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…

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As aquifer protection debate continues, Nirenberg offers funding details

As aquifer protection debate continues, Nirenberg offers funding details

Mayor Ron Nirenberg plans to propose using future borrowing to help preserve land over the Edwards Aquifer while shifting the sales tax that currently funds that preservation over to San Antonio’s transit system. In an interview Thursday, Nirenberg laid out more specifics for his plan to continue funding the Edwards Aquifer Protection Program (EAPP). He proposed using an unspecified annual amount of San Antonio Water System funds, which could allow SAWS to pay for preserving more aquifer land over 10…

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In a first, researchers find CWD prions in deer semen

In a first, researchers find CWD prions in deer semen

  • January 10, 2020
  • News

For the first time, researchers have documented chronic wasting disease prions in semen from white-tailed deer at U.S. deer farms, according to a recently-published paper. While further work is needed to determine if the prion-containing semen could infect another animal, the finding could have major implications for the captive cervid industry, which relies heavily on shipments of semen for artificial insemination. A variety of state and federal regulations seek to prevent spread of the disease by prohibiting transfers of CWD-positive live deer or carcasses. However, no restriction is…

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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…

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Smart home experiment may change how we conserve water, build and live

Smart home experiment may change how we conserve water, build and live

On the banks of the Llano River, just south of Junction, Texas, amongst the cactus and mesquite trees sits a house that researchers hope will change the face of conservation. Atmospheric scientist Brian Ancell walked along the edge of this mesquite field. He walked past a small wind turbine, past a beige double wide prefabricated home with a solar array and around the corner to a central piece of his experiment: a 10,000 gallon water tank filled with rainwater. “This…

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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…

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San Marcos City Council weighs allocation of $24 million in disaster mitigation funding

San Marcos City Council weighs allocation of $24 million in disaster mitigation funding

City of San Marcos staff have developed a proposal for the use of $24,012,000 in Community Development Block Grant mitigation funding that the city received in 2019 to address flooding risks and prevention. Members of City Council received a presentation on the proposed plan during a City Council meeting Dec. 17. The drafted plan identified as potential categories for funding allocation: improving disaster sheltering, establishing and improving evacuation routes, land preservation, addressing repetitive loss, better warning systems, and increased numbers…

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Water crisis puts Oregon community at a crossroads

Water crisis puts Oregon community at a crossroads

In a desert far from any city, farmers use groundwater to grow lush green hay. The hay fattens livestock all over the world. But there’s a big problem: The water is drying up. Now scientists warn it will take thousands of years for an aquifer in southeastern Oregon to recover, while residents there are already hurting. At Marjorie and John Thelen’s house, the well ran dry in 2015. “We’re not ranchers. We’re not growing hay. We’re just retired in the…

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In win for Harvey victims, federal judge finds government liable for reservoir flooding

In win for Harvey victims, federal judge finds government liable for reservoir flooding

During Hurricane Harvey, thousands of properties behind two federally owned reservoirs flooded. On Tuesday, the United States Court of Federal Claims ruled that the government was liable for the flooding and that property owners are eligible for damages. Houston’s natural vulnerability to flooding — worsened by development that officials left unchecked for decades — was exposed like never before in 2017, when Hurricane Harvey slammed into Texas and turned into a tropical storm that lingered for days over America’s fourth-largest…

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Report urges buying floodplain properties to head off $3 billion bill by 2050

Report urges buying floodplain properties to head off $3 billion bill by 2050

It would be less expensive for the government to buy and preserve undeveloped land that lies in Houston’s floodplains than it would be to let development occur and face a potentially devastating bill if those properties flood, according to a new study. Allowing development on these sites could expose Harris County to as much as $3 billion in damages by 2050, according the report, published in the journal Nature Sustainability. The magnitude of potential damages far outstrips the $400 million…

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