An unlikely environmentalist with an eye on the future

An unlikely environmentalist with an eye on the future

I’m an unlikely environmentalist. I spent most of my working life with a state transportation agency. I was an advocate for investments in safe efficient highways. Suffice it to say, I made few friends among those who worked for environmental groups. Ironically, I often agreed with their positions. I valued clean water and air and open natural spaces. What was frustrating is that they almost never offered any support for my view that safe and efficient highways saved lives and…

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How communities are joining the fight to keep Texas’ night skies big and bright

How communities are joining the fight to keep Texas’ night skies big and bright

In his time as a naturalist at Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, Scott Whitener loved taking kids on night hikes. Whitener had left his previous job teaching in Fredericksburg partly because he wanted to spend more time outside. On treks up the massive granite dome, he encouraged young people to overcome their nerves as they grew accustomed to the dark, their senses sharpening in the absence of artificial light. A group of high school students from San Antonio made a…

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Q&A+water: Katherine Romans

Q&A+water: Katherine Romans

Executive Director of the Hill Country Alliance In this issue’s Q&A, Texas+Water Editor-in-Chief, Dr. Todd Votteler, interviews Katherine Romans, Executive Director of the Hill Country Alliance, a regional nonprofit focused on protecting the water, land, communities and night skies of the Texas Hill Country. She has more than a decade of nonprofit and legislative experience in natural resource issues and holds a Master of Environmental Management from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. Romans serves on the board…

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San Antonio’s challenge: Protect the aquifer and get real with VIA Funding

San Antonio’s challenge: Protect the aquifer and get real with VIA Funding

San Antonio’s efforts to increase funding for VIA Metropolitan Service to give citizens a better mass transit system suffered a significant setback last week and left mobility advocates uncertain of the road ahead. The ConnectSA initiative right now is a plan without funding, and VIA’s historic underfunding compared to other Texas metro areas leaves it with ambitious plans that it cannot execute. At least $1.3 billion is needed to fund the 25 projects by 2025 recommended in the ConnectSA plan.…

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Hill Country landowners say Kinder Morgan is lowballing them. Special courts are agreeing.

Hill Country landowners say Kinder Morgan is lowballing them. Special courts are agreeing.

Kay Pence owns a ranch in the Hill Country town of Fredericksburg. About a year ago, she got a call from the pipeline company Kinder Morgan. The caller told her the company planned to run a section of its 430-mile Permian Highway natural gas pipeline through her property. Pence didn’t like that. “This is going to sound overreactive, but you felt violated,” Pence says. “They have access to your property, and there was nothing you could do.” In Texas, pipeline…

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One Water: Projects In Motion

One Water: Projects In Motion

Ian Taylor, Chief Executive Officer at New Braunfels Utilities, knows his city is growing, fast. And that with that growth means looking at new ideas to manage resources. “I really struggled with [One Water] because … it was just kind of this out there concept,” Taylor explained at the Texas Water Symposium held on November 21, 2019 in San Marcos. “I had trouble trying to figure out how to nail it down and figure out how you apply this thing.…

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Former Boy Scout camp will become next Hill Country swimming hole after Tuesday vote

Former Boy Scout camp will become next Hill Country swimming hole after Tuesday vote

Hays County commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday morning to put up about half the money to buy a portion of the former El Rancho Cima Boy Scout camp along the Blanco River. The Nature Conservancy pledged the other half of the $13 million price tag in a bid to acquire the 536-acre plot to turn the plot into a reservation-based recreation and swimming area, similar to Hamilton Pool or Jacob’s Well (another partnership between the county and the Conservancy). The conservation…

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NIGHTS OVER TUCSON: How the Tucson, Arizona, LED conversion improved the quality of the night

NIGHTS OVER TUCSON: How the Tucson, Arizona, LED conversion improved the quality of the night

Can a lighting retrofit in a growing metropolitan city save energy, maintain safety standards, and protect the starry night sky? __ Tucson, Arizona, is a major metropolitan city in the southwest United States. The city has a long-standing commitment to best lighting practices that protect the night. In fact, people who move to the area often remark on how bright the stars appear to shine. But as the city has grown, so has its light pollution. With major astronomical observatories…

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Nirenberg calls for shifting sales tax to VIA Transit, away from Aquifer Protection

Nirenberg calls for shifting sales tax to VIA Transit, away from Aquifer Protection

San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg joined other local leaders this week in calling for  a one-eighth-cent sales tax to be redirected towards funding mass transit – and away from popular water quality protection and trailway programs. Voters would need to approve the new appropriation of the existing tax, and City Council’s OK is is required to set the ballot language for the November 2020 election. The Advanced Transportation District board, comprising VIA Metropolitan Transit board members, would first call for…

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Pipeline opponents focus on ESA: Agencies put on notice to comply with law or be sued

Pipeline opponents focus on ESA: Agencies put on notice to comply with law or be sued

Opponents of Kinder Morgan’s routing of its Permian Highway Pipeline (PHP) have put two federal agencies on notice – either comply with existing federal law or face legal action. In one of the latest challenges to the 435-mile, 42-inch natural gas pipeline, which is planned to cross the recharge zone of the Edwards Aquifer, the focus has turned to the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Last month, the T.R.E.A.D. Coalition (Texas Real Estate Advocacy & Defense Coalition), along with the cities…

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