Sunday, June 28, 2015



This petition will be delivered to Senator Ted Cruz:
Concerns about climate change aren't just politics. Meet with Hays County residents to discuss their concerns about role of climate change in making Texas floods more severe!
A letter from Scott & Carol Price, whose home was devastated in the Memorial Day flood in Wimberley, Texas:
          Dear Majesta,
We never thought the floodwaters would reach our home more than 40 feet above the Blanco Riveroutside of Austin. But today, we and hundreds of our neighbors are rebuilding, mourning the loss of life and, painfully, coming to terms with what scientists say may be a new normal if we don’t rein in climate pollution.
That's why we were horrified to hear our Senator, Ted Cruz, brush off a question about climate change by saying, “In a time of tragedy, I think it's wrong to try to politicize a natural disaster.”

This tragedy shows exactly why Senator Cruz needs to face the facts on climate change — and with the help of Forecast the Facts members, we'll personally deliver that message to him in Austin with our neighbors next week.

Floods are common in the Texas Hill Country, but not like this one — a tsunami-like wall of water that was the highest recorded flood in the history of the state. Unfortunately, that record may not last as long as we'd like, as a warming climate is predicted to make flooding and extreme precipitation more frequent and severe. Our State Climatologist said that climate change likely even amplified this flood. Scientists point to record ocean temperatures and warmer air boosting the power of the storm.

As we sift through the damage, we’ve been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from neighbors and local volunteers. Putting aside differences, our community is coming together to clean up the mess and build for the future. It's time to push Senator Cruz to do the same, and take responsibility for cleaning up climate pollution and building a cleaner future for his constituents.

Carol and Scott Price, Texas Homeowners


"More Rain Targeting Flood-Ravaged Texas; Did Climate Change Contribute to Floods?" New Day, CNN, 5-26-2015
"Gov. Abbot: The is the highest flood recorded in state of Texas," Austin American-Statesman, 5-25-2015
"Heavy Downpours Increasing" National Climate Assessment 2014, accessed 6-23-2015
"Climate Change May Have Souped up Record-Breaking Texas Deluge" Scientific American, 5-27-2015
"Climate Change, a Factor in Texas floods, Largely Ignored" Texas Tribune, 5-27-2015

Thursday, June 4, 2015

HCA Press Release - Six Schools Win Grants to Fund Conservation Projects

June 4, 2015
Blanco Middle School
Blanco Middle School

(Bee Cave, TX) Managers of the Rainwater Revival school grant program were happily overwhelmed with 13 terrific grant applications from Hill Country schools this year. Though all projects had merit, the three judges made difficult choices and picked six deserving schools to receive $1,000 awards each.

“Judging by the quantity and quality of proposals for rainwater catchment and water conservation projects this year, it’s clear that teachers and schools are putting a priority on helping students learn the value of water as an important shared resource,” said Karen Ford, who leads the Rainwater Revival event for the Hill Country Alliance.

The Rainwater Revival is a daylong educational event that takes place every fall amidst a festival-like atmosphere at a Hill Country venue. It brings together knowledgeable speakers, demonstrations, products, music, food and children’s activities to help citizens and businesses learn how to harvest rainwater for beneficial use.

At each year’s Revival, the ever-popular rain barrel art auction generates funds for the school grant program. The art barrels are 55-gallon drums turned in to functional works of art by Hill Country artists and high school art classes who volunteer their time and talent. Since it started in 2010, the Rainwater Revival art barrel auction and grant program have funded 19 schools for rainwater capture and water conserving projects.

“Designing, constructing and maintaining water conservation projects brings together math, science, economics and an early appreciation for conserving our precious natural resources,” said Christy Muse, executive director for Hill Country Alliance. “We are so grateful to know these teachers, parents, garden clubs and others are dedicated to teaching our young people how to capture and use rainwater and why it’s important to know and care about water.” 

2015 grants were awarded to:

Blanco Middle School (Blanco ISD): Seventh grade science and ecology teacher, Pam Meier, submitted the winning request to fund a 2,500 gallon rainwater catchment tank that will be used to water the school’s gardens. The project will benefit all 280 students in the middle school as the gardens provide locally grown food for the school cafeteria, and it will enhance learning in math, science, art, and language arts.

Clifton Career & Development High School (Austin ISD): This high school offers career and technical training for special education students, and their winning project to capture rain with a new 2,500 gallon tank will become part of the Horticulture curriculum managed by teacher, Clayton Vader.

Dawson Elementary (Austin ISD): Fourth grade teacher, Chelsa Capers, plans to bring rainwater harvesting to the school/community gardens on their campus to the benefit of all 345 students who will receive numerous science lessons involving the water cycle, natural resources, and conservation.
Dripping Springs High School (Dripping Springs ISD): High school junior, Elena Lundeen, is the driver behind this project to place a rainwater catchment tank inside the school’s 6,000 square foot, open air courtyard to water trees, raised beds and grass, thus reducing the school’s usage of expensive treated water for plant life and promoting sustainable technologies.

Magnolia Montessori for All (Austin charter school):  The school’s substantial gardens will be irrigated by a rainwater harvesting system funded by the grant. Garden coordinator, Nashielly Stein, will help the school’s 300 students, who work in the gardens daily, with lessons in science, nutrition, art, the importance of water conservation, and reducing potable water use.

Marble Falls High School (Marble Falls ISD): Students participating in the High School Horticulture Program will design, implement and operate a rainwater harvesting system to support the organic and aquaponic growing systems in the school’s greenhouses.  Mike Chesnut, MFHS Horticulture teacher, will oversee the project.

A full copy of the 2015 winning grant requests and information on past winners can be found at:

The Rainwater Revival is an annual celebration of collection, conservation and common sense. The free event is sponsored by the Hill Country Alliance, and the next event will be held on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015, at Dripping Springs Ranch Park. For more information:
The Hill Country Alliance is a nonprofit 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. Visit us at      

CORRECTION: HCA Press Release - Texas Water Symposium, June 18 in Fredericksburg

Texas Water Symposium to Feature Regional Water Experts
The 8th Annual Texas Water Symposium series continues this June in Fredericksburg with a personal conversation between Hill Country water experts about the State’s water planning process and the need for public participation. As Central Texas grapples with population growth, increasing demands on our water supply and cycles of intense drought and floods, it is essential that the public is aware of the water infrastructure planning process that is happening now. Read full media release.

Hays County Groundwater Bill Heads to Governor's Desk

Hays County Groundwater Bill Heads to Governor's Desk


A bill designed to protect western Hays County residents' water wells in light of a massive groundwater pumping project is headed to Gov. Greg Abbott's desk — following an emotional week of political drama over an issue once considered local and relatively uncontroversial.

House Bill 3405, by state Rep. Jason Isaac, R-Dripping Springs, was thought to be dead this week, after a "point of order" by Rep. Mary González, D-El Paso, targeting the legislation was sustained. But in a stunning reversal on Thursday night, the House granted a last-minute reprieve when the parliamentarian announced he had made an error in legal reasoning when he upheld González's action.

With the point of order ruling reversed, HB 3405 was allowed to go to a conference committee of senators and House members. The Senate approved the updated proposal Saturday with a 28-3 vote. On Sunday, the House approved HB 3405 with a vote of 143-1.
"It's just a huge victory for Hays County," Isaac said shortly after the vote. "I'm kind of in shock a little bit. ... It'll be great for Hays County and great for protecting our natural resources." 
HB 3405 would expand the jurisdiction of the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Groundwater Conservation District to include water wellfields owned by Houston-based company Electro Purification. The company plans to pump up to 5 million gallons of water daily from the Trinity Aquifer in Hays County — an unprecedented amount for the already parched area — and sell it to some of Austin's fastest-growing Hill Country suburbs. With the land not currently in a conservation district, the company's project would happen with virtually no oversight. 

If HB 3405 passes, Electro Purification would have to report to the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer district how much water it withdraws from the Trinity Aquifer and potentially be subject to pumping limits.  

The company's lawyer, Ed McCarthy, did not return a phone call seeking comment. 
It's the only legislation in a volley of bills aimed at Electro Purification that survived the session, and was expected to be the least controversial. 

No one testified against the bill when it was taken up by the Senate's Agriculture, Water and Rural Affairs Committee. Both Electro Purification and a city councilman from Buda, which aims to buy some of its water, told lawmakers they supported it. But in an interview Thursday, González told the Tribune she was concerned the bill "set a really bad precedent and could harm local communities." She said Buda residents along with "multiple other stakeholders" contacted her with concerns.

After the vote Sunday, Buda Mayor Todd Ruge said in a statement: "We pray that under HB 3405, the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District will uphold the constitutional property owner and existing contract water rights of our citizens. Without the immediate delivery of water through our current contract, our city, which is one of the fastest growing in the country, will suffer a water shortage in the near future."

González's point of order angered residents of Hays County, as well as Isaac and state Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, who sponsored the legislation in the Senate. "It is a very disappointing development to have a lawmaker from El Paso — hundreds of miles away from my district — insert themselves into a local bill against the will of the people and against the elected officials who represent them," Campbell told the Tribune in a statement Thursday.  

On Sunday, González voted in favor of the bill. "I'm happy for Jason Isaac. I know it was important to him," she said in a brief interview on the House floor after the vote. "I still have my same concerns, but I'm happy for him." 

The legislative tussle also caught the attention of Lt. Gov Dan Patrick, who was in Hays County on Thursday touring the devastation wrought in the community by last week's flooding. There, local officials appealed to him for help moving the bill forward. 

"I am grateful that the House reversed the [point of order on HB 3405] because it is the number one legislative issue for Hays County," Patrick said in a statement Friday. "After visiting Wimberley to survey the flood damage, I believe this bill is even more critical." 

There's no guarantee HB 3405 would stop or even curtail Electro Purification's project. The company is drilling test wells right now to determine how much water it can pump. Once it starts producing water to sell, no district can retroactively cancel its ability to do so. In addition, if the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District does impose limits on the company's pumping, it's likely to end up in court, where it is by no means guaranteed to win. 

Jay Root and John Reynolds contributed reporting.

Post-Flood Riparian Recovery Workshops Planned for Wimberley and Blanco Communities

In the wake of the Memorial Day 2015 floods that roared through Central Texas, people in the Hill Country are left grappling with the aftermath. Images of hundred-year-old cypress trees, stripped bare of their bark and ripped up from their roots, inevitably turn our minds to our creeks and rivers and prompts the question- what can we do to heal our streamsides? 
In the wake of the Memorial Day 2015 floods that roared through Central Texas, people in the Hill Country are left grappling with the aftermath. Images of hundred-year-old cypress trees, stripped bare of their bark and ripped up from their roots, inevitably turn our minds to our creeks and rivers and prompts the question- what can we do to heal our streamsides?

 This first in a series of Recovery Workshops has been planned to help landowners identify the steps they can take to improve the health of their riparian areas (where the river and land intersect). Each workshop will include 1 hour of discussion indoors followed by a 1 hour field trip.

Wednesday, June 10th 9:30 – 11:30 am
Old Blanco Courthouse in the City of Blanco
Thursday, June 11th 5-7 pm
 Turkey Hollow Ranch in Burnett Ranches subdivision (rsvp for directions)
Friday, June 12th 8 am breakfast, 9-11 am workshop
Wimberley Community Center

These workshops are being coordinated in partnership of The Nature Conservancy, the Hill Country Alliance, the Texas Forest Service, Hays County Master Naturalists, the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment, and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
Speakers include representatives from Texas Forest Service, and Steve Nelle, retired Natural Resource Conservation Service State Wildlife Biologist. Speakers will cover the do’s and don’ts of riparian recovery.

Email Rachael Ranft or call Vanessa Martin (512) 623-7249 for more information.

Download Flyer 

“What is most important for damaged creek and river channels and the riparian area is to re-establish strong stabilizing vegetation.”
- Steve Nelle, retired NRCS biologist

Nine Recommendations for Riparian Recovery

1. The broken and uprooted cypress can be good for the future health and stability of the river.
2. Leave large and small woody debris in place, if possible. Do not burn, remove, or saw it up in small pieces. The wood helps to dissipate energy, and stabilize banks, channel and floodplain.
3. These debris piles are where new plants will establish easily. This is nature’s way to hasten recovery.
4. Minimize or eliminate tractors and large equipment unless absolutely necessary. Take protective measures if using heavy machinery.
5. Repairing banks, removing gravel, or altering the channel can do more harm than good to an already fragile area.
6. Be patient natural recovery processes are very effective when allowed to work.
7. Be very aggressive in killing axis deer they can be very detrimental to recovery.

8. Re-imagine what is a beautiful riparian area they are healthiest when thick with wood and vegetation, and most sensitive when clean and manicured.
9. Take photos now and every 6 12 months repeat photos at fixed points to show the recovery process. This will be very meaningful in the future.

- Steve Nelle, retired Natural Resource Conservation Service biologist 

Helpful Resources
Blanco River Valley Restoration Project Facebook Page: latest news and
events about efforts along the Blanco
Remarkable Riparian: educational materials including videos about riparian restoration.
Letting the River Heal: Hill Country Alliance newsletter
Don’t Give Up On Your Trees: Hays County Master Naturalists
document on critical first steps
Blanco River Restoration Tips: Mark Lundy video on Blanco restoration