‘When, not if it happens’: Factors favor possible Austin megawildfire event

‘When, not if it happens’: Factors favor possible Austin megawildfire event

All it will take for Central Texas to become the next area engulfed by catastrophic wildfires like those seen in Australia is a dry spring and summer, an errant flame and sustained winds. Travis County fire officials say the likelihood of such a megafire event is just a matter of time. A recent report released by CoreLogic, an online property data service, ranked Austin fifth among metropolitan areas in the nation most at risk for wildfires. The only others in…

Read More
Commentary: San Antonio should vote on aquifer protection, greenway trails

Commentary: San Antonio should vote on aquifer protection, greenway trails

Since 2000, San Antonians have voted every five years to dedicate a portion of our sales taxes to the Edwards Aquifer Protection Program, or EAPP. Residents are rightfully proud of a program recognized internationally as an elegant solution to protecting our primary source of water. Absent adequate regulation to protect the quality of San Antonio’s Edwards Aquifer water supply, we have opted to pay those who own land in the Edwards watershed for the ecological services they provide. Perhaps we…

Read More
Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District will be plaintiff in Permian Highway Pipeline lawsuit

Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District will be plaintiff in Permian Highway Pipeline lawsuit

The Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District will sign on as a plaintiff in the anticipated endangered species lawsuit over the Permian Highway Pipeline, the organization announced Jan. 17. Citing its commitment to protect local aquifers, the BSEACD board of directors stated in a news release regarding its Jan. 16 meeting, “[B]ecause there is not a reasonable assurance that the aquifers will be protected during the construction and operation of the pipeline, the Permian Highway Pipeline should not be located…

Read More
San Antonio mayor navigating troubled waters over plan to reroute aquifer protection tax funding

San Antonio mayor navigating troubled waters over plan to reroute aquifer protection tax funding

A plan to improve public transit by rerouting money from a popular program aimed at protecting the Edwards Aquifer has hit rough waters. Mayor Ron Nirenberg and Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff want to redirect $40 million a year from a 1/8-cent sales tax that pays for aquifer protection, linear parks and creekways to VIA Metropolitan Transit for better bus service and other transit initiatives. San Antonio voters would have the final say, because they have to decide whether to…

Read More
Council may pump $100K into Permian pipeline legal battle

Council may pump $100K into Permian pipeline legal battle

Austin City Council members will vote on a resolution Thursday earmarking as much as $100,000 to the city manager to participate in civil litigation against the Permian Highway Pipeline. The 42-inch, 430-mile buried natural gas pipeline would run from just north of Fort Stockton in West Texas through the Texas Hill Country en route to the Houston area. It has drawn the ire of landowners and local governments along its route who have raised concerns about both property rights and…

Read More
Kinder Morgan mobilizes for pipeline construction in Central Texas; opponents prepare to sue

Kinder Morgan mobilizes for pipeline construction in Central Texas; opponents prepare to sue

After more than a year of community meetings, negotiations, resolutions and legal action, the pipeline company Kinder Morgan is getting ready to begin construction on the Permian Highway Pipeline in Central Texas—at least if legal challenges do not stop it. Work has already begun on the westernmost section of the 430-mile, $2 billion natural gas conduit, which stretches from the Permian Basin to the Gulf Coast, nearly bisecting Hays County. But in the Central Texas area, the company is waiting…

Read More
Record-breaking vote shows consensus and need for more Texas state parks

Record-breaking vote shows consensus and need for more Texas state parks

To my wife’s dismay, I was going to cook the Thanksgiving turkey over a campfire at Tyler State Park with the guidance of my son’s most recent Boy’s Life magazine. We have a big map of Texas on the wall of our family room. We’re on a mission to visit all 90 or so state parks, and about 30 push pins show the ones we’ve visited so far. At Monahans Sandhills State Park, we rode sleds down rolling dunes of…

Read More
Urban sprawl making its way toward slower growing parts of the Hill Country

Urban sprawl making its way toward slower growing parts of the Hill Country

Cities up and down the I-35 corridor have experienced explosive growth over the last decade, but the counties adjacent to them have largely escaped the surge of people. That all appears to be over, with the urban expansion beginning to head their way. “We have three of the fastest growing counties – not only in Texas but in the entire country – in Hays, Comal and Kendall counties,” said Katherine Romans, executive director of the Hill Country Alliance. Romans’ mission…

Read More
A river worth saving: Who will protect the unheralded Llano?

A river worth saving: Who will protect the unheralded Llano?

The Llano River is an ecological gem in Texas Hill Country, supporting dozens of native and rare plants and animals. But due to weak state environmental protections, the Llano — along with other waterways in Texas — is increasingly facing pressure from industry and development. On a February day in 2018, Bill Neiman walked me along the perimeter of a Pilot Flying J truck stop in Junction, Texas, five miles upstream from his farm. Semis revved and hissed in the…

Read More
TCEQ adopts new wastewater rules

TCEQ adopts new wastewater rules

In December, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) adopted new rules for the disposal of treated wastewater effluent by land application. In 2016, Austin petitioned the TCEQ to consider rule changes that would encourage beneficial use of treated wastewater effluent for non-potable purposes, such as irrigation of parks and medians or for toilet flushing within buildings. Beneficial reuse of wastewater effluent, which is often referred to as “reclaimed water,” helps protect water quality while achieving water conservation. It is…

Read More