can, however, render its decision any time before that date.
Our message to the Board:   
Nothing has changed, STANDING STRONG!
We have your back.   
Second:  Environmental Stewardship (ES) presented a comprehensive review of previous information provided to the Board, responded to Forestar allegations, and presented new technical information on the application.  The new information was from the work of a certified hydrogeologist, George Rice, who was retained to review the technical studies conducted by the District (called Groundwater Availability Model (GAM) files), and extract new information on the impact of pumping large quantities of groundwater on surface waters, the Colorado River, and other aquifers.      
Rice's report concluded:  Forestar's pumping would:
  • Reduce hydraulic heads in the Hooper, Simsboro, Calvert Bluff, and Carrizo aquifers.
    • Where these aquifers are confined, the reduced heads would cause water levels in wells to decline
    • Where these aquifers are unconfined (i.e., recharge areas), the reduced heads would cause dewatering of portions of the aquifers.  
  • Reduce groundwater discharge to the Colorado River, thereby reding the amount of water flowing in the river.  
It should be noted that this information was not extracted and reported to the Board by the General Manager when he made his recommendations to approve 100% of the applicant's requested pumping.   
Click below for copies of documents:
Third:  As reported earlier, Forestar (USA) Real Estate Group, Inc. has requested a contested case hearing on Griffin Industries application for 224 acre-feet of water for industrial use within our District.  This will cost Griffin and the District a great deal in both time and money.  We believe this is a follow-up on the threat made by Forestar's attorney Edmond R. McCarthy when he said in his closing comments to the Board just moments before the motion for a rehearing was originally denied,  "if you don't give us our request[ed rehearing], this District has issued its last permit."       
Forestar's Contract with Hays County  
The driver behind litigation. 
Fourth: As reported earlier, Forestar has entered into a "water reservation" contract with Hays County Commissioners Court for 45,000 acre-feet of water per year, even though Forestar only has a permit for 12,000 acre-feet per year.  Hays County is paying Forestar $5 million over five years to reserve water Forestar does not have to sell, and Hays County is encouraging and funding what now becomes Forestar's and Hays County's hostile attempt to get the additional 33,000 acre-feet of water per year by SUING LOST PINES IN STATE DISTRICT COURT.   
 To those who support our efforts and who support the Lost Pines Board: 
December 2013
Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District Hearings
DrawdownDraw-down:  A Visual Perspective
What does "draw-down" resulting from groundwater pumping look like on a map?  As you may know, the Desired Future Conditions are established in terms of the draw-down, in feet, of aquifers in Bastrop and Lee counties and throughout the District. 

Recently, Environmental Stewardship obtained visual images based on the Groundwater Availability Model (GAM) used by the Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District to evaluate the impact of proposed pumping from current permit applications on the Simsboro Aquifer.  Draw-down, measured in feet, is indicated on the contour lines of the maps below.  Click on Maps below to Enlarge

NOTICE:  Please keep in mind that the images below (except for Image 1) are for the PROPOSED permits ONLY (124,226 acre-feet/year) and DO NOT include EXISTING permits (45,365 acre-feet/year). 

Image 1.  PERMIT THIS - The draw-down, in feet, expected when the Adopted Desired Future Conditions (DFC) are met in Bastrop and Lee counties. The dark area in Burleson County is from Post Oak Savannah GCD pumping.  Click on Map to Enlarge
Image 2.  NOT WATER BANKRUPTCY - The draw-down, in feet, expected if ALL current applications are approved and pumped to the maximum permitted.  Notice the red area in Lee county where draw-down is 1000 ft, and orange area in Bastrop County where draw-down is 750 ft.  Click on Map to Enlarge
 Image 3.  WATER BANKRUPTCY - The majority of draw-down, in feet, in Lee County is from the proposed Forestar well field.  Click on Map to Enlarge

Image 4.  WATER BANKRUPTCY - The majority of draw-down, in feet, in Bastrop County is from the proposed End Op well field, which is directly below Houston Toad habitat.  Click on Map to Enlarge
If permitted at all, individual permits should first be reduced to levels actually supported by the application and then all permits reduced overall as necessary to an aggregate level that, including existing permits, protects the Adopted Desired Future Conditions.  In summary, if permitted at all, Forestar and End Op qualify for less than 5% of the water they are seeking.  In addition, the district needs to factor in the impact of existing permits before issuing any new permits. This has not been done. (See Image 1). 
Image 5.  This image depicts Forestar pumping reduced to 25% of requested pumping volume but DOES NOT include existing permits.  Click on Map to Enlarge

Image 6.  This image depicts End Op pumping reduced to 25% of requested pumping volume but DOES NOT include existing permits.  Click on Map to Enlarge
websiteblogNew Website and Blog
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HEB vote and change to City Council Schedule

Dear Neighbors,
First: According to City Administrator Don Ferguson, City Council WILL NOT consider the approval of HEB's building and variance requests at the meeting today, Thursday, Dec. 19, which we previously understood to be the case. Mr. Ferguson said the council will consider the HEB issue at the Thursday, Jan. 2 meeting. That meeting is not yet on the City Calendar,, but they are usually at 6 p.m.
Last night: On Dec. 18, before a second consecutive standing-room-only crowd of very involved Wimberley citizens, the Wimberley Planning and Zoning Commission voted 4-3 to send to City Council the commission's recommendation to approve the HEB proposal for a new store, gas station and car wash just north of the intersection of RR 12 and FM 2325 (just behind Ace Hardware). As pointed out by the commission chair, Tom Haley, this is a recommendation only; City Council may or may not approve it.
The three members who voted against approval, Steve Klepfer, Beth Mitchell and Rick Burleson, did so for a combination of reasons, including location and impact on the city. It would be inappropriate to characterize their complex and individual reasons without extensive quotes. However, one common theme - shared by the Citizens Alliance for Responsible Development and many people in attendance - was that the process was unnecessarily and dangerously hasty, without enough opportunity for thorough study and without time for citizen education, consideration and input.
Many citizens spoke. Let there be no doubt that this is a committed and involved community of which we can be proud. Opinions ranged from, to paraphrase, "No HEB here at all", to "Yes, I want HEB here". The overwhelming majority was somewhere between, wanting things such as more public input, more restrictions on size, no gas station or more time for deliberation and planning. It is fair to say that virtually no one expressed feelings negative to HEB as a business, and that HEB has shown willingness to listen to and, in some cases, address concerns.
As stated previously, CARD has taken no position on whether HEB should come into Wimberley. It is not just a question of if HEB comes here, but how it comes: The size of the store, how it looks, where it is located, what it does to and for the community, and how it affects traffic, water supply, water runoff and the city's character and future. City Council is faced with not one decision, but many. What it decides will have a major impact on Wimberley, for good or ill - probably a lot of both - and all citizens should become as informed as possible, and then let City Council know their feelings.
Louis Parks
Chair, CARD

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

CARDTalk: HEB process being rushed: important meeting tonight

HEB process being rushed: 
Important meeting tonight

Last week the Wimberley Planning and Zoning Commission allowed public comment for the first time on HEB's rush request for a host of city code variances, to build a large store and other facilities near the intersection of FM 2325 and RR 12, just behind Ace Hardware. Many of you were there to speak out for or against the store, or to encourage the city to seek and enforce strong guarantees that the store's presence or design would not harm Wimberley, its citizens and its small businesses.
The building of a new HEB supermarket, gas station and car wash in the heart of Wimberley will greatly impact the lives of almost every citizen, affect every business and change forever the very nature of this unique and beloved city.

The commission's decision was - wisely - postponed, but only for a few days. There is another, and probably final, P&Z meeting on this request:
Planning and Zoning Commission Special Meeting 
7:30 p.m. tonight, Wed. Dec. 18, 2013
City Hall, 221 Stillwater, just south of the Blanco River   
If the commission makes a recommendation, it will be taken up by City Council in meeting at 6 p.m. tomorrow, Thursday, Dec. 19, also at City Hall. Whatever your feelings about HEB coming into the heart of Wimberley, we think you will agree that crucial decisions such as location, size, traffic, environmental concerns and signage should NOT be made in haste. We encourage you to attend and let your interest be known.  
The Steering Committee of the Citizens Alliance for Responsible Development has voted unanimously that it is irresponsible governance for the city's Planning and Zoning Commission and the City Council to allow arbitrarily imposed deadlines to strong-arm them into hastily-considered and poorly-studied decisions and concessions to HEB. The city is being rushed through this process as though HEB is granting us a great favor in coming here, rather than winning the privilege of making money from our community. If the School District wants to make this sale, and HEB wants to be in this city - and they do - they will still be able to make it happen after a few additional weeks or months.
Too many concerns need to be fully addressed:
  • the huge number of carefully crafted city building variances being lightly ignored;
  • the catastrophic effect that the new store will have on long-established local businesses;
  • the impact on the cherished small-town look and feel of Wimberley;
  • the road-clogging traffic congestion sure to result from the location of the project;
  • the large initial size of the store, which is to be increased later;
  • and many other environmental concerns and needs.
The city, under the pressure of a seller-imposed deadline that the city has no duty or need to meet, is rushing into a decision that should include input from a much better informed local populace, including people both in and around the city limits, who spend their money in Wimberley.
CARD submits that the Planning and Zoning Commission and the City Council should delay their decisions until more study, thought and public input can be reached. The wait will not financially impact either School District or HEB, but could very well make a huge difference in whether Wimberley remains "A Little Piece of Heaven", or becomes just another tacky, cookie cutter suburban look town. Don't lightly hand the future of Wimberley away on a silver platter, even to a "good" business. You have the power to drive a hard bargain; do it.
CARD asks Wimberley area residents to please attend the special P&Z Commission meeting Wednesday, December 18 at 7:30 pm at City Hall. This development has the potential to change Wimberley in ways we could regret.
CARD Steering Committee  

Friday, December 13, 2013

Upcoming Events: HoA Landscaping Workshop & 2014 Camp and College Scholarship Contests

·         Jan. 25, 2014:  Water on the Home Front - Water Efficient Landscapes for Homeowners Associations
·         Mar. 18, 2014:  Camp and College Scholarships Application Deadline

Water on the Home Front - Water Efficient Landscapes for Homeowners Associations
In the past regular session, the Texas Legislature passed a water conservation measure as Senate Bill 198, which states that HoAs will no longer be able to ban drought-resistant landscapes. This new law went into effect on September 1, 2013.

The traditional goal of an HoA is to coordinate a consistent, appealing look and feel to the neighborhood and protect associated property values and quality of life for its residents.  Allowing residents to incorporate more drought-tolerant landscape solutions means that the landscapes will survive and even thrive when much less water is available. A more sustainable, beautiful landscape--regardless of rainfall--is an asset to any homeowner and neighborhood.

The District is collaborating with the Clean Water Fund to host a workshop for area HoAs to discuss a variety of drought-tolerant landscape options, water conservation techniques, and examples of HoA codes and covenants that encourage water conservation and while preserving a positive neighborhood aesthetic. Along those lines, a recent newsletter article on Homeowner Association Landscaping Codes and Covenants can be found in the November Aquifer Bulletin, page 7.

The workshop will be held Saturday morning, January 25th.  RSVP to for additional details.

Many thanks to Creedmoor Water Supply, Texas Lehigh Cement Company, St. Andrews Episcopal School, and Goforth Special Utility District for donating a portion of their Conservation Credits to support these scholarship programs.  We are able to have a wonderful awards program this year!!  Here are the details for both programs.... please pass along to any students that may be interested!

Students ages 9 through 15 years old
Application Deadline:  Tuesday, March 18, 2014
Scholarship amounts:  $600 or $150, depending on length of camp

The District is now soliciting applications and essays for its 2014 Camp Scholarship program for the Edwards Aquifer Research and Data Center's Aquatic Science Adventure Camp through Tuesday, March 18, 2014. We estimate this year's program will provide:
·         FOUR $600 scholarships to the week-long Aquatic Science Adventure Camp (Note: Parent will be responsible for providing $150 camp deposit fee, which will be needed to hold the child’s spot.)
·         FIVE $150 scholarships to the 2-Day Aquatic Science Adventure Camp (Note: All $150 will be paid for by BSEACD.)
The Camp scholarship contest is open to children ages 9 through 15 who reside in one of the six school districts within the District’s boundaries.  Interested students must submit an application and a 1-page essay/artwork entitled "Why I want to attend the Aquatic Science Adventure Camp!"  Scholarship winners will be chosen in a random drawing; only completed applications with essays/artwork will be eligible.  Deadline for submissions: 5:00p.m. on Tuesday, March 18, 2014.   

Both English and Spanish application packets available here:

High school juniors and seniors
Application deadline:  March 18, 2014
Scholarship amount:  $2,500

The Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District (BSEACD) is now soliciting applications and essays for the 2014 Kent S. Butler Memorial Groundwater Stewardship Scholarship Essay Contest through Tuesday, March 18, 2014. The essay contest is open to high school juniors, seniors, and immediate graduates. Students must reside in one of the six school districts overlapping the District boundary. These six independent school districts are: Austin, Eanes, Dripping Springs, Hays Consolidated, Del Valle, and Lockhart. 

One essay will be selected as the winning entry by an independent evaluation panel, and the author will receive a $2,500 scholarship to the college, community college, or training institution of his/her choice.

Essays must generally discuss groundwater issues, which may include but are not limited to:
• non-point source pollution
• pollution prevention
• water conservation
• hydrogeology

While essays must focus on groundwater issues, applicants do not have to be planning a career path in a water-related field.  Deadline for submissions: 5:00p.m. on Tuesday, March 18, 2014.

2014 Groundwater Essay Contest application form and rules available here:

Thursday, December 12, 2013

LCRA seeks permission from state to withhold agricultural water in 2014 if lakes don't recover by March 1

LCRA seeks permission from state to withhold agricultural water in 2014 if lakes don't recover by March 1

December 11, 2013 04:29 PM
Emergency drought relief could cut off Highland Lakes water for most farmers for third year in a row
On Dec. 10, 2013, LCRA sent a request for emergency drought relief to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). If approved, the relief would cut off Highland Lakes water for most downstream farmers in 2014 unless the combined storage of lakes Travis and Buchanan improves significantly before March 1, 2014.
TCEQ is expected to consider the request in early 2014. If approved, LCRA would withhold Highland Lakes water from the Lakeside, Gulf Coast and Pierce Ranch irrigation operations in 2014 if the combined storage of lakes Travis and Buchanan is less than 1.1 million acre-feet (about 55 percent of capacity) at 11:59 p.m. on March 1. Combined storage on Dec. 10 was about 752,000 acre-feet (37 percent of capacity).
If TCEQ approves the request and combined storage is less than 1.1 million acre-feet on March 1, it would be the third consecutive year the ongoing drought prompted LCRA to cut off Highland Lakes water to most farmers downstream of the Highland Lakes in Matagorda, Colorado and Wharton counties. The Garwood Irrigation Division would be entitled to a limited amount of water, as it was in 2012 and 2013, because of terms in LCRA's purchase agreement of the Garwood water right.
LCRA's Board of Directors voted 8 to 7 on Nov. 19, 2013, to request the emergency drought relief after listening to more than two hours of sometimes-emotional comments from the public (watch a video of the Nov. 19 meeting).
The 1.1 million acre-foot trigger for curtailment is higher than emergency triggers in 2012 and 2013, when the March 1 threshold was set at 850,000 acre-feet. Combined storage on March 1 was below that amount in both years, and Highland Lakes water was cut off to most downstream farmers both years.
The trigger was set at 1.1 million acre-feet for the 2014 irrigation season because, even with water being cut off to most farmers for two consecutive years, the lakes have failed to significantly recover. They remain near historic lows.
Lakes Travis and Buchanan are the region's major reservoirs and provide water for more than a million Central Texans and businesses, industries and the environment throughout the lower Colorado River basin. Only inflows produced by rain, or rain falling directly on the lakes, can fill the lakes. Inflows from the region's rivers and creeks have been at or near record-low levels during this prolonged drought.
Under the emergency relief approved by the LCRA Board and being considered by TCEQ, if combined storage is equal to or greater than 1.1 million acre-feet on March 1, about 130,000 acre-feet of Highland Lakes water would be available to the four irrigation operations. For every 100,000 acre-feet of combined storage greater than 1.1 million, the amount available to farmers would increase by 24,000 acre-feet. This would be limited to a maximum of about 202,000 acre-feet available to farmers if combined storage is 1.4 million acre-feet or more on March 1.
Water available to farmers is measured downstream of the Highland Lakes, where it is diverted from the river by the irrigation operations in Matagorda, Wharton and Colorado counties. Approximately 20 percent more would need to be sent from the Highland Lakes to make up for losses as the water travels downstream.
On Nov. 19, the Board also voted to require firm customers such as cities to implement maximum once-a-week watering schedules if combined storage is less than 1.1 million acre-feet on March 1 and LCRA has cut off Highland Lakes water to most downstream farmers. LCRA provides wholesale water to many cities and communities in Central Texas, including the City of Austin. Some Central Texas cities already limit watering to a maximum of once a week, but LCRA would require all customers to do so if the lakes' combined storage remains below 1.1 million acre-feet and water to farmers is curtailed. In addition, LCRA encourages all home and business owners to stop watering lawns from November to February. LCRA domestic-use customers – who pay to take water directly from the Highland Lakes for their lawns – are already required to turn off their irrigation systems during those months.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Wimberley HEB Meeting

Wimberley HEB Meeting

Wimberley Planning and Zoning Commission
6 pm, Dec 12, 2013
City Hall Chambers office, 221 Stillwater, Wimberley
HEB has a contract to purchase the site of the old Bowen Elementary School on RR 12. Wimberley ISD has agreed to the sale, and will be looking for a new site for the ball field originally planned for the Bowen property.
HEB has approached the Wimberley City Council and the Planning and Zoning Commission with plans to build a “small scale” HEB store on the Bowen site. First reports are that HEB will build a grocery store, car wash, and gas station. The HEB store will be approximately 45,000 square feet. Compare that to the 37,000 square feet for Brookshire’s and 30,000 square feet for the rebuilt ACE Hardware store.
CARD has heard from many citizens that they want HEB to respect the small town environment of Wimberley in the design of a new facility.
Meetings are being conducted by HEB with city officials with the next meeting planned for December 12th at 6 pm before the Wimberley Planning and Zoning Commission, in the City Hall Chambers office, 221 Stillwater. Earlier meetings held by city officials were workshops with HEB planners at which public input was not allowed. At the December 12th meeting the public will be given an opportunity to be heard. Citizens within the Wimberley Valley are encouraged to attend the December 12th P & Z meeting and share their opinions with city officials. Since citizens outside the city limits support Wimberley with their sales taxes, CARD believes that these citizens also have a right to speak and be heard along with residents within the Wimberley city limits.
CARD (Citizens Alliance for Responsible Development) has not taken a position on whether an HEB should be located in the city of Wimberley; if HEB can comply with the city’s rules, it will be given a permit to build.
However, the city does have broad latitude to seek the best development it can for the city through its planned development ordinance. In making decisions on the proposed development, CARD urges our elected officials, HEB planners and citizens to consider how a large multi-purpose facility of this magnitude will impact virtually all existing businesses, business people and citizens of Wimberley. How many local businesses will disappear? What new businesses – some of
The train has not left the station. CARD believes there is still opportunity to make the coming changes as beneficial as possible for Wimberley.
Here are recommendations of steps CARD hopes the city will require from HEB as part of a Wimberley Planned Development District (WPDD) or a negotiated
1. Prevent light pollution: The Texas Hill Country is noted for its spectacular night skies. Light pollution threatens these night skies. Cities, businesses, institutions, and residents throughout the Hill Country are taking steps to reduce the amount of light that spills over, creating light pollution. The city of Dripping Springs has adopted a lighting ordinance to help control light pollution. Wimberley should work with HEB to use simple, inexpensive lighting controls that will minimize light pollution. Design guidelines to meet the goals of the Night Skies Initiative are available through the Hill Country Alliance.
2. Preserve water through rainwater collection and other conservation methods: Water supply is a critical issue for central Texas and HEB, like all businesses, can be part of the solution. Rainwater collection and beneficial use is a strategy that has great potential for reducing demand on the Trinity Aquifer, our water supply source.
  1. HEB should incorporate rainwater catchment into its site design and use the rainwater to reduce its demand for city water. In a normal year HEB can produce 860,000 gallons of high quality rainwater from the roof of the 45,000 square feet HEB building. Adequate storage capacity is key to a successful rainwater collection system.
  2. The proposed car wash should be operated entirely off a rainwater collection system, and the water should be recycled. A large rainwater storage tank sized to provide a reliable supply should be built and operated by HEB. Only during extreme periods would city water be required for the car wash operation.
  3. The HEB building will require a fire sprinkler system to meet city fire codes. The city should require a water storage tank that will provide the emergency capacity to operate the fire sprinkler system when it is needed since WWSC mains may be unable to meet the high demand of the sprinkler system. Rainwater could be used to fill this tank and maintain the reservoir required to meet the fire sprinkler demand.
  4. Daily non-potable water needs inside the HEB store could be provided by stored rainwater, i.e.: toilets. These locations would be marked as non-potable water. Outside of the store, water consumption should be minimized by the use of drought-resistant native plants and using the rainwater with drip irrigation for landscaping.
3. Traffic management: A store this large will greatly impact traffic volume and could negatively impact traffic flow. It could also create serious safety issues. Careful study and design should be done to prevent negative impact on other businesses and Wimberley citizens and shoppers.
4. Progressive recycling: In some cities, in line with local ordinances, HEB has recycling programs for bags. (In Austin, no plastic bags are dispensed). HEB should make provisions to make its store a progressive local leader in recycling of all kinds, in preventing waste, as well as incorporating policies and actions to “Keep Wimberley Beautiful”.
CARD respects the role of the city of Wimberley’s elected and appointed officials and staff in guiding the development of the city and hopes that these comments are taken as positive input in the decision-making process.
CARD Steering Committee

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Austin could buy, preserve 607 acres in Hays County for $18 million

Posted: 6:19 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013
By Sarah Coppola - American-Statesman Staff 

Austin officials initially fought a developer’s plan for 1,000 homes and a sewage plant atop an environmentally sensitive tract in Hays County. Now they’ve reached a deal to buy and preserve the land.

With $18 million in bond money, the city of Austin plans to buy 607 acres on RM 967 in northern Hays County and protect the land from development. The land sits over the Barton Springs recharge zone, a part of the Edwards Aquifer that feeds into Barton Springs.

Jeremiah Venture, the limited partnership that owns the land, had planned to build a 1,000-home subdivision there and use treated sewage to irrigate it. Activists argued that would allow pollution to seep into the aquifer and threaten the water quality at Barton Springs. The Austin City Council fought Jeremiah Venture’s plan until earlier this year, when it narrowly agreed to a modified version of it.

Now that the city plans to buy the land, it would conserve it as open space, said Junie Plummer, a program manager with the city’s office of Real Estate Services. The City Council is scheduled to vote on the land sale Dec. 12.
The property has several porous features, called karst, that allow rainwater to seep into and replenish the aquifer. Rainwater from the land flows into Onion Creek, a large water source to Barton Springs, according to a city summary of the land buy.

“The (recharge zone) is like Swiss cheese, so rainwater runs through all of those holes and reaches the aquifer quickly. … This particular tract of land is in an area where rainwater very quickly reaches Barton Springs, which is about 15 miles away,” said Laura Huffman, state director of The Nature Conservancy of Texas, a nonprofit that helped negotiate the land sale for the city. “Purchasing properties like this one allows the city to steward the land so that there are fewer pollutants going into the aquifer — so that when it rains, the water flows over native habitats and grasslands instead of streets and parking lots.”
The property sits in unincorporated Hays County, west of Buda and south of Austin. A private appraiser hired by the city valued the land, with its development potential, at $18.3 million, Plummer said.

The Hays Central Appraisal District has valued the ranch land at just $3.5 million, but agricultural exemptions reduce the taxable value to about $77,000, Plummer said. So the property currently generates $1,665 a year in property taxes, she said.

The $18 million will come from $30 million set aside for open space purchases in a 2012 bond package that voters approved. The Nature Conservancy would be paid $60,000 for helping negotiate the land sale.

“We had developers and builders looking at this (property) and ready to buy it, so if the city wants to buy it for the same price, we have no problem with that,” said Lee Weber, president of Weber Properties, which is a general partner in Jeremiah Venture LP.

Since 1998, Austin has spent more than $145 million from voter-approved bond packages to buy and protect nearly 27,000 acres of environmentally sensitive land in and near Austin, Plummer said.

“Big-picture, Austin buys property in the Barton Springs segment of the Edwards Aquifer for water quality purposes,” said George Cofer, executive director of the nonprofit Hill Country Conservancy, which works to protect open space. “Since that aquifer is one of the most fragile in Texas, conserving land over it and having good grasslands and well-managed properties makes the water that goes into the caves and recharge features of a higher quality than the kind that would be coming off of a subdivision.”

This 607-acre parcel will add to a contiguous stretch of about 14,000 acres of open space that the city of Austin has been assembling in Hays and Travis counties for several years, Plummer said.

However, the purchase will block the construction of homes that would have generated more property tax revenue for Hays County.

“I don’t know if it’s fair for a municipality in an adjacent county to come into another county and take (properties) like this one out of their tax base,” Hays County Commissioner Ray Whisenant said. “There might not be a law that prevents that, but it’s something that needs to be considered among governing entities.”

At the same time, Whisenant noted this purchase would be similar to other properties and easements the city has acquired in Hays County. 

“The city of Austin has already bought a number of acres in the area for conservation easements, so I don’t see any inconsistencies with that” from this purchase, Whisenant said. “The only people they have to justify that to are the voters” who approved the bond money, he said.

Plummer said the public probably won’t be allowed on the 607 acres in the short term. However, it could someday become part of the Violet Crown Trail, a 30-mile planned hike-and-bike path that will run from Zilker Park to Hays County, she said.

Jeremiah Venture has tried to develop the land for more than five years, and it first proposed building 1,400 homes and a facility to treat wastewater and use it for lawn-watering and landscaping in the subdivision.

Initially, the city of Austin and several other entities that worried about the project’s environmental impact fought to keep the state from issuing permits for it.

The Austin City Council voted 4-3 in August to drop its opposition in exchange for a modified development plan with tougher environmental protections. The nonprofit Save Our Springs Alliance is the only entity that hasn’t settled out of court.

“Eighteen million dollars sounds like a whole lot of money for only 600 acres,” Save Our Springs Alliance director Bill Bunch said Wednesday. “Of course we want that land preserved and protected, but I am concerned about the appraisal … and making sure the city is getting the best (environmental protection) for the dollar.”