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Scenic Beauty: Billboards and Wind Farms

News

January 20, 2011

Mayor Brent Hinckley reports PUC transmission lines decision

Last week appears to mark the end of our local concerns about a large 345Kv Transmission Line being built in Mason County. Read more from the Mason County News here.

January 17, 2011

PUC Carefully Deliberating Fate of Hill Country

At its regularly scheduled Open Meeting last week, the Public Utility Commission (PUC) began the last stage of the process that will result in the construction of a high-voltage Competitive Renewable Energy Zone (CREZ) transmission line stretching from near San Angelo to Comfort. The commissioners are evaluating evidence and considering intervenor-requested adjustments as they determine the final route for this controversial project - Read more

Is your city a Scenic City?

The Scenic City Certification Program is Now Accepting 2011 Applications. Encourage your city to seek this recognition for high scenic stands for roadways and public spaces – Learn more

January 5, 2011

Landowners Recount Daunting Experience of Transmission Line Routing Process

“…when it’s all said and done, I will know that we did everything we could to preserve the Hill Country’s wide open spaces and our way of life for the benefit of future generations. That keeps me going.” stated Bill Neiman. Read the full article by Lorie Woodward Cantu for Texas Wildlife Magazine, a publication of the Texas Wildlife Association here.

December 9, 2010

The Clear View Alliance Perspective

CVA was recognized as a meaningful and significant party in the recently completed PUC hearings in Austin. “Speaking about long-term social and ecological costs must have sounded like Greek” reflects Bill Neiman. Read more here.

December 8, 2010

Save Our Scenic Hill Country CREZ updates

The PUC has ordered cost effective alternatives for two CREZ lines, while progress continues on the big one, McCamey D to Kendall. Routing decision should be made before Christmas. Click here to read the latest from SOSHE.

November 11, 2010

Controversial Hill Country Power Lines Canned

To Hill Country landowners' undoubted relief, the Public Utility Commission will cancel plans to build one controversial wind-power transmission line, as well as a portion of a second. Read full Texas Tribune article here.

Town wages artful opposition to power line

In an effort to thwart a proposed electric transmission line that will skirt their town, the people of the tiny town of Clifton, northwest of Waco, sketched out a novel argument Wednesday to the Public Utility Commission: The line would hamper the town's ability to attract artists and inspire art. Read full Statesman.com article here.

November 10, 2010

What’s A ‘CREZ’ Anyway? Meeting tonight

An informational meeting for anyone who would like to know more about CREZ transmission lines will be hosted by Save Our Scenic Hill Country Environment (SOSHCE) tonight in Fredericksburg. Click here for details.

November 1, 2010

Public Invited to CREZ Transmission and Wind Energy Presentation

A presentation entitled “CREZ Transmission Developments and The Rest of the Truth About Wind Energy” will be featured as the key part of an informational meeting hosted by Save Our Scenic Hill Country Environment (SOSHCE). The meeting will be at 6:30pm on Tuesday, November 16, 2010 at the Gillespie County Farm Bureau building. Details

October 24, 2010

Wind power showdown set in Austin

To get a sense of how contentious Monday's hearing about where to build a massive electric transmission line through the Hill Country will be, consider this: It's being held at the Austin Convention Center. That's big enough to hold more than 1,000 people — and there are easily that many with a stake in the outcome. Read full San Antonio Express article here.

October 21, 2010

PUC Comments Support Line Alternatives

When the PUC met Thursday, two of the three acknowledged that alternatives filed by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas last week for the Kendall-to-Gillespie and Gillespie-to-Newton sections of the wind energy transmission lines appeared to be cost effective. Those comments were encouraging for opponents of the lines who agree that the ERCOT suggestions are less invasive than the route proposed by the LCRA. Read full Fredericksburg Standard article here.

October 18, 2010

Texas Rural Billboard Proliferation Continues Unchecked

It seems that every time you drive out of town, a new rural billboard has been built to capture your attention-and spoil the view. Since so many Texas cities (over 200) now prohibit billboard construction, industry growth has moved into the rural areas, exactly where billboards do not belong. Read more from Scenic Texas here.

October 16, 2010

Of Windmills, Powerlines and Sand Plants

As an advocate of private property rights, I support the ability of any landowner to make decisions about the disposition of their property. I've always been able to count on the practicality and good sense of those around me to make sure that, no matter what they were doing on their property, it did not infringe upon my property rights. Until now. Read this editorial from Mason County here.

October 4, 2010

Hill Country Transmission Line updates from SOSHE

Click here for the most recent update from Save Our Scenic Hill Country Environment following ERCOT, PUC, LCRA actions to construct transmission lines through the Hill Country. The next SOSHE meeting is set for November 9th.

September 29, 2010

PUC could save more than $140 million on proposed lines

There may be a less expensive method to bring wind energy from West Texas than building proposed power lines through the Hill Country. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas released its analysis on alternative routes for the Gillespie to Newton and McCamey D to Kendall to Gillespie transmission line routes Monday. Read full Daily Times article here.

Hill Country power line seen as only option

There is no cost-effective alternative to building a transmission line through the Hill Country, according to the state's electrical grid operator. The proposed line would bring West Texas wind power to the state's most populous cities and is being fought by Hill Country landowners, who say the clear-cutting and massive lattice towers that would carry the wires would decimate the most beautiful and ecologically sensitive land left in Texas. Read full San Antonio Express article here.

September 24, 2010

PUC Reaction Raises Power Line Concerns

If two steps forward had been made in the effort to curtail the construction of wind energy transmission lines in the Hill Country, then one step back was taken last Wednesday (Sept.15) when the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) in Austin cast votes that would slow down grassroots efforts to lessen the impact of those lines or move them out altogether. Read full Fredericksburg Standard article here.

September 20, 2010

Windfall in New York

In this New York Times opinion article, Stanley Fish discusses "Windfall;" a documentary recently appearing at the Toronto Film Festival which looks at the impact windmills had on the small town of Meredith, New York. Read full article here.

September 10, 2010

How Devotion to Progress Looks Down on Land Stewardship

"As a people, we get once-in-a-lifetime chances to make a difference by fulfilling our responsibility to the future. The construction of 2,300 miles of really big, industrial transmission lines, on top of 160-foot wide clearcut rights-of-way, fits into the "forever" category." Read Bill Neiman's opinion piece published in the Austin American Statesman here.

September 7, 2010

Sign Seminar, current issues in sign regulation

Although county authority in this area is limited, this seminar will include a session on bandit signs and control of off premise signs. Scenic beauty is an economic resource and quality of life issue for the Hill Country. Learn more

August 30, 2010

Wind transmission lines across Hill Country face holdup at Public Utility Commission

By the time the first segment of the Hill Country line came before the commission in April, the commissioners told the LCRA to go back to the drawing board on proposed routes. And now, with commission Chairman Barry Smitherman signaling his unwillingness to go forward, the commissioners appear to be on the verge of scotching the line altogether. Read full Statesman.com article here.

August 20, 2010

Hill Country elected officials urging re-evaluation of transmission lines

Public officials participated in the August 19th PUC Open Meeting in Austin; “CREZ transmission line would have a significant negative impact on the Hill Country which is truly a unique area…” Read the summary from SOS Hill Country here. Senator Fraser continues to push for use of existing rights of way. Read Fraser’s letter to the PUC dated Aug 19th here.

August 10, 2010

LCRA Newsletter announces procedural schedule for Hill Country CREZ

LCRA TSC mailed about 5,100 notice letters to landowners along each of the 75 alternative routes the same day it filed the application on July 28. Newspaper notices describing LCRA TSC's proposed routes began running in area newspapers the week of Aug.2” August 27th is the intervention deadline. Complete LCRA Newsletter can be viewed here.

August 9, 2010

SOS Hill Country requests re-evaluation of transmission line

SaveOur Scenic Hill Country Environment (SOSHCE)is an organization of more than 500 members in Gillespie, Llano, Mason, Kerr and Kimble counties. They are highly concerned about the negative impacts that the McCamey D – Kendall – Gillespie CREZ line will have on the future of the Hill Country and are asking for a re-evaluation of the need for these lines. Read their letter to PUC here.

Transmission Line Interveners Meetings Tomorrow, August 10th

Clear View Alliance is hosting sessions with their legal team to help Hill Country landowners unite to fight the destructive impacts of massive transmission lines through our region. Meetings will be held in Harper, San Angelo and Junction. Learn more here.

Transmission Line Seminars Offer Information and Options for Landowners

Five transmission line seminars are scheduled across the state featuring expert information on the electric transmission line process, CREZ, and options for private landowners who may be impacted by proposed transmission line routes. Read details from Texas Wildlife Association here.

July 28, 2010

LCRA TSC files application with Public Utility Commission for new transmission line across Hill Country

The line would connect the approved McCamey D Station to be constructed north of Eldorado with stations in Kendall and Gillespie counties, providing more reliability and a new path for wind power to get to market. Counties that could be impacted by this CREZ project include Schleicher, Sutton, Kimble, Kerr, Kendall, Gillespie, Menard and Mason. Read more here.

July 21, 2010

LCRA to propose routes for Kendall transmission lines to PUC July 28

With a Twin Buttes to McCamey D route approved earlier this month, LCRA Transmission Services Corporation will present proposed routes for the McCamey D-to-Kendall-to-Gillespie transmission line project to the Public Utilities Commission on July 28. Read full Boerne Star article here.

July 13, 2010

PUC selects route for new transmission line that LCRA TSC will build in Schleicher, Irion and Tom Green counties

The Public Utility Commission of Texas on July 1 chose a route for a new transmission line project intended to carry renewable wind power through Schleicher, Irion and Tom Green counties to more populated areas of the state. View route map. Read more.

June 29, 2010

The politics of transmission lines

“People should be angry with our governor, their legislators, the state and the utility companies not only because of the destruction these new power lines will cause, but because it appears this was all done for the age-old reason of greed and power.” Read full Go San Angelo article here.

June 21, 2010

LCRA TSC suspends further development of Gillespie-to-Newton transmission line

LCRA Transmission Services Corporation (LCRA TSC) has put on hold further development of an 85-mile transmission line in the Texas Hill Country awaiting further guidance from the state on whether the project still is needed. Read more here.

June 14, 2010

Hill Country CREZ project updates

SOS Hill Country Environment reports several encouraging developments regarding the planning of transmission lines from Gillespie to Newton and also McCamey D to Kendall to Gillespie. Hill Country elected officials continue to question the process and the need for all of the lines. Read more…

June 9, 2010

Need for high voltage transmission lines questioned by PUC Chairman

Last week, Barry Smitherman, Chair of the Public Utility Commission of Texas, asked the Electric Reliability Council of Texas to “thoroughly re-evaluate the need for the Gillespie to Newton transmission line” that has been proposed to carry wind energy generated in West Texas to population centers along the I35 corridor. Read full Llano News article here.

PUC: Take another look at the grid

The chairman of the Public Utility Commission of Texas is continuing to press the operator of the state’s vast electric grid to reconsider the need for a new and potentially intrusive transmission line through Burnet and Llano counties. Read full Highland Lakes Newspapers article and supporting documents here.

May 28, 2010

Kerrville alarmed by proposed power towers

Kerrville - City Council voted Tuesday to oppose a route proposed by the contractor that calls for a 345-kilovolt line to track Interstate 10 through valuable parcels here, including the city's gateway at Texas 16. Read full SA Express-News article here.

May 10, 2010

SOSHE meeting Tuesday evening in Fredericksburg

"Transmission Line Easements in Lieu of Condemnation”, 6:30 May 11th, learn more about this and other related news from Save Our Scenic Hill Country Environment here.

April 27, 2010

Negotiating Transmission-line Easements in Lieu of Condemnation

Save our Scenic Hill Country Environment (SOSHCE) will be hosting the presentation “Negotiating Transmission-line Easements in Lieu of Condemnation”, May 11th in Fredericksburg. The presentation is open to the public. Click here for details.

April 23, 2010

Utility commission rejects route of line to bring wind power from West Texas

A final decision on the route of an electric line intended to carry wind power from West Texas through the Hill Country took a tumble Friday after the state agency nixed the options before it. Read full Statesman.com article here

April 21, 2010

Get on the Record, Stand Up and Be Counted

Hill Country residents have another chance to tell our stories regarding the LCRA high-voltage transmission lines. Your personal story can be put on the record as part of the scoping meetings hosted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). Read more here.

April 18, 2010

Up to date news about CREZ from SOS Hill Country Environment

Hearings continue April 23rd regarding the Fredericksburg to Lampasas line. US Fish and Wildlife begin Hill Country public meetings regarding the Environmental Impact Statement. Mason County in the News and SOSHE schedules a meeting for May 11th in Fredericksburg. Details here

April 14, 2010

Public Must Get Involved to Protect Endangered Hill Country Environment

Common sense tells us that clear-cutting a path through the Hill Country’s heart and erecting 18-story towers to hold high-voltage transmission lines will have environmental impacts. Even the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA), the utility power player, isn’t disputing that. In fact because LCRA knows that the damage is unavoidable, they have been working to find a way around the requirement to protect endangered species: they are trying to obtain an Incidental Take Permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service by developing a Habitat Conservation Plan. Read full Clearview Alliance Op-ed here.

April 1, 2010

Lobby Watch: Political Juice Amped Up $5 Billion Power-Grid Contracts

From Texans for Public Justice: The Texas Public Utility Commission awarded almost $5 billion in electrical-grid contracts to energy companies. The contractors' PACs and executives, in turn, pumped almost $5 million into state elections over the past five years. Grid contractors also spent up to $45 million on Texas lobbyists during this period. Read more...

PUC expected to make decision on wind transmission lines in April

After a string of hearings, open houses and debates, the Public Utility Commission is preparing to make decisions in April on the hotly contested routes for the transmission lines bearing West Texas wind power to the central part of the state. Read full Statesman.com article here.

March 28, 2010

Power line plans jolt Hill Country

A sense of bitter resignation permeates the Hill Country over proposals for new electric transmission lines now advancing through state and federal regulatory processes. Read full SA Express article here.

March 22, 2010

CREZ project Environmental Impact public meetings

Friday, March 19th The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced it will hold five public meetings in Texas as it begins work on a draft environmental impact statement (EIS) related to the building of new transmission lines in parts of central and west Texas The meetings will take place in San Angelo, Junction, Comfort, Lampasas and Fredericksburg. Dates and locations will be posted on this page. More here

March 21, 2010

For all its ties to old energy, Texas has the tools to lead the way in plugging in to the sun

As the nation's largest energy consumer, leading emitter of carbon dioxide emissions and vanguard of the traditional energy industry, Texas might seem an unlikely candidate for the world's solar market leader. But with the combination of an expansive solar resource, recent success with wind power, extensive natural gas installations, competitive electricity markets and commitment to add transmission capacity, Texas might become just that. Read full Statesman.com article here.

March 19, 2010

SOSHCE Updates

Transmission line updates from Save our Scenic Hill Country Environment (SOSHCE). Read here

March 2, 2010

SOS Hill Country Environment member updates as of March 2nd

The latest news on CREZ transmission lines. Click here

March 2, 2010

Hill Country Deserves Protection of Environmental Impact Statement

Organizations across the Hill Country are asking state and federal agencies to ensure that protecting the Hill Country environment is a primary consideration as sites are selected for the high-voltage transmission lines soon to be built throughout the region. Read full media release here.

March 1, 2010

An Open letter to LCRA and PUC

The LCRA is finished with this last round of open houses but people in the Hill Country still have many concerns. It’s not too late to send in your comments. Read this open letter from one landowner and learn more. Read more...

February 26, 2010

Wind power that makes great sense

You might be wondering, however, what exactly a “small wind system” is and whether you should consider bolting one to your roof. Read all about it in Gazette.com's article here.

February 24, 2010

Power Line Concerns Draw More Than 500

More than 500 citizens from Gillespie County gathered at Pioneer Pavilion Thursday for a transmission line open house held by the Lower Colorado River Authority. Read full Fredericksburg Standard article here.

February 17, 2010

Gillespie County residents heat up over transmission lines

A new website is launched offering a “plea for common sense” in the Hill Country and information about LCRA plans. The site encourages landowners to sign a petition urging specific action. Click here.

February 16, 2010

Clear View Alliance exhibits Model of Monstrous Lattice Tower at LCRA Open Houses

To illustrate the impact that lattice towers will have on the Hill Country viewscape, Clear View Alliance members (CVA) worked all last week to build a surprise for those who attend the Lower Colorado River Valley Authority (LCRA) Open Houses on transmission line routes in the coming weeks. Read full CVA article here.

February 15, 2010

Wind Energy's Ghosts

Thought provoking and informative article from American Thinker on the long term blight and economic sense of wind generated electricity. Read article here.

Shock Treatment - Negotiating Transmission Line Easements

The Trans-Texas Corridor threatened to take massive amounts of land for transportation purposes before the project was scrapped. Now, with wind turbines sprouting up across Texas, the need for transmission lines sets the stage for more condemnation of private land. Read more here.

February 7, 2010

Wind-generated electricity will require wide swaths of land

The vast wind farms of West Texas promise to put a dent in the demand for coal-fired electric plants. But delivering that green energy to where it's needed most — the state's biggest cities — will leave scars on some of the most coveted land. Read full SA Express article here.


Back to Scenic Beauty

The Latest News

Rock Crushing Operation Planned for Blanco County- Public Encouraged to Comment

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.

Interpretive Guide training set for May - Only 5 spots left!

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.

Implementing the Cypress Creek Watershed Protection Plan

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

Researchers, Water Providers Launch Conservation Effort

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.

Edwards Aquifer Habitat Conservation Plan Program Public Meeting

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

Bandera County water education opportunities

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 Landowner's Management Workshop, April 20 in San Antonio

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

Funds for school rainwater projects

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

Legislation would limit public's ability to challenge pollution permits

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

Colorful Blooms Decorate Texas State Parks

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.

California drought in the news

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?

EAPP funding up for renewal

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

A possible interim water supply for Buda

“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).

One year of water left in California?

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.

Judge rules in favor of Hill Country landowner threatened by developer

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.

“Stars-in-the-Park” Returns April 10

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: Actions and Solutions

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

Short-term water, long-term consequences for Hill Country

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.

Hays County Water Fight Tumbles Into Committee

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 Fire Along the Llano

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.

Rainwater Revival Calls for Grant Applications from Hill Country Schools

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

Census estimates hint at mega-region between San Antonio and Austin

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.

International Children & Nature Conference Brings Thought Leaders to Austin

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.

Buying Development Rights Preserves Watersheds

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.

Report: Smart Lawn Watering Could Save Big

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.

TESPA files suit to stop Electro Purification in Hays County District Court

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.

Will new pipeline spur Hill Country boom?

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.

It’s time to revisit Amy Hardberger’s critical eye on the SA pipeline

“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

A new effort has been launched in Oak Hill

“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

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.

District Targeted in Water Conflict

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.

Here's What's Really Ruining Austin (and It's Not SXSW)

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.

Austin Water reports on water-related legislation

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.

Hill Country Land Trust Conserves Sandy Ranch in Blanco County

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

TESPA Announces Water Defense Plans at March 21 Meeting

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

Texas suburbs are growing faster than cities

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.

The Southwest Water Wars

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.

Isaac Jumping Into Hays County Water Fight

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.

Creating Vibrant Green Cities: Lessons from Seoul South Korea and San Marcos

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.

Victory in Comal County

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.

Hunt School builds Rainwater Harvesting model with funds from Rainwater Revival Grant

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.

Utility agency pursues water rights

"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.

HCA's 2015 Photo Contest has begun!

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

"Food, Health and the Environment: Why Eating Right Can Save You and the Earth"

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

Central Texas Drought Is Worst on Record

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.

CAMPO Public Input Opportunities

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

Texas Wildlife Association to host three-day Women of the Land workshop

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

Partnership created to establish the Center for Private Land Stewardship

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.

On the Road: A Symposium on Water

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.

Joe Beal, politically connected engineer, back in the water game

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

Pollinator PowWow Draws Hundreds from Texas and Beyond

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.

Springs: The Canary in a Coal Mine for Groundwater

"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.

Group Formed to Protect Trinity, Edwards Aquifers and Springs

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

Texas Wildlife Association to host three-day Women of the Land workshop

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

Bennett Trust Land Stewardship Conference, April 23 in Kerrville

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

The Changing Science of Brush Control for Water Yield

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.

Pioneers Youth Leadership Students Receive $24,000 in Scholarships and Cash Awards

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

TPWD profiles state's least wanted water-hungry invasive species

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.

Get Your Birding On

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 looks at the best and worst project in the State Water Plan

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.

Provide Water Supply Tools to Counties

“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.

PEC Board votes in support of groundwater legislation

“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.

Stay informed about EP Wells in the Hill Country Trinity Aquifer

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.

A Tribute to what has been lost to the Pilot Truck Stop in Junction

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.

Friends of Enchanted Rock to host star festival this Saturday, Feb 21

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

We need smart growth

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

Drought conditions worsen along Highland Lakes

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

Book explores Central Texas County Courthouses

“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.

Net Blue Initiative Will Help Communities Pursue Water-Neutral Growth

“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.

New Commitment to Bring Back the Monarch

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

Dripping Springs residents strategize how to stop proposed concrete plant

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

Upcoming Events


April

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

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



See more upcoming events


2015 Photo Contest

Runs March 1 - May 31
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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



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