by Scott Zesch
Landowners in the western Hill Country have been alarmed by recent reports that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) is re-classifying certain non-navigable streams as navigable, thereby converting private property to state land and opening it to the public. These issues are confusing, because navigable streams and private property involve two separate and long-established sets of legal rights that sometimes conflict with each other.
Since 1837, Texas statutes have deemed a stream to be navigable so far as it retains an average width of 30 feet from the mouth up. A state agency such as TCEQ cannot arbitrarily re-designate a non-navigable stream as navigable. Rather, it can only determine whether a particular stream meets this statutory definition of “navigable.”
For landowners, this classification is critical because Texas law grants the public a right to use navigable streams up to the gradient boundary. This right of free use and movement, which dates back to the 1830s, encompasses more than just commercial navigation; a Texas court expressly approved recreation as a lawful use of navigable streams as early as 1917. In contrast, the public has no right to use non-navigable streams on private property.
Some of the older survey lines in Texas extended across the beds of smaller waterways rather than stopping at the bank, so that the landowners hold title to the streambeds as part of their property. Ordinarily, the bedrock of private property rights is the right to exclude. However, Texas cases and statutes have long established that the landowner’s property rights in the bed of a navigable stream do not trump the public’s conflicting navigation rights. One appellate court explained in 1981 that owners of streambeds “cannot unreasonably impair the public’s rights of navigation and access to and enjoyment of a navigable water course.”
At the same time, a state agency’s determination that a stream is navigable does not transform a privately-owned streambed into state land. The Texas legislature validated these trans-stream survey lines in 1929, so that landowners who hold title to a streambed retain many property rights in it. Nonetheless, that portion of their private property is burdened by the public’s longstanding right to use navigable streams.
Finally, members of the public cannot cross private property to access a navigable stream. They can only do so from public land (usually a road) adjacent to the stream.
Use of Stream-bed
Under Texas Law, a stream is considered public if it is navigable in fact or navigable by statute, the latter referring to any stream that retains an average width of 30 feet from the mouth up. As the entire stream-bed is considered in calculating width, there is no distinction made as to whether the stream is dry. During the original survey of Texas in the 1840s, John Borden, the first commissioner of the Texas General Land Office, instructed surveyors to not extend survey lines across navigable waterways. As a result, in many rivers in the state, such as the Llano, the stream-beds are owned by the state, in trust for the public. However, on many smaller waterways, including the James, survey lines were extended across the stream-bed. [ii]
In 1929, in an attempt to remedy some of the confusion resulting from survey lines crossing navigable waterways, the State passed the Small Bill that validated these surveys. [iii] However, the Small Bill noted that such validation did not impair the rights of the general public and the state in the waters of the streams. Such rights include navigation. So even if a landowner's deed includes the bed of a navigable stream, the public retains its right to use it as a navigable stream. [iv]
In addition, the state lays claim to any water within a defined watercourse. The Texas Administrative Code defines a watercourse as “a definite channel of a stream in which water flows within a defined bed and banks...” [v] Waters of the state require requires a water rights permit from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. [vi] Under the Small Bill, the state also retains possession of the sand and gravel found in the stream-beds. Consequently, the removal or disturbance of this material may require a permit issued by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. [vii]
By Caroline Runge, Manager Menard County Water control and Improvement District No. 1
For the past couple of months rumors have been floating around that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is planning to re-classify creeks and streams in the western Hill Country as navigable streams.
Last week we learned that they have already done so in Kimble County.
A rancher on Bear Creek let us know that he had been issued a citation, setting a fine for having a dam on the creek and ordering him to tear it out within days. He protested that the dam had been there for generations, and the creek is private property.
Not so, said TCEQ personnel, informing him that Bear Creek had been re-classified as a navigable stream on September 3rd.
The significance of re-classification is that the stream beds of navigable rivers belong to the state; the beds of non-navigable streams are private property and belong to the owner of the land through which the stream runs.
This distinction dates from the early history of the United States when rivers were a primary means of transport of goods, and the state prevented obstructions in the rivers to protect and promote commerce.
The early law cases required that a river be “navigable in fact” – that is, that it really could float a commercial boat.
By the 1920’s and ‘30’s, when the Federal government and the states felt that water resources more under government control, the definition of navigable underwent a series of changes.
Now a stream can be declared navigable in Texas if the stream bed is 30 feet wide from cut bank to cut bank (the technical term is “gradient boundary’). That doesn’t mean that the water has to be 30 feet wide – only the bed of the stream.
Many streambeds in this area have been widened to 30 feet by the occasional flood, though their normal condition may be only a trickle through the streambed.
A call to the General Land Office, which has jurisdiction over state lands, confirmed that the TCEQ is looking at re-classifying streams in Menard, Mason, McCulloch and Kimble Counties.
There are several serious concerns with re-classification.
If carried out to the extent proposed, it converts thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands, of acres in the Edwards Plateau region from private property to state property.
And once the streambeds are state property, the ranches they cross are open to free access by the public. Any place a creek crosses a county road, for instance, anyone can walk or boat from that point up the streambed through the ranch.
The main reason people buy ranches these days is to have privacy and a place that the public can’t access, so the re-classification may have a very negative impact on values of properties that have streams.
Another issue is the due process aspect of re-classifying the streambed with no notice to landowners that their land is being taken by the state – a total violation of constitutional principles of law.
And to assess a fine and demand that the property owner tear out the dam without his having been given prior notice that the land is no longer deemed private further violates all notions of due process.
Finally, there is a legal question of whether the land can be declared state property before it has been surveyed and the boundaries defined by the General Land Office.
We need answers about how and why this is happening and who authorized it.
The western Hill country is affected now; if unchecked, it won’t be long before it spreads everywhere in the state where surface water resources are scarce.
TCEQ Response to "TCEQ Takes Private Property Without Notice Or Hearing"
Zak Covar, Executive Director, TCEQ
Last week's Menard News and Messenger contained an op-ed, “TCEQ Takes Private Property Without Notice or Hearing,” that contains misleading and incorrect allegations of TCEQ taking private property without due process in Kimble County. The TCEQ would like to respectfully provide additional information to help fully understand the facts of this case.
In the West Bear Creek case cited in the article, the TCEQ initiated an investigation based on an anonymous citizen compliant. The complaint alleged an unauthorized impoundment of state water. An on-site investigation was conducted where an on-stream dam and impoundment were observed and documented. TCEQ records were reviewed for the presence of an active water rights permit authorizing the impoundment of state water. No authorization for the impoundment was found.
Following protocol, TCEQ requested assistance in confirming the navigability of the stream segment from the General Land Office (GLO). The GLO reviewed historical mapping of the stream and other official state records on file for many years. Based on this information, the GLO concluded that the stream segment in question met the definition of a navigable stream. This conclusion did not "reclassify" the stream segment as indicated in the article. Rather the TCEQ was simply verifying the existing navigability status of the segment as part its investigation protocol.
After all information was gathered and evaluated, the TCEQ issued a citation to the responsible party in the West Bear Creek case for impounding state water without a required permit. The TCEQ also offered the responsible party the option of obtaining a water permit to authorize the impoundment of state water. Rather than contesting the assessment of this penalty by requesting an administrative hearing, the responsible party chose to sign the field citation, paid the $875 penalty and then removed the dam. Based on these facts, the complaint investigation is in the process of being closed.
TCEQ takes private property rights seriously and enforces state law and rules accordingly. In this case, no reclassification of navigability status, and no taking of privateproperty occurred.
This Friday, April 17th will be the final day for the public to make comments regarding a sand and gravel operation currently seeking a permit to operate along the banks of the Pedernales River. The facility would be permitted to produce more than 500,000 tons of rock, sand and gravel and would be located roughly 1,000 feet from the Pedernales River- one of the Hill Country's most pristine river systems. Stakeholders concerned about the dust, particulate matter, runoff, noise and traffic that this operation may generate are encouraged to register a comment with the TCEQ by visiting this webpage and entering 130211 as the Permit Number. For more information, including a map of the site and details about an informational gathering scheduled for April 30th in Johnson City, click here.
HCA is offering an Interpretive Guide training class May 4–7 in San Antonio. This program will help you connect the minds and hearts of your audience to the beauty of nature and the mysteries of history. The more hearts we touch, the more minds we inspire, the better the future for our Hill Country. Learn more.
The Cypress Creek Watershed Protection Plan has been accepted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and is currently available for public review and comment through April 30, 2015. This is one of only a handful of approved watershed protection plans in Texas, and the first with a groundwater component. The plan is designed to keep Cypress Creek clean, clear and flowing. Read more
With a third of Texans still facing drought conditions, a coalition of Texas universities and water providers has launched an $8 million effort to curb water use in cities. Read more from the Texas Tribune. Are you curious about municipal water use in the Hill Country? It varies a lot. Check out this HCA illustration.
A public meeting and Workshop of the Edwards Aquifer Habitat Conservation Plan Edwards Aquifer Habitat Conservation Plan Stakeholder and Science Committees will be held on April 22, 2015 8:30 am – 5 pm. This Workshop in an opportunity to learn about and discuss the issues, and give formal comment on the National Academy of Sciences Report 1. Learn more
The Bandera County River Authority and Groundwater District has announced a series of educational programs for 2015. Mark your calendar for these wonderful opportunities to learn about Rainwater Harvesting, Riparian Health, Native Vegetation and more. Details
AgriLife will be holding a Landowner's Management Workshop April 20 in San Antonio. “This workshop is intended to provide landowners helpful tips to combat weeds and or brush on their properties that are now emerging with the warmer weather and through the summer months. The program also will provide methods to combat the feral hogs.” Learn more
Now is the time for your school to apply for a grant through HCA's Rainwater Revival School Grant Program. The program is in its 5th year and has awarded grants to 14 Hill Country Schools for rainwater harvesting projects and water conservation education. The application process is simple. Deadline is May 1st. Find out more and apply
Have you ever thought about what you would do if a developer proposed dumping 350,000 gallons per day of wastewater into a dry creek on your property? Or if your neighbor decided to open a mining operation, cement plant or landfill? The contested case hearing process is one of the few tools landowners in that situation can use to challenge pollution permits - and the legislature is taking up several bills that would limit Texans' ability to use it. Learn more
Texas State Parks have gone Technicolor this spring; rolling waves of bright blue, deep red and rich yellow blanket Texas’ hills and plains. Texas is blessed with more than 5,000 species of wildflowers and this spring has seen a proliferation of wildflower populations. Read more from TPWD. And while you’re out, don’t forget your camera! The HCA photo contest runs through May 31.
It seems that everywhere we turn, there is news of the historic drought currently gripping California. Could the current water shortage mark the end of California's booming growth? Or is it simply another obstacle to overcome - a "resource management issue," as some put it. Others are looking at how California can encourage water-saving behavior changes - to reduce water use by 25% below 2013 levels - without rationing at the household level. And as the drought and below average snow pack this year signal tougher times ahead, farmers are drilling groundwater wells at a frantic pace. What will that mean for future of California's aquifers? And perhaps the biggest question of them all - what lessons can Texans learn from California's situation?
On May 9, San Antonio voters will have the opportunity to renew funding for the Edwards Aquifer Protection Program and Greenway Trails. To date, the EAPP has conserved over 133,000 acres over the Edwards Aquifer in Bexar, Medina and Uvalde counties. More than 1200 acres have been acquired to construct 46 miles of linear greenways, with 40 additional miles in design or under construction. A fundraiser to support passage of the initiative will be held at Freetail Brewing on April 28. Attendees will get to sample a new brew called Edwards Artesian Ale. Details and RSVP
“Analysis shows that a 1,000,000-gallon-per-day supply can be diverted to Buda between 2017 and 2023. This diversion would meet the interim needs of Buda and eliminate its need to use the EP groundwater. Costs would have to be worked out among the contracting parties.” Read more from the Citizens Alliance for Responsible Development (CARD).
California has mandated a 25% cut in water use one month after an LA Times op-ed by NASA scientist Jay Famiglietti kicked off with: “California has about one year of water left.” But, what did that headline actually mean? “One of the key points of the op-ed was that, since we will be relying more heavily on groundwater this year (perhaps an unprecedented 85% to 90% statewide), that we need to be extremely mindful to use it sparingly — all the more important as we consider the great potential for an even drier future in California with even more prolonged drought.” Check out this Famigleitti interview posted on Mashable.com.
Landowners Pat and Terrell Graham have won a small victory in their fight to prevent a neighboring developer from being allowed to dump 350,000 gallons of wastewater onto their property. A judge recently ruled in favor of the Grahams, recommending TCEQ deny the developers its permit. Read more from The Examiner. Meanwhile, lawmakers are proposing changes that will make it more difficult for landowners, like the Terrells, to challenge wastewater parmitting. More from the Texas Observer.
What's the difference between a Blue Moon and a Comanche Moon? When is the best time this summer to see the International Space Station pass over Blanco? Have you ever seen a galaxy or a nebula with your own two eyes? Do you know that two different comets will be visible to the naked eye this year, in June and in October? These and many other intriguing questions will be answered in an educational and fun-filled evening as Blanco State Park hosts its semi-annual Stars-in-the-Park event on Friday, April 10th. Learn more from Blanco County News.
Save Oak Hill will be holding their second public meeting, "Save Oak Hill: Actions and Solutions," Thursday, April 16 at the Hampton Branch of the Austin Public Library on Convict Hill From 6:30-8pm. Anyone with concerns about TxDOT's plan to build an elevated toll-road through Oak Hill is encouraged to attend. Details
The Vista Ridge water project in San Antonio threatens to follow a dangerous precedent: draining water from one region to another in a way that will only increase exurban sprawl in the Hill Country. If this solution seems familiar it should: It’s the California model that has led to that state having one year of water left. Read HCA's Op-ed published in the Austin American Statesman.
A volley of legislation launched by state Rep. Jason Isaac to stop a controversial groundwater project in Hays County came under harsh scrutiny by his fellow lawmakers on Wednesday. The Republican of Dripping Springs wants to stop Houston-based Electro Purification from pumping up to 5 million gallons of water a day from wells in his district and selling it to Austin's fast-growing Hill Country suburbs. Read more from the Texas Tribune.
After the 2011 wildfires in the Llano Water Catchment, landowners have worked collaboratively to help restore the land. April 18th, the public has a unique opportunity to revisit and learn from these sites. Learn more about this event and discover more useful Llano River information from the South Llano Watershed Alliance. Help spread the word to Llano River landowners to subscribe for regular updates. Read the latest SLWA newsletter.
As Texas Hill Country residents and businesses look for ways to conserve water, the Hill Country Alliance’s Rainwater Revival grants lend a helping hand to schools throughout the 17-county region. The HCA is now taking applications through May 1 from schools that want to implement or enhance rainwater collection and water conservation programs on their campuses. Learn more
The population boom along the Interstate 35 corridor shows San Antonio and Austin could eventually grow together into a mega, metro region, the state demographer said after studying new census data. Hays and Comal counties — both of which hug I-35 and are wedged between San Antonio and Austin — were the fifth and ninth fastest-growing counties in the U.S. from July 2013 to July 2014, according to census estimates released Thursday. Read more from the San Antonio Express-News.
The Children & Nature Network 2015 Conference at the Hyatt Lost Pines Resort on April 7-9 has attracted more than 500 leaders from around the world representing the conservation, health, education, technology and built- environment communities. Attendees will explore innovative ways to encourage families, schools, churches, non-profits and businesses to support getting kids active and into nature. More from TPWD.
Protecting watersheds and aquifer recharge areas should be a priority for the House Natural Resources Committee, writes Andrew Sansom, executive director of the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment at Texas State University. Purchasing development rights from private landowners in critical watersheds, he says, is a proven way to protect rural and agricultural land for the benefit of the state's natural resources. Read more from Trib+Water.
Even Texans with the greenest of lawns water them too much, many landscape experts say. And if everyone would turn on the sprinklers only twice a week — still probably more than necessary — the water savings would be significant, according to a report from the Sierra Club released Tuesday. Read more from the Texas Tribune.
This case could lead to the review and potentially overturn the 'rule of capture'. “We hope to bring the common law of Texas into accord with the laws promoting groundwater conservation as passed by the Legislature and as mandated by the Texas Constitution." Read more from TESPA and get involved.
What is being sold to San Antonio as water security for the future could temporarily fuel Hill Country growth and once that supply is needed in San Antonio, then what? “The Hill Country is a beautiful area with limited surface water, limited groundwater and no big city to spread rates across, Puente said. “We would answer the desperate call.” Read the full story in the Austin American Statesman.
“The Post Oak Savannah Groundwater Conservation District, which has regulatory authority over the Vista Ridge water, determined that about 50,000 acre-feet of water could be safely permitted. Given that the groundwater district has already granted permits for more than 100,000 acre-feet, it is uncertain how the city can rely on this water for 30 years…San Antonio needs to develop new water resources, but the projects must be affordable and dependable, come rain or shine.” And if this supply is not dependable for San Antonio, how can we consider spurring a Hill Country boom with an unreliable resource? Learn more
“Save Oak Hill is a coalition of neighbors seeking to establish public greenspaces in Oak Hill to honor and preserve the rich history and unique natural features of the place we call home.” With a major TxDot project on the horizon, this Oak Hill community organization hopes protect their sense of place and environmental significance. Learn more and get involved www.saveoakhill.org.
Despite Central Texas growth, less water drawn from Colorado by cities. “More people are moving to Central Texas daily, but the region has used less and less precious river water in each of the last several years.” The more we save, the less we need to import. Read the story in the Austin American Statesman.
As outrage has mounted this year over the Electro Purification well field being built in Hays County, officials from Buda and the planned Anthem subdivision — two customers of the project — have dutifully showed up to town halls and round tables, subjecting themselves to the jeers of their neighbors. But missing from every public meeting has been the most critical player in making the project a reality: the Goforth Special Utility District, a Niederwald-area water provider that has the largest contract with Houston-based Electro Purification’s venture in Hays County. Read full article by the Austin American Statesman.
These days, Austin is trouble year-round. What's ruining Old Waterloo for the people who live there and love it are the people who live there and love it. There's just too many of them—and no plan for handling them all. Read more from Citylab.com.
As Central Texas continues to face its worst drought on record, state legislators are considering several bills this session that could affect water supplies in Austin and throughout the state. Read more from Austin Monitor.
The Hill Country Land Trust (HCLT), a non-profit land conservation group headquartered in Fredericksburg, Texas, recently worked with a landowner to conserve a 201 acre ranch in Blanco County, bringing the total of HCLT conserved acres in the Hill Country to just over 5,900 by the end of 2014. The property, located near the historic community of Sandy north of Johnson City, has been used for grazing and farming since the 1800s. The owners’ intent is to maintain the property as native rangeland for wildlife and livestock. Learn more
The latest developments in the fight to protect our groundwater in Hays County go public at the TESPA Water Meeting on March 21 in Wimberley. "I am excited about this public meeting," said TESPA co-founder and local resident Jim Blackburn. "We on the TESPA team will present the surprising results of our legal research and discuss moving forward to stop the Electro Purification water development plan. I hope everyone who cares about the future health and prosperity of our area will join us." Details
Counties are growing at extremely high rates, in part because of the lack of land use planning ability outside of our cities. This trend has tremendous costs to tax-payers for basic infrastructure needs such as roads, water and schools. “Hays County, just south of Austin, is projected to be the fastest-growing county, by percentage, in all of Texas by 2050” Read more from the Austin Business Journal. Learn more about County Planning authority here.
An old-fashioned, Western-style water war has erupted. Across Texas and the Southwest, the scene is repeated in the face of a triple threat: booming population, looming drought and the worsening effects of climate change. Read more from the New York Times.
With a high-profile groundwater fight raging in his district, state Rep. Jason Isaac is launching a volley of legislation to stop plans to pump huge amounts of water from underneath Hays County. Read more from the Texas Tribune. Representative Isaac issued his own media release yesterday. Read “Rep. Isaac and Sen. Campbell File Water Legislation Aiming to Protect Trinity Aquifer.” here.
Join us for a panel discussion with Thomas Hardy, Ph.D., and Matthew Lewis, the City of Austin’s Assistant Director of Planning and Development Review, on the lessons learned from two great green infrastructure projects located an ocean apart. This next event in the Imagine Austin Speaker Series will take place April 1 at the Dougherty Arts Center here.
The Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance (GEAA) praised the Comal County Commissioners court this week and announced the denial of the Meyers Ranch “Water Quality Improvement District” would have translated to 1,500 homes on 700 acres over the Edwards Recharge Zone. Read more from GEAA.
6th and 7th grade students from Hunt School are learning all about water conservation and rainwater harvesting thanks to a grant from HCA's Rainwater Revival and the generous help of the Hunt Garden Club. Read more from the West Kerr Current.
"With the Feb. 24 approval of Bee Cave City Council and Hays County Commissioners Court, West Travis County Public Utility Agency lobbyists are working to find a sponsor in the Texas Legislature for a bill that would define the specific water and wastewater powers the agency has." Read more from Community Impact.
What is your vision of the Hill Country that future generations will inherit? The Hill Country Alliance (HCA) asks this question as it calls for photographs for its 2016 calendar. The annual HCA photo contest opens on March 1 and runs through May 31. Winners receive cash prizes and their photos will appear in the popular HCA calendar and in the organization’s various educational products. Entering the contest is easy through the HCA website. Learn more
Join HCA at this first of many educational programs at the Hill Country Science Mill: Ecologist G. David Tilman presents, "Food, Health and the Environment: Why Eating Right Can Save You and the Earth." Dr. Tilman's research focuses on how to provide secure, sufficient and equitable food to all people of all nations while preserving biodiversity and minimizing agricultural impacts on water quality and climate change. March 29th at 4:30 pm at the Hill Country Science Mill in Johnson City. Details
Competition for water prompts a quest for new sources. “The rule of capture is coming to the forefront again,” Venessa Puig-Williams explained. “People in Hays County are seeing that, though the rule purports to uphold property rights, it doesn’t really protect them. Large-scale pumping could dry up nearby groundwater sources.” Read more from Circle of Blue.
The CAMPO Transportation Policy Board (TPB) is taking public comment on the draft 2040 Regional Transportation Plan, amendments to the 2035 Regional Transportation Plan and the FY's 2015-2018 Transportation Improvement Program. The TPB will hold a public hearing on March 9, and CAMPO will host a series of public meetings before the comment period ends on April 2, 2015. These meetings provide opportunities for the public to comment on the draft 2040 Plan, and on the proposed amendments. Learn more
This workshop will cover basic skills from chainsaw operation to prescribed fire basics, geared towards female land managers. Interested in building your understanding of some of these important ranch management skills? This could be the workshop for you. Signup deadline is March 13th and space is limited. Details and Registration
The Texas A&M Institute of Renewable Natural Resources (IRNR) recently joined with the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation and the East Foundation to form the Center for Private Land Stewardship. The center will be the hub of education for private landowners and the public, according to a Noble Foundation news release. Learn more from Texas Water Resources Institute here.
The Texas Tribune and Texas State University will be hosting a day long symposium on water, March 10 from 8:00 am to 2:45 pm. Topics include life after Proposition 6, the battle over groundwater, strategies for conservation and the poor quality of water along the Texas-Mexico border. Learn more and register for free.
Former LCRA General Manager and groundwater developer, Joe Beal is back in the news with plans to transport water from Bastrop and Lee counties to Travis and Williamson Counties. "It was Beal’s empire-building effort at the river authority in the early 2000s that sent water pipelines shooting into the Hill Country, accelerating suburbia in areas around Dripping Springs" Read more from Statesman.com
Icy roads and freezing rain couldn’t stop more than 200 people from making their way to the second annual Pollinator PowWow in Austin last weekend. The all-day gathering of pollinator advocates and native plant evangelists gathered at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center on Saturday for a full day of education, enlightenment and wisdom sharing. Read more from Texas Butterfly Ranch here.
"Over the past 15 years, I have studied more than 1,000 springs, closely examining the relationship between springs and the health of the aquifer. I have discovered that springs are of inestimable value to plants and wildlife in landscapes where they occur and have also learned that springs continue to be as important to populations today as they were thousands of years ago. We have also found that in many ways, springs are the canary in the coal mine for groundwater sources." Read more from the National Geographic.
The Trinity Edwards Springs Protection Association (TESPA) today announced its formation as a Texas non-‐profit corporation created to protect these aquifers and their associated springs. In the process, TESPA seeks to bring clarity to the groundwater property rights associated with owning land over the Trinity and Edwards Aquifers and associated springs. Learn more
This workshop will cover basic skills from chainsaw operation to prescribed fire basics, geared towards female land managers. Interested in building your understanding of some of these important ranch management skills? This could be the workshop for you. Signup deadline is March 13th and space is limited. Details and Registration
The second Bennett Trust educational program will take place April 23-24, 2015 at the Inn of the Hills Resort and Conference Center, Kerrville. This first-of-its-kind conference, “Protecting the Legacy of the Edwards Plateau,” will bring the best and wisest, accomplished stewards, visionaries, and legacy-leavers together as educators. Details
While it was once widely assumed that heavy brush like cedar was keeping rainwater from recharging our streams and groundwater systems, science seems to indicate that it's not quite that simple. When done with care and an eye toward restoration, brush control can be beneficial to ecosystem health. Just be realistic about the likelihood that it will fill your stream or stock pond. Read more from Texas Wildlife Magazine.
Ten high school students in Pioneers Youth Leadership were awarded $24,000 in scholarships and cash awards last week at the Capital Farm Credit Rural Youth Entrepreneurship Competition at the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo. “Participating in this competition has given me confidence that I can successfully start and run a business in my hometown,” said Steeley Smith. “I was able to learn so much about the positive impacts of rainwater collection through my research,” said Jessica Dong of Knippa. Learn more
A recent article in the Texas Parks and Wildlife Magazine profiles some of the biggest problem species invading Texas lakes and waterways, and finds that the damage they are inflicting could cost Texans billions of dollars - and millions of gallons of water - each year. "It's a war, and you are involved." Read more from TPW Magazine.
Learn the basics of birding at the Cibolo Nature Center & Farm. “Birding is good for you physically, mentally and spiritually. You get outside, you use your brain, and it’s about something bigger than you,” says Patsy Inglet of San Antonio. The veteran birder and certified Master Naturalist teaches Introduction to Birding workshops with her birdster husband Tom Inglet. Their next class at the center is 9 a.m. to noon March 28. Learn more
Environment Texas Research and Policy Center has launched a new website - www.OurTexasWater.org highlighting some of the best and worst projects in the State Water Plan. The website features an interactive map where Texans can find projects in their communities that get either a Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down for their impact to our rivers, aquifers and natural resources. The website currently gives a thumbs down to the proposed Marvin Nichols Reservoir in northeast Texas, pumping of the Carrizo Wilcox Aquifer in Bastrop County and a Val Verde County water project which could threaten the Devils River.
“With supplies depleted by drought, the population growing daily and few large water projects in our immediate future, new development must minimize their water demands to protect the lakes, aquifers, and rivers. The counties surrounding the rapidly growing major cities will play a huge role in how we wisely use or diminish our water supplies and in the end determine the State’s economic attractiveness to the nation.” Read more from Tom Hegemier, chair of the Central Texas Land Water Sustainability Forum.
“Well drillers are locating these gaps in water district jurisdictions and exploiting them for pure profit,” said PEC District 6 Director Larry Landaker, who sponsored the resolution. “What is happening in Hays County through the misuse of the rule of capture is tantamount to the theft of water by one community to serve another. … That volume of water could … create a serious economic impact to the Hill Country communities we serve. Economic impact to the Hill Country is economic impact to PEC.” Read more from PEC.
As the story of unregulated groundwater in Hays County unfolds, there are two websites worth paying attention to for current information about citizen involvement. Citizen’s Alliance for Responsible Development (CARD) and Save Our Wells.
Many hill country people have been following the Flying J story in Junction; a poster child for ongoing threats to Hill Country rivers due to a lack of rules and oversight. View this video, read final testimony to the City of Junction here.
Come on out to Enchanted Rock this weekend to celebrate the stars! The first Enchanted Rock Star Festival will be February 21 at the Enchanted Rock State Natural Area in Fredericksburg. According to Melissa Mial, event spokesperson, the purpose of the inaugural event is to celebrate Enchanted Rock’s designation as an International Dark Sky Park and Wildlife’s Dark Sky Initiative and increase awareness of the benefits of dark sky friendly lighting. Learn more
Op-ed by Ron Walton: “I am not against growth but know the importance of being able to provide the infrastructure to support it. Unfortunately, I see a growing tendency however for growth in the area at all cost which, especially in the Hill Country (my specialty as a Hydro-geologist with background in water wells, septics, and geomorphology) I think does a disservice to all current residents like myself who came here recently.” Read more
Preliminary 2014 data shows the drought gripping the Highland Lakes is now the most severe drought the region has experienced since construction of the lakes began in the 1930s. As a direct result of the prolonged record-dry conditions and record-low inflows from the streams and tributaries feeding the Highland Lakes, the “firm yield,” or inventory of water LCRA can provide reliably every year, has been decreased by about 100,000 acre-feet, to 500,000 acre-feet per year. (An acre-foot of water is 325,851 gallons.) Further reductions in firm yield are possible as the drought continues. Read more
“As built artifacts, the county courthouses of central Texas tell a compelling story of a particular part of the country over a specific period of time. But more than a mere index of a building type, this project seeks to describe how county courthouses and the squares in which they sit relate to the larger communities that surround them.” Read more from TPR. HCA likes to imagine Hill Country courthouses with native landscaping and rainwater harvesting.
“Communities need to reevaluate traditional planning approaches if they are to support increasing population and economic expansion in the coming years – particularly in areas with high growth and stressed water supplies,” said Mary Ann Dickinson, President and CEO of the Alliance for Water Efficiency. Read more from the Alliance for Water Efficiency report, "Water Demand Offset Programs Offer a Path to Sustainable Community Development" here.
This week the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced what many have noticed for the past 20 years- monarch butterfly numbers are on a precipitous decline. Over the past 25 years an estimated 970 million monarchs have disappeared, largely due to loss of habitat. The Texas Hill Country is an important part of the monarch migration route, and USFWS has prioritized the entire I-35 corridor for reestablishing butterfly habitat. That means planting native milkweed and other pollinator-friendly plants. Read more about the efforts to bring monarchs back from the Washington Post
A plan to build a concrete batch plant northwest of Dripping Springs has created an uproar among some residents. The plant, which would be operated as Dripping Wet Concrete
April 18 in Leander - Baker Sanctuary Open House - Details
April 18 in Junction - Oasis Pipeline Wildfire Recovery Workshop - Details
April 20 in San Antonio - AgriLife Landowner's Management Workshop - Details
April 21 in Johnson City - Join us for Rainwater 101 - Learn the basics of setting up your own rainwater harvesting system - Details
April 21 in Buchanan Dam - Town Hall Water Meeting, hosted by Central Texas Water Coalition and Lake Buchanan Conservation Corp - Details
April 22 in Jourdanton - Agri-Land Workshop - Presentations by HCA's Sky Jones Lewey, Rainwater Harvesting Expert John Kight and more - Details
April 23-24 in Kerrville - The second annual Bennett Land Stewardship: “Keys to Hill Country Living" - Details
April 24-26 in Fredericksburg - 5th Annual Wings Over the Hills Nature Festival - Details
April 24-27 in Marble Falls - 15th Annual Balcones Songbird Festival - Details
April 27 in San Antonio - SA2020 Comp Plan - Details
April 27 in Kerrville - Texas Master Naturalist April Meeting, Topic: Feral Hog Program - Free and open to the public - Details
April 30 in Johnson City - TCEQ informal public meeting on the Chanas Aggregates Rock Crushing Operation Details
May 9 in Bandera - Bandera Water Workshop Series: "Aquaponic Potential" Details
May 12 in Bandera - Bandera Water Workshop Series: "Residential H2O Conservation" Details
May 29 in San Marcos - Addressing Conflict with deer in our communities, hosted by TPWD, TWA and TSU - Details
Runs March 1 - May 31
Imagine a place where vibrant communities draw strength from their natural assets to sustain their quality of life. A place where citizens care about protecting the special qualities of a region – their region. A place where people and partners band together to envision a better economic future, tackle shared challenges and care for the natural, scenic, and recreational resources that define the place they call home.
~This is a Conservation Landscape
Helpful Mapping Resources - Beautiful and informative maps of the region to print and share.
HCA Dynamic Mapping Tool - Interactive online GIS mapping tool