Back in July, the city commissioned several studies to examine how development might affect the Bracken Cave bats. They were completed in draft form, but the city has so far resisted calls for their release. Instead, it asked Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott if it could keep them secret.
Meanwhile, calls mounted for the city to allocate some of its Aquifer protection funds to saving the bat cave. Others held a different view, pointing out these funds are to be used for protecting San Antonio's water supply, and protecting the bat cave would probably not further that objective. Here's why: the Edwards Aquifer flowpaths are from southwest to northeast, and the bat cave is located northeast of all of San Antonio's wells. Water flowing under the bat cave has already passed San Antonio on its way to New Braunfels.
Although most agreed that protecting the bat cave will benefit the region as a whole, some pointed out that perhaps it's time for New Braunfels and others along the I-35 corridor to pony up funds for protecting the water that is reaching their area. So far San Antonio has protected more than 100,000 acres, either through outright purchases or conservation easements. Because land values in the area of the bat cave are extremely high, Aquifer protection funds are probably better spent in areas west of San Antonio, where they will help protect the water that eventually flows under the city and is withdrawn for public supply. For the price of the bat cave land, much more acreage could be protected to the west.
In October state officials launched an investigation after low concentrations of tetrachloroethylene continued to be detected in three Edwards Aquifer monitoring wells in north central San Antonio.
Tetrachloroethylene is a chlorocarbon that is commonly used in dry cleaning fluids, automotive degreasers, and paint strippers. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulates tetrachloroethylene in drinking water to protect public health and has set a national goal of zero, with a Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) of 5 parts per billion. The EPA reports that some people who drink water containing tetrachloroethylene well in excess of the MCL for many years could have problems with their liver and may have an increased risk of getting cancer.
In a monitoring well off Rio Seco Drive, the level has spiked as high as 4.87 parts per billion since first detected in January 2011. At a second well on Thousand Oaks Drive, the level reached 4.70 parts per billion.
The EAA, which conducted the sampling, notified the TCEQ, which took over the investigation and will conduct further sampling.
None of the wells are used for public water supply and no tetrachloroethylene has been detected in nearby SAWS wells used for that purpose. SAWS said it tests its wells frequently and if one ever showed any signs of contamination, it could easily shut down the well and supply customers in that area from other wells.
On August 28, a ruling by the Texas Fourth Court of Appeals in the Edwards Aquifer Authority v. Glenn and JoLynn Bragg case significantly clouded the future of regulated groundwater pumping in Texas.
The Court affirmed a trial court’s ruling that the EAA violated the Braggs' private property rights when it limited their ability to pump water from underneath their land, and it remanded the case back to the lower court to re-decide the issue of compensation owed to the Braggs.
The case involved water rights for two pecan orchards owned by the Braggs. In 1979 they purchased a 60-acre tract of raw land where they drilled an Edwards well, planted over 1,800 pecan trees, installed an irrigation system, built a barn, and made the site their home as the Home Place Orchard. In 1983, in order to make better use of equipment they purchased for the Home Place Orchard, they purchased the 42-acre D’Hanis Orchard, which had been planted with 1,500 pecan trees in 1979.
Pecan trees can take decades to reach full maturity, and the Braggs told the court they believed their trees would eventually need about 600 acre feet of water per year. But the EAA’s allocation of groundwater rights was based on an applicant’s maximum beneficial use during a historical period from June 1, 1972 to May 31, 1993, and during that period the Braggs' pecan trees had not matured to the point where they required the amount of water that would be needed when they were fully grown. So the Braggs applied for water rights based on their use in 1996, well after the historical period. On their application for the Home Place Orchard, they claimed their maximum beneficial use was 228.85 acre-feet, and they noted “the Historical Use should not be applicable because trees require more water each year as they reach maturity.” For the D’Hanis Orchard, they applied for 193.12 acre-feet.
They were granted a permit for the Home Place Orchard for 120.2 acre-feet, which the EAA based on their use from 1972 to 1993, and because the Braggs could not show any historical use on the D’Hanis Orchard, that permit was denied completely. In November of 2006, the Braggs sued the EAA for an alleged taking of their property and for violation of their federal civil rights. Although the suit was initially removed to federal court, a federal court judge dismissed the Braggs' civil rights claims and remanded the takings claims back to state trial court.
The trial court found the Authority’s denial of the D’Hanis Orchard application amounted to a regulatory taking for which the Braggs were entitled compensation of $134,918.40, and the granting of a permit for the Home Place Orchard for less than the requested amount also amounted to a regulatory taking for which the Braggs were entitled $597,575 in compensation.
There were several issues the Fourth Court of Appeals had to sort out. The first was whether the Braggs had sued the right party. The EAA claimed the Braggs should have sued the State of Texas, not them. The judge concluded that State may have been a proper party, but so was the EAA.
Secondly, the court had to decide on a statute of limitations issue. The EAA argued the Braggs’ takings claims accrued in June of 1996 and a 10-year statute of limitations had expired by the time they filed suit in November of 2006. The Braggs countered that their claims did not accrue until their permit applications were denied in 2004 and 2005, well within the 10-year limit. The judge agreed with them, noting that because the provisions of the law were not applied to the Braggs until 2004 and 2005, their claims were not time-barred.
Finally, the court ruled on the issue of how compensation to the Braggs should be decided. For the Home Place Orchard, the lower court had applied a formula based upon the difference between the market value of the rights they requested and the rights they received. For the D’Hanis Orchard, the court determined the proper method was to calculate the difference between the market value per acre for a dry land farm and the market price for irrigated farm land. The Appeals court ruled these methods were erroneous and it remanded the case back to the lower court to try again. It concluded the “property” actually taken was the unlimited use of water to irrigate a commercial-grade pecan orchard, and that “property” should be valued with reference to the value of the commercial-grade orchards immediately before and immediately after the provisions of the law were applied to the orchards in 2004 and 2005.
Although no one disputes that landowners should in many cases be compensated when regulatory takings of private property occur, it is the judge’s reference to this property as being the “unlimited use of water” that has caused regional consternation and uncertainty regarding the future ability of groundwater districts in Texas to regulate pumping.
If on the one hand property values derive from the expectation that water use can be unlimited, while on the other hand groundwater districts are formed to regulate pumping, then these two hands are obviously in conflict.
At the annual meeting of the Texas Alliance of Groundwater Districts, long-time water lawyer Mary E. Kelley said “Groundwater districts are facing an impossible task. I just don’t know what the districts do with this.”
In comments provided to the Texas Tribune, SAWS legal counsel Steve Kosub said “What cannot be ignored is the fact that this judicial opinion represents a dramatic change in public policy in a particularly troubling context. If the government cannot reasonably regulate access to scarce water supplies without paying for every diminishment of value incident to property, then the future of 40 million Texans may be bleak indeed.”
The case is expected to eventually reach the Texas Supreme Court. You can get the Appeals Court ruling here.
In August the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service added the Austin Blind Salamander to the endangered species list, and the Jollyville Plateau Salamander was listed as threatened. The Austin Blind Salamander lives only in and around the Barton Springs pool in Austin, but the listing was not expected to force closure of the highly revered swimming hole. There is already an endangered species present there, the Barton Springs Salamander, and to keep the pool open the city of Austin will keep a Habitat Conservation Plan on file with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that protects both species. Two other central Texas salamanders are still under consideration for listing. For more see the Barton Springs page.
On August 13, the two-decade long saga of Ron Pucek’s Living Waters Artesian Springs catfish farm quietly reached a conclusion when the Board of the San Antonio Water System voted to sell the property to the San Antonio River Authority for use as a park.
In 1991, Pucek’s farm and his massive use of water, which was unregulated at that time, served as a psychological turning point in how the region views and uses its water resources. SAWS eventually paid Mr. Pucek more than $30 million, mostly for the Edwards pumping rights he acquired by operating his farm for several months. SAWS sold the 85-acre property for its assessed value of $315,000. For more see the page on Ron Pucek’s Catfish Farm.
On July 31, the Edwards Aquifer Authority ordered Stage 3 restrictions for pumpers in the San Antonio pool of the Edwards, but the largest pumper, the San Antonio Water System, held fast to the Stage 2 restrictions it had already asked its customers to observe.
The media always makes a big deal of it when the EAA declares a new stage, and it always causes confusion, so let me explain again: the EAA declaration only applies to pumpers, who are free to meet pumping cutbacks however they choose. If a utility has alternate water supplies, it might not necessarily choose to tighten restrictions on its own customers.
Whereas SAWS used to be 100% dependent on Edwards supplies, it now has a diversified water portfolio that includes surface water and groundwater supplies from other aquifers. It also has vast amounts of Edwards water stored underground at its Twin Oaks facility, and has continued to draw on that source to meet summertime peak demands. So, the utility is able to meet the required EAA cutbacks in Edwards pumping without enforcing Stage 3 restrictions on its customers.
In early July city officials announced they were hiring experts to study whether the existing 600-acre buffer around the Bracken Bat Cave is large enough. Meanwhile, environmental groups continued to pressure the San Antonio Water System to change course on its approval of plans to supply water and sewer service to the adjacent planned development, which is directly in the bat’s flight path.
To do that, SAWS would have to decertify the area as being within its state-approved service area, something that has never been done before and likely would be expensive.
Here’s some background on how this service area thing works: the water supply industry is one in which the supplier must necessarily have a monopoly to serve customers within a particular area, otherwise no one would invest in the infrastructure. So a utility applies to the state to declare the area it will serve and if the state approves it issues a Certificate of Convenience and Necessity, and no one else may serve that area. But utilities have to be careful what they ask for, because if someone then asks to be served in a utility’s approved area, it must provide the service, regardless if its very expensive to run new lines for a long distance. In most cases, the decisions about what areas a utility will seek to serve are driven by large public policy considerations and direction provided by city councils and utility boards. In San Antonio’s case, the policy has been that SAWS service area should generally align with the city’s extraterritorial jurisdiction, which extends up to five miles outside the city limits. This is intended to ensure that San Antonio serves San Antonio with water and sewer service, not outside entities, and that all new utility construction and service is provided using the high standards that SAWS observes. If the area in question here were de-certified as being within SAWS’ service area, it would simply mean that someone else would be free to serve it, probably someone with far fewer capital and professional resources.
In June, State Rep. Lyle Larson, R-San Antonio, said he would spearhead an effort to save the Bracken Bat Cave from encroaching development by finding donors to contribute to the purchase of all or parts of the tract next door where the proposed Crescent Hills subidivision is planned.
“We’re trying to figure out what opportunities there are with foundations and other pools of money,” Larson said. “It’s not going to be cheap, but there is some creative thinking going on regarding how we could go about securing the area.”
Acquiring the entire tract would be the best solution, he said, but he said he at least would like to see the most environmentally sensitive areas purchased or set aside under a conservation easement.
Meanwhile, conservation groups turned to Kevin Wolff to help broker a solution, because he was instrumental in cobbling together the 2011 deal that established the nearby Cibolo Bluffs Forest Preserve to protect the Golden-cheeked warbler and operations at Camp Bullis.
In June of 2013 the Texas Water Journal published an informative new article by Robert Gulley and Jenna Caldwell that details the decades-long efforts to resolve Edwards pumping issues. Earlier this year these efforts culminated in approval by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service of a regional Habitat Conservation Plan, which was one of the goals of the 1994 legislation that created the Edwards Aquifer Authority.
The article discusses the history of the dispute over the use of the Aquifer, previous attempts to resolve it, the strategic plan developed for protecting the Aquifer, and the decision-making process used to develop the plan.
While the battles over Edwards Aquifer pumping may be nearing their conclusion, the war over Edwards water quality is likely to rage for decades to come. As evidence, one need look no further than the current controversy over development near the Bracken Cave (see below, and above).
The Texas Water Journal is an online, peer-reviewed journal devoted to the timely consideration of Texas water resources management and policy issues.
You can download the complete article right here.
In May 2013, Aquifer advocates and bat lovers joined forces to express concerns about a new subdivision on the Recharge Zone that is also adjacent to Bracken Cave, home of the world’s largest population of Mexican free-tailed bats.
San Antonio developer Brad Galo of Galo Properties has plans to build 3,800 homes on 1,500 acres in a new subdivision called Crescent Hills, and next door is the 697-acre Bracken Bat Cave Preserve, a place of unique ecological importance that is owned by Bat Conservation International. More than 10 million bats live in Bracken Cave from March to October and emerge each night to hunt in a dazzling display that appears as a cloud on weather radar. They consume about 100 tons of insects each night, and their nightly emergence is regarded as one of the great wildlife spectacles in the world.
In an email to supporters, Bracken Cave Coordinator Fran Hutchins listed concerns about putting thousands in people in contact with the bats, security threats to the cave and preserve, high-density development over the Recharge Zone, and destruction of Golden-cheeked warbler habitat and sensitive aquifer features.
In a posting on batcon.org, BCI Executive Director Andrew Walker said the biggest threat to the bats is that “Should some poor child or adult come into contact with a sick bat or a pet that picked up a sick bat and contract rabies, it won’t matter that the bats have been there for 10,000 years. There will be a growing call for the city health department to deal with this “threat to public safety.”
There was much discussion and confusion about what development rules apply to the new subdivision, which is located in Comal county but within San Antonio’s extraterritorial jurisdiction. Under San Antonio’s water quality ordinance, impervious cover in a Recharge Zone development may be limited to as little as 15%. It doesn’t seem possible to put in that many homes on 1,500 acres and still comply with San Antonio’s rules.
San Antonio’s Current magazine reported that bat conservationists said they were getting conflicting signals regarding whether San Antonio’s rules apply and who has jurisdiction. BCI conservation director Mylea Bayless said “We’ve been amazed by the Texas two-step we’re getting. Comal county is telling us they don’t have jurisdiction over what happens there, while the City of San Antonio has told us that it’s not in their purview to make these decisions.”
The Current also reported that John Jacks with the City’s Development Services Department indicated that San Antonio and Comal county have an inter-local agreement that pushes responsibility to the City if a development has average lot sizes less than 0.4 acres. “Anything above that is Comal County’s responsibility,” Jacks said.
There was also scrutiny of an action the San Antonio Water System Board of Trustees took in March to approve sewer and water hookups, and one board member asked that SAWS rescind the vote. Although Board members were told the responsibility for water and sewer belonged to SAWS, legislation sponsored by Jeff Wentworth and passed in 2009 created the Comal County Water Improvement District No. 1 and directed Comal county to create its own water and wastewater facilities. In a letter to the Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance, SAWS Board Trustee Sam Luna said “Based on this disclosure, there is no need to provide SAWS water into Comal County."
In any case, Aquifer advocates and bat lovers were planning a show of force at the May 29 City Council meeting, where Walker said they hoped to convince city leaders that “Mr. Galo’s proposed subdivision is an incompatible use that is sure to put people and bats in potential conflict, to the harm of both."
At the May 29 Council meeting, several hundred citizens packed the room and 34 spoke against the Crescent Hills development. No one spoke in favor.
Groundwater hydrologist George Rice, who served on the EAA Board and has spent 20 years studying contaminants in the Edwards, said "One thing is clear - development in the Recharge Zone results in degradation of water quality. But if development is less than 15% then damage to the water quality is greatly reduced."
Others aired their concerns about Golden-cheeked warblers, trees, and the potential for large numbers of people to come into contact with the bats. Bat Conservation International executive director Andrew Walker noted the proposed development is directly in the flight path of the emerging bats and they will be attracted to lights, pools, and buildings.
Attorney Jim Cannizzo, who handles legal matters for the Army's Camp Bullis, said he was concerned about the development's proximity to the newly established Cibolo Bluffs Forest Preserve. The Preserve was created in 2011 to provide habitat for the endangered Golden-cheeked warbler and free up the entire 28,000 acre Camp Bullis installation for military training. To purchase the 1,244 acre Preserve, Bexar county contributed $5 million and the Army $2 million, and Camp Bullis got 1,234 Golden-cheeked warbler mitigation credits. Mr. Cannizzo said that earlier this year he received a letter from developer Brad Galo providing assurances the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would be consulted before any development started, but has since learned that clearing has started without Fish and Wildlife involvement. Even so, he said that conflict is not the way and expressed hopes that a win-win solution could be found, possibly using a combination of money from the Army, Bexar county, and Aquifer protection funds.
In early May attention turned to Senate Bill 1919, the companion to House Bill 3087 mentioned in the news item below this one. The text of the two bills is nearly identical: it would require landowner consent or condemnation if more 55% of a property is required to be left natural or undeveloped (the House Bill drew the line at 50%). A May 8 hearing was canceled when Senate Affairs committee chair Leticia Van de Putte could not attend due to a family emergency. Observers noted that passage of either bill in the remaining days of the 2013 Legislative seemed dim.
Texas columnist Rick Casey, who has been around as long as anybody, noted there seems to be a long-standing tradition in the Texas Legislature: “If you want to pass a bill that would curtail the ability of the people in Austin or San Antonio to place environmental regulations on developers, you get a legislator from somewhere else in the state to carry the bill.” For example, previous attempts at legislation to undermine regulations to limit development over the Edwards Aquifer were carried by Sen. Dan Patrick of Houston.
Casey said the reason is simple: “For at least 40 years, voters here have demonstrated they want to protect the aquifer from the danger of pollution that could come from massive development over areas north and west of the city” where water recharges the Aquifer.
In the early 1970s, residents were staunchly opposed to Ranch Town, a huge development proposed for the Recharge Zone near Helotes, and just a few years later they voted to overturn the City Council’s approval of a “supermall” over the Recharge Zone at Hwy. 281 and Loop 1604. They have also voted repeatedly to tax themselves to buy sensitive land for Aquifer protection (see the page on Edwards water quality for the full history).
And so it was a surprise when this year’s attempt at limiting Aquifer protection regulations was introduced by Sen. Donna Campbell, whose district includes much of north San Antonio, New Braunfels, and San Marcos. Casey reported that Campbell’s press secretary Jon Oliver conceded she had received “some pushback” on her bill. The Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance said scores of its members, which include more than a few tea party types that are a major source of votes for Campbell, contacted Campbell’s office in opposition. GEAA director Annalisa Peace said many of her organization’s tea party members expressed confidence that Campbell would never sponsor such a bill. “Clean water”, Casey said, “seems to be a non-partisan issue.”
Casey noted that Campbell moved from Columbus to New Braunfels to run for the Senate and concluded “She has a lot to learn about folks in these parts.”
Aquifer watchdogs were busy on social media over the weekend in anticipation of a scheduled April 22 hearing on Senate Bill 3087, which would make Aquifer protection more difficult by requiring condemnation of land if more than 50% of a property is required to be left in a natural or undeveloped state. San Antonio’s current Aquifer Protection Ordinance limits recharge zone development to 15% in most cases.
The Bill says that a conservation easement would be created when any law, rule, policy, ordinance, or regulation is applied that has the effect of requiring more than 50% of a tract remain undeveloped. And it would require that such an easement could only be established by consent of the landowner or by exercising the power of eminent domain.
After an outpouring of calls and emails to representatives in the Texas House expressing opposition to the Bill, no action was taken in the committee hearing that day, and my report from the floor was that it was ‘shelved indefinitely.”
On April 12 paperwork was completed to add 461 acres to Government Canyon State Natural Area, bringing the size of the aquifer protection reserve to 9,082 acres. The deal with property owner Steve Lowder had been in the works for two years and its feasibility was greatly enhanced when Mr. Lowder agreed to sell his property for 25% below its appraised value.
In the summer of 2012 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service awarded a $1.6 million grant for acquisition of the site, and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department committed another $300,000. The remaining $7 million came from the Edwards Aquifer Protection Program, which is funded by a voter-approved sales tax of 1/8 cent.
Mr. Lowder originally owned 957 acres and had plans to build hundreds of luxury homes. He sold 75 acres when the Shops at La Cantera were to be built and land was needed to mitigate the destruction of habitat at that location. He then sold another 421 acres in a deal funded by the Fish and Wildlife Service, the city, and SAWS.
Noting that the land would now be preserved in perpetuity for his grandkids, Mr. Lowder said the deal is “a win-win for everybody.”
On March 28, the Edwards Aquifer Authority declared Stage 5 drought restrictions for the Uvalde Pool, requiring users to reduce their authorized annual pumping by 44%. These are the most severe cutbacks ever imposed for the western Edwards area and were triggered when the 10-day average of the J-27 monitoring well in Uvalde fell below the threshold of 840’. Residents and businesses who receive their water from a water utility in the area were encouraged to contact their provider directly to find out how Stage 5 reductions may affect them.
In January of 2013, two boys exploring the construction site of a new residential development near Hwy. 281 and Loop 1604 discovered a 450-foot long cave that experts say may be the 5th largest in Bexar county. With large stalactites and numerous other types of formations, it rivals the natural beauty of show caves in the area like Natural Bridge Caverns. It was named Rock Dove Cave.
Aquifer advocates became alarmed after obtaining pictures of what they said was a large new sewer line transecting the roof of the cave. They claimed it would eventually leak, releasing raw sewage into the Edwards Aquifer. While the route of the new sewer line on plan drawings did indeed pass through the cave, the developer said it had already revised plans for sewer line to miss the cave and the pipe had only been put there to block an entrance and keep people out.
On March 14, in a letter to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance asked the developer be required to remove all existing fill material and pipes. GEAA recommended the cave be thoroughly mapped by experienced geologists, and that sewer lines and trenching be moved to avoid the cave (see the GEAA letter).
As the site is outside the city limits, none of San Antonio’s aquifer protection ordinances apply, and the city can only comment on any remedies that might be proposed or approved by the TCEQ.
The situation pointed up the lack of any institutional or regulatory framework that can effectively and proactively protect Edwards Aquifer water quality. For a thorough examination of Edwards water quality issues and the impediments to effective controls, see the Laws and Regulations page.
On February 14 at 8:45 am, notice was filed in the Federal Register regarding the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service's long-awaited final decision on the application by regional partners for an Incidental Take Permit.
Such permits are allowed under Section 10 of the Endangered Species Act and authorize permittees to "take" endangered species while conducting otherwise lawful activities. In this way, permit holders can proceed with activities such as construction or other economic development that may result in the "incidental" taking of a listed species. Preparation of a Habitat Conservation Plan is part of the permitting process.
Responsibility for preparing a plan and applying for a permit was given to the Edwards Aquifer Authority when it was created by the Texas Legislature in 1993, but the EAA was never able to come up with a plan that could gain regional support and pass federal muster.
So in 2007, the Texas Legislature directed the Edwards Aquifer Authority and other state and municipal water agencies to participate in a collaborative, consensus-based stakeholder process to finally develop a plan to protect the federally-listed species dependent on the Edwards Aquifer. This was known as the Edwards Aquifer Recovery Implementation Program (EARIP).
The idea was that if you take a bunch of people who have never agreed on anything and lock them in a room together for four years, they will become friends. Or at least learn to get along.
In 2011, after much wrangling, the EARIP group reached a consensus about the elements and financing for a plan, and their application was submitted on January 5, 2012.
The Fish & Wildlife Service’s February 14 decision was to issue a 15-year incidental take permit to the EARIP for implementation of the Service’s preferred EARIP plan.
The preferred and approved plan includes a number of measures to maintain or manage springflow, including Critical Period Management pumping restrictions, use of SAWS’ Twin Oaks Aquifer Storage and Recharge facility to meet water demand that offsets reduced pumping from the Edwards Aquifer near the springs during drought, a Voluntary Irrigation Suspension Program that provides economic incentives to reduce pumping for irrigated agriculture during drought conditions, and a Regional Water Conservation Program. The approved plan also provides for habitat restoration and management measures that minimize and mitigate impacts from the potential incidental take. Download the final EARIP plan here.
While many regional entities and interested citizens participated in the plan’s development, the applicants and permit holders are the cities of New Braunfels and San Marcos, the San Antonio Water System, Texas State University, and the Edwards Aquifer Authority.
SAWS President/CEO Robert R. Puente remarked "Twenty years ago, a federal judge was on the verge of taking over the Edwards Aquifer. With this Plan, municipal, agricultural and environmental uses of the Edwards Aquifer are balanced, and we have certainty in our current and future water supply from the Edwards." Puente helped author the legislative bill that prescribed the EARIP in 2007.
On February 7, the San Antonio City Council approved new drought restrictions, to be effective February 18. See them here. Highlights of the new rules include:
Those with irrigation systems will need to adjust controllers for the new watering times in drought Stages 2 through 4.
On January 25 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the availability of a draft Economic Analysis for the proposed listing of four central Texas salamanders in Bell, Travis and Williamson counties. The report quantifies the economic impacts of conservation efforts on development, water management activities, transportation projects, utility projects, mining and livestock grazing. The analysis estimates the total present value impacts anticipated to result from the critical habitat designation for the four salamanders are approximately $29 million over 23 years. For complete details and to download the analysis itself, see the Barton Springs page.
On January 18 the New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung reported the Edwards Aquifer Authority (EAA) is planning a two-year project to canvass water wells in Comal county.
The initiative is designed to ensure Edwards Aquifer water wells in Comal county are properly constructed and registered, and are not posing a threat of contamination to the groundwater supply.
The EAA’s database currently shows about 4,000 well records in Comal county, and the agency said it expects to find another 2,000.
Ron Vaughn, EAA’s director of aquifer protection, said the EAA will contact known well owners to schedule site visits for inspections. It will also make efforts to find unregistered or abandoned wells, and keep an eye out for wells being to used to make unauthorized withdrawals of Edwards water.