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.
Former President and Texas native Lyndon B. Johnson once said: “Saving the water and the soil must start where the first raindrop falls.” In Texas, where about 95 percent of the land is privately owned, and 83 percent of that land is rural farms, ranches and forests, it is essential that all Texans understand the interconnection of land and water to ensure the healthy stewardship of both, according to natural resource professionals. Read more from TAMU.
The topic of land stewardship has gained a great deal of public attention during recent years. This is a good trend since it helps focus greater awareness to the importance of how the land is treated, and the people who carry out responsible land care. However, land stewardship to some extent, has become a catchphrase; feel-good words; frequently used but seldom clearly defined. In some ways, land stewardship is becoming an over-used slogan; thus the need to clarify its true meaning and character. Read more by Steve Nelle.
The legislative session is gearing up, and increasing groundwater production will be the objective of at least a couple of bills. Groundwater will be an important asset for Texas' future water portfolio, but should maximization be the goal? That's one of the questions Our Desired Future is meant to provoke. Read Sharlene Leurig’s recent op-ed in the Texas Tribune.
“Where have all the monarchs gone?” This is becoming an oft repeated query, and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department biologists are asking for citizen help in answering the question. Since monitoring of overwintering monarch butterfly populations 1993, the WWF has documented a significant decline that reached an all-time low in the winter of 2013. Biologists recently launched a project to explore Texas milkweed and determine where it is, how much is out there and are the monarchs using it. Read more.
A TCEQ Public Meeting will be held Monday night, December 15th at 7 pm at Star Hill Ranch to hear concerns about the wastewater treatment plant to service this large, dense proposed development. Community members encourage participation as this development will profoundly change the Hamilton Pool Road neighborhood. View the meeting notice here. You can learn more about this project and other issues affecting the Bee Cave and Hamilton Pool Road community at www.HPRmatters.com.
Water is not traditionally thought of as a crop, but Water As A Crop® and its partners are hoping to change that. This organization promotes the idea that water falling on private, rural land can be effectively conserved and marketed in a manner similar to crops. In exchange for implementing conservation practices, rural landowners receive financial incentives to reimburse their costs. These conservation practices benefit investors and landowners and preserve water for rural and urban communities alike. Read more from Texas Water Resource Institute.
You’ve been hearing about SWIFT for months; TWDB is now ready to implement this revolving loan program for water supply projects. The first round of applications are due February 3rd. Conservation is the least expensive and most efficient strategy of all which is why SWIFT legislation requires that not less than 20 percent of this program (hopefully more) is spent on conservation and reuse. Learn more
Los Angeles is a city that is notorious for its use of water- importing it from hundreds of miles away and delivering stormwater to the Pacific Ocean through the Los Angeles River, which largely has been converted to a concrete ditch. The story that is less often told is how this city of 3.8 million, and cities across the country, have begun implementing conservation practices that have shrunk their water footprint and changed the way we look at stormwater. Read more here.
Despite the fact that Texas counties have very little real control over how unincorporated land is developed, Travis County is giving it its best effort, as Commissioners approved a comprehensive Land Water and Transportation Plan on Tuesday. Read more from Austin Monitor.
Stanley Rabke’s family has lived and worked on their Hill Country ranch since 1889. Generations of Rabkes have struggled with the extremes of Texas weather, but one storm sticks out in Stanley’s memory: it came after the drought of the 1950s. Learn about the Bureau of Economic Geology research the Rabke’s are participating in. Read the full story from Mose Buchele at State Impact.
Comal commissioners are supporting proposed legislation to create the “Comal Trinity Groundwater Conservation District.” “The GCD is necessary because the Trinity, a major source of well water in the Hill Country area west of Interstate 35, already has dropped some 87 feet in the last 15 years” Read more from the New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung.
Storing and using the rainwater that falls on your roof can improve the quality of your drinking water and free you from the restricted use of water for your landscape in time of drought. The Cow Creek GCD has provided several video examples to show how it's done.
Residents are concerned that a sand quarry would destroy the tranquility of the rural community. Because mines typically operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, a quarry would bring noise and heavy truck traffic to the area…and because Pontotoc is emerging as a destination for wine tasting, local vintners fear that noise and dust from a mine would bring an end to a growing ecotourism business that has brought visitors to its tasting rooms. Read more from the San Antonio Express News.
The Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance has published "Watershed Stewardship for the Edwards Aquifer Region, a Low Impact Development Manual." The manual was designed for developers, landscape architects, and all of those who live on, or are planning to build over our fragile aquifer recharge areas. Information about techniques that encourage infiltration of clean stormwater on site, and how plantings and landscaping can be used to mitigate stormwater pollution are outlined. Download the manual for free here.
Groundwater rights have been hotly debated in Texas for as long as there has been the ability to pump it. Unlike surface water, which is owned by the state and held in trust for the public, Texas courts have ruled that groundwater is the surface owner’s vested private property. This vested right can be regulated by Groundwater Conservation Districts. Read more from Texas Living Waters.
This 60 Minutes segment on Groundwater Depletion in California’s Central Valley explores California’s drought and the depletion of it’s Central Valley aquifer due to agricultural over-pumping. With dwindling reservoirs here in Central Texas and ever growing population projections, numerous proposals are under consideration to pump and pipe groundwater to the I-35 Corridor and beyond. What can the Hill Country learn from California’s “groundwater overdraft?”
HCA has been recognized as an "HONORARY MEMBER” in the Hays County Chapter of the Texas Master Naturalist for exemplary service and commitment to the community and natural resources of the State of Texas. Thank you Dixie Camp and the HCMN for many years of collaboration, we look forward to many more. Read more about the award and learn about the Master Naturalist program here.
The Hill Country Alliance, in partnership with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and The Nature Conservancy, will host a workshop on the nature and function of stream and riparian zones in the Hill Country. The workshop will feature presentations on riparian plants, basic hydrology, and techniques for ensuring healthy riparian function. The workshop will take place from 8am-4pm on Friday, December 5th. A variety of continuing education credits are available. Details
This amazing natural area is devoted to protecting the habitats of hundreds of species of native flora and fauna, grasslands, wooded hills and canyons, and vital watersheds. Thousands of school children visit and participate in hands-on learning experiences here. Learn more about this resource and how you can help protect it. Friends of Balcones Canyonlands
"The regulatory process, including groundwater districts' permitting process for huge commercial projects like this one, must afford the same due process to landowners who do not wish to sell their groundwater as it provides to private water marketers who derive their water rights from landowners who do choose to sell water." Read more
"Prince Charles has warned that the majority of people have 'lost any real connection with the land' as he outlined his concerns about the future of the countryside. He stressed the benefits to the wider economy of the countryside's 'ecosystem services' - with meadows and other grasslands storing millions of tonnes of carbon, providing homes for pollinating insects, supporting the agricultural economy and areas of beauty attracting visitors to boost local tourism." These issues translate here in the Texas Hill Country, read more from The Guardian.
“Groundwater is being pumped at far greater rates than it can be naturally replenished, so that many of the largest aquifers on most continents are being mined, their precious contents never to be returned.” Take a look at these maps that illustration how serious water shortages are in California, it’s essential to learn this lesson and protect healthy aquifers here in Texas, particularly here in the Hill Country.
"The take-away message from this study," Dr. Crompton says, "should be that the state park system is an important contributor to the Texas economy, particularly in rural areas and that the state’s net investment in parks is returned many times over as visitors travel to enjoy the outdoors and leave their dollars behind." Many of state’s most popular parks are right here in the Texas Hill Country. More from TPWD.
Ranchers and Landowners Association in collaboration with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and Bandera County River Authority and Groundwater District will be hosting a rainwater catchment program November 15th in Bandera. Topics will include the state of Bandera County water, rainwater harvesting systems, and rainwater harvesting impact on appraisals. Details
Do you live in karst? About 25% of the US and the planet’s land surface is karst. Karst areas are the world’s most diverse, fascinating, resource-rich, yet problematic terrains. They contain the largest springs and most productive groundwater supplies on Earth. They provide unique subsurface habitat to rare animals, and their caves preserve fragile prehistoric material for millennia. They are also the landscapes most vulnerable to environmental impacts. Their groundwater is the most easily depleted and polluted. Learn more about the importance of Karsts during a free webinar from SNS, November 18. Details
Last week, the San Antonio City Council unanimously voted to move forward with the Vista Ridge Project that plans to bring 50,000 acre-feet of groundwater from Burleson County to the city. Because of our many concerns with this project, the vote was a disappointment, but last Thursday’s Council deliberation did stir some positives worth discussing. Read more from Texas Living Waters.
While much of the plan is dedicated to the preservation of farmland, watersheds and nature preserves, other parts focus on encouraging building more dense, urban-like centers in the county’s unincorporated and undeveloped areas. Read more from Community Impact.
On November 6, 2014, the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) adopted a set of rules needed for fully implementing SWIFT in the lone star state. These rules will determine how projects eligible for SWIFT will be prioritized for funding. Now that the rules are official, public water providers are encouraged to submit an abridged application as the first step to receiving funding. More from TWDB.
HCA is interested in learning how you feel about the challenges facing the Texas Hill Country. Please take two minutes to fill out a brief public opinion survey by Monday, November 10th and you may win a two night stay at the Cool River Cabin along the beautiful Llano River. Take the survey here.
CNU Texas Chapter is bringing Chuck back to Texas for a three hour workshop on sensible transportation and infrastructure planning. “We advocate for a model of growth that allows America's places to grow financially strong and resilient,” Strong Towns. Chuck was a huge hit at HCA’s Summit, catch him November 20th in Austin. Learn more
Yes! Rainwater harvesting is a doable, practical, affordable and great tasting way to provide water for homes, gardens and businesses. That was the message heard by the more than 750 people who came out to Dripping Springs to celebrate and learn at HCA's day long edu-fest. Attendees enjoyed 63 booths filled with helpful information and demonstrations, live music, great food and 13 speakers who discussed a range of rainwater harvesting and water conservation related topics. Thanks to all who participated and we'll see you next year! See photos from this year's event here.
Blayne Stansberry has been announced as the unofficial winner of of the Precinct 2 Directorship for The Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District. She and Director Craig Smith (Precinct 5, uncontested this election) will serve 4 year terms and join current directors Mary Stone (Precinct 1), Blake Dorsett (Precinct 3) and Robert (Bob) Larsen (Precinct 4) on the Board. More from BSEACD.
Balancing Rural and Urban Water Needs: How Local and Regional Planning Activities Ensure Long-Term Supplies. Join State Representative-Elect Andrew Murr as he moderates a discussion with SARA General Manager Suzanne Scott; Hydro-geologist, Region J consultant, John Ashworth and GBRA director/former CCGCD president, Tommy Mathews. Difficult decisions lie ahead as urban areas demand more water, rural areas experience loss of spring flow and our region faces increased challenges brought by population growth and drought. Are Central Texas’ water planning processes on track to balance the needs of its rural and urban users and protect the natural water resources that sustain our ecologic and economic health? Learn more
On October 31 the LCRA formally submitted an application with the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUC) for the construction of a 138-kV transmission line project in Blanco, Gillespie and Kendall counties. Potentially impacted landowners should receive notice in the mail in the coming days. That information is also posted on the LCRA website. Potentially impacted landowners are encouraged to review the application documents, including the updated map, and participate in the PUC process. Landowners have until December 15 to become formal interveners in the PUC review process. More information and instructions on accessing LCRA TSC’s complete CCN application are available here.
Last week, the San Antonio City Council “unanimously voted in front of a packed chamber to approve a controversial pipeline that would bring in groundwater from 142 miles away. The $3.4 billion project would pipe in 16 billion gallons of water each year from Central Texas' Burleson County.” Read the full story as well as related stories leading up to this vote in the Texas Tribune.
The Community Gardens Program recently announced that the Bamberger Foundation will be funding a new urban garden in San Antonio. The garden will emulate many of the practices set forth by J. David Bamberger at the award winning Bamberger Ranch Preserve in Johnson City. Learn more
Driving through western portions of Austin, maybe you’ve noticed scenic, tree-covered hills spreading across the landscape and wondered when they will become a new shopping area or residential development. While growth is inevitable, it is also important to preserve land for the environmental benefits it provides. Learn more
Water is a hot topic in Texas – and it’s getting hotter. Register for Trib + Water to stay informed. This bi-weekly newsletter is brought to you at no cost by The Meadows Center for the Environment and The Texas Tribune.
“The project is much too important and costly for San Antonio not to have a full and complete understanding about the reliability of the groundwater supply.” Read more from this open-letter by Dr. Curtis Chubb, rancher and groundwater expert, published in the Rivard Report. Citizens have the opportunity to address the San Antonio City Council each Wednesday at 6:00 pm. The Alamo Group of the Sierra Club has created a clearinghouse of articles and reports to keep you informed. SA City Council is likely to vote on the project Thursday, October 30th.
“This historic decision puts us within reach of purchasing the entire tract of land and protecting the habitat Bracken’s bats have used for thousands of years.” Read more from Bat Conservation International. “San Antonio is one of the fastest growing cities in the county, in part because of the vast natural resources of the region. It’s our responsibility to ensure we protect and conserve what makes this region incredibly special.” Councilman Ron Nirenburg, quoted in the Rivard Report.
There's a lot of evidence that millennials don't drive as much — or care as much for cars in general — as previous generations their own age did. They're less likely to get driver's licenses. They tend to take fewer car trips, and when they do, those trips are shorter. They're also more likely than older generations to get around by alternative means: by foot, by bike, or by transit. There's still a lot of dispute, however, over exactly what these trends mean. Read more from the Washington Post.
"Everything from urban development to dance hall preservation was on the agenda at the Hill Country Alliance 2014 Leadership Summit, held Thursday at the Nimitz Hotel Ballroom." Read the full article from the Fredericksburg Standard.
“We are reaching a point in Texas where simply standing on common ground is not enough. The lives of urban and rural Texans are irreversibly intertwined, so we must all join forces to create and define initiatives and policies that conserve the common good, while protecting the heritage of private landowners.” Read more of David K. Langford's guest blog for the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation.
Most food growers rely on tap water to keep their plants alive during dry weather, but gardeners are discovering that chemicals in tap water harm the soil organisms that plants depend upon to absorb nutrients. As a result, more and more gardeners are storing rainwater. Read more from Sustainable Food Center.
For the past year, San Antonio City officials, Bat Conservation International, The Nature Conservancy and many other organizations and community leaders have been searching for a solution to avert a 3,500-home development over the Edwards Aquifer and adjacent to Bracken Cave Preserve. Next week, San Antonio's city council will meet to vote on whether to invest $5 million from their Edwards Aquifer Protection Program toward the purchase of the property and a conservation easement to protect aquifer recharge. Learn more from BCI.
City Council chambers filled Wednesday evening with more than 100 people who signed up to speak for or against the proposed SAWS-Vista Ridge Consortium water agreement. Individuals were given two minutes to express their views, while group representatives were allotted five minutes. Read more from the Rivard Report.
“I have never understood why in Texas zoning laws are good for city mice but not for country mice, especially as we lose more and more of the open land that is necessary to our survival as a species every year, but that is the way it is and there seems to be no way to change it until Texans get tired of seeing our state gobbled up by strip malls and truck stops and march on the state capitol armed with shotguns and pruning hooks.” Read this personal story about the Hill Country, by Lonn Taylor, featured in The Big Bend Sentinel. Learn more about County Authority in Texas here.
The public is invited to learn more about the process to develop a Roadway Character Plan for FM 150 from near Arroyo Ranch Road northwest through the Driftwood to RR 12 in Dripping Springs at an October 16 meeting. Hays County Commissioners Will Conley and Ray Whisenant are hosting the meeting to share information about the roadway and gather ideas from the public about what this important cross-county road needs to look like as changes are phased in to improve mobility and safety. Details
“..the effects of human endeavors all around the planet can be gauged by listening to the sounds of different habitats. Wild, urban, rural — they all can be interpreted.” Read more from Bernie Krause in “Call of the Wild,” featured in Sun Magazine. Find out what neighbors are doing through the Noise Pollution Clearning House.
“Through Texas Land Trends, we have been able to raise awareness that ‘Yes, we have a lot of land in Texas,’ but we are losing it at a faster rate than most other states in the country, and that loss is having profound impacts on our agricultural base, our water resources and our native wildlife habitat,” Fitzsimons said. Read more about Land Trends.
A community workshop will be held October 9th from 6–8 pm as part of a “Context Sensitive Solutions (CSS) process,” a planning approach that invites the surrounding communities and neighborhoods to influence the design, so that it reflects their cultural and historic values and aesthetic preferences. Learn more about the event hosted by the CTRMA and TxDot. Explore http://Fix290.org for more information.
HCA has released their 9th Texas Hill Country Calendar. Once again, this calendar delivers stunning photography while remaining an informative resource on Hill Country conservation. The stunning photographs featured throughout the 2015 calendar were chosen from nearly 400 submissions to HCA’s 2014 Photo Contest. Learn more
San Antonio is one step closer to buying some of the most expensive water ever sold in Texas, just as the deal is drawing more critics. Read more from Texas Tribune.
at Cibolo Nature Center & Farm on Oct. 6-11 Volunteers interested in learning about Hill Country wildlife and contributing to its scientific study are encouraged to become citizen scientists during the Wildlife Field Research “bio-blitz” taking place Oct. 6-11 at the Cibolo Nature Center & Farm. Wildlife Field Research is open to participants of all ages and skill levels. Learn more
The Highway Beautification Act will be 50 years old next year. As envisioned by Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson, it was supposed to protect the natural landscape from billboards. Ever since its passage, scenic activists and billboard companies have been at war over the views along American highways. More from NPR.
The San Antonio Water System Board will vote Monday on a $3.40-billion landmark water deal that would pipe in 50,000 acre-feet of water to San Antonio annually as soon as 2019, enough to meet 20% of the growing city’s future water needs. Read more from the Rivard Report.
Monday’s vote by SAWS is step one, San Antonio City Council will ultimately consider and vote on the Vista Ridge Pipeline Project. Who is this water for? Where will it ultimately go? Who will ultimately pay and what are the long-term financial implications? Show up at UTSA Monday night for a balanced panel discussion. Get educated and get involved. Event details
“The 522 page draft contract for this $3.4 billion deal was posted on-line on September 23rd, giving the SAWS Board and the public less than a week to review a deal that will have far reaching implications for our community, including an estimated 16% rate hike for SAWS customers.” Read more from GEAA. As Margaret Day of the Alamo Sierra Club points out “to be sustainable, aquifer drawdown should be no greater than recharge.” Read this opinion piece from the Alamo Sierran Word.
Travis County is seeking public comments by Wednesday, Oct 1st on their Land, Water and Transportation plan. Read the plan, take the survey and/or send your comments via email. Meanwhile, CAMPO is taking comments until Oct 6th on a variety of projects including a study to construct a major tollway across sensitive preserve lands. “Traffic solution costly, harmful to environment” Read “City to oppose proposed tollroad” in the Austin American Statesmen.
The League of Women Voters of Comal Area invites the public to attend “The Trinity Aquifer: A Shared Resource/ A Shared Responsibility,” to be held October 7 in Canyon Lake. “If you drink water in Comal County, you are likely to be drinking Trinity water, or you soon will be. It is up to all of us to learn more about this resource, no matter where in Comal County we live.” Learn more
It's no secret that drought has been a major factor in the declining water levels of our lakes and reservoirs here in Texas. But there is another factor that has has received very little attention - evaporation. Read more from Texas Living Waters.
The stars may seem a little brighter over Kerrville next year. The Kerrville Public Utility Board last week set aside about $734,000 to upgrade 2,000 city street lights to “full cut-off,” high-efficiency LED lamps that won’t shine light upward. Read More from the Kerrville Daily Times.
Last week’s “Water Crisis” event hosted by The Hays County Citizens Alliance for Responsible Development (CARD) drew a huge crowd and continues to create a lot of meaningful conversations about how rural lands west of I-35 will be developed. Learn more
Even as Cibolo Nature Center staffers celebrate a major milestone with the completed restoration of the historic Herff farmhouse, they're setting ambitious new goals. Read more from SA Express-News.
Central Texas is having a pretty decent year, rain-wise. Were sitting just below normal. But these big rain events all have something in common: They really haven’t fallen where we need them most. “The watershed that helps our water supplies isn’t here in Austin; it’s way up into the counties to the north of us." Read more from State Impact.
Land fragmentation has been a growing problem for Texas, and by all appearances it isn’t going to slow any time soon. The state’s population continues to grow rapidly, and those residents have an insatiable appetite for land. Read more from Livestock Weekly.
As the current drought reminds us, water continues to impact the sustainability and growth of Texas' economy. Unfortunately, land is disappearing faster than in any other state, threatening the water resources on which our economy depends. Land conservation is a cost-effective water resource protection strategy. Join TALT October 1st in Austin.
With cool weather around the corner, the Texas Outdoor Family program has scheduled outdoor recreational workshops statewide though the beginning of December. The workshops offer a low-cost weekend trip where families can un-plug, reconnect with nature, and learn the basics of camping. Read more from Texas Parks and Wildlife.
Water marketers who want to sell to cities say there’s plenty of groundwater, however landowners and conservationists warn that this precious resource could drain in a few decades. Whats the long-term impact on the Colorado River as the groundwater table declines? Who exactly is this water for and what are they willing to pay? Read this excellent article by Neena Satija, Texas Tribune.
ACC Professor Don Jonsson takes an interesting look at various degrees of consensus about what geography is included in the “Hill Country.” His data shows Luckenbach as generally the mean center of the region and the Pedernales River Basin 100% Texas Hill Country. View his project findings, map and summary. HCA has a plethora of helpful Hill Country map resources available online and as well as an interactive map viewer.
Landowner groups and Wildlife Coops – Here’s something worth passing along to your member lists. Wild Pigs are an issue throughout the Hill Country region. Here’s an opportunity to learn from the comfort of your own ranch/home computer. Dial in September 18th to from noon to 1:00. Find out how to access this webinar made possible by the Texas Wildlife Association.
“The effects of population growth on traffic are easy to understand. More people equal more cars on the road. More cars on the road equal more congestion. Duh! The real culprit is the rate at which new people are moving here.” Read one bold Austinite's views (who happens to also be a Real Estate Developer) about the real issue facing Austin (and the Hill Country) population. Ed Wendler, Special to the Austin American Statesman.
to host a free community meeting this Thursday to discuss why water is an increasingly critical issue, and how we can all be part of improving the outlook. Speakers include Andy Sansom, Executive Director of the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment, Steve Clouse, Chief Operating Officer of San Antonio Water Systems, Ray Whisenant, Hays County Commissioner, Peter Newell, Water Resources Engineer at HDR Engineering, and Bech Bruun of the TWDB. Details
The Fix 290 Coalition, a group of over 40 organizations and businesses and 2,800 petition signers, have been advocating for a “parkway" concept to move traffic through Oak Hill and protect the original character and unique natural environment of the area for more than a decade. The City of Austin is now asking for a study of this community driven “parkway” alternative to TxDot’s traditional elevated/frontage road model. Read more from Fix290.
On Saturday, September 6th the Hill Country Alliance hosted a landowner workshop for those landowners potentially impacted by the LCRA's proposed Blumenthal substation and transmission line project. The workshop featured an update from the LCRA on the status of their application to the Public Utility Commission, and a panel discussion of landowner rights during the transmission line routing and construction process. To read a more detailed summary of the event and access speaker presentations, click here.
A decade ago, prospective water marketers easily secured the rights to pump more than 20 billion gallons of water annually from the Carrizo-Wilcox aquifer in Central Texas’ Burleson County. The company now holding those rights, BlueWater, is negotiating a $3 billion deal to send much of that water to San Antonio. Read more from The Texas Tribune.
December 15 in Boerne - GMA 9 Joint Planning Meeting - Details
December 17 in San Antonio - Public Hearing on Edwards Aquifer Protection Program - Details
January 24 in Bastrop - "The Rural-Urban Coalition for Local Control," first annual meeting hosted by the League of Independent Voters of Texas - Details
February 5 in Junction - Save the date: Stakeholder meeting for the Upper Llano River Watershed Protection - Details
February 13-15 in Austin - Urban Riparian Symposium - Details
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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