Challenges of Rapid Growth

Challenges of Rapid Growth

  • January 12, 2018
  • News

What happens when an area known for its natural beauty and resources experiences rapid population growth? The Texas hill country is such an area, and the swift influx of people is resulting in a severe strain on resources. The Hill Country Alliance (HCA) is a group of local citizens who organized to take on the challenges to the environment. I spoke to Katherine Romans, executive director of the HCA to talk about the challenges, what the HCA is doing, and…

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New sewer system causes stir in Wimberley over fears it digs financial hole

New sewer system causes stir in Wimberley over fears it digs financial hole

  • January 11, 2018
  • News

A new sewer system that will only service half a city has some in Wimberley saying their leaders are digging a financial hole that will be hard to climb out of. The plan has been in place for years, but when an agenda item popped up this week claiming the city lost $68,549.50 for not following federal requirements, it shot up another red flag. According to the city council agenda, in 2012 and 2017 City Council members authorized two agencies…

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Judge Rules For Local Landowners In Groundwater Export Dispute

Judge Rules For Local Landowners In Groundwater Export Dispute

A state district judge in Bastrop has ruled in favor of four local landowners in a dispute over permits that allow massive amounts of groundwater to be pumped from Lee and Bastrop counties. Judge Carson Campbell’s January 4, 2018 order (see below) ruled that the Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District improperly excluded three individual landowners and conservation group Environmental Stewardship, also a landowner, from participating as parties in a 2014 hearing over permits issued by the district in 2016 to…

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Despite rules, former Hays commissioner to remain at CAMPO board

Despite rules, former Hays commissioner to remain at CAMPO board

  • January 8, 2018
  • News

The Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization board, the long-term planning group for the region’s roads and highways, took the eyebrow-raising action on Monday of making its leader a man who no longer holds public office. Former Hays County Commissioner Will Conley was reappointed as the board’s chair despite bylaws stating that all members must be a local elected official, a state official or an employee of a related transportation agency. Conley, who resigned his Hays County office in October 2017, is…

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In Dallas as in Phoenix, people look to trees for relief from urban heat islands

In Dallas as in Phoenix, people look to trees for relief from urban heat islands

Few neighborhoods in America need trees more than South Oak Cliff, a sun-blasted shade desert in this rapidly warming Texas city. Like much of Phoenix, the south-side Dallas district lacks sufficient shade for comfort during summer and safety during heat waves, when temperatures can climb as much as 11 degrees higher than parts of the city where the shade cover is greater. Despite South Oak Cliff’s leafy name, big shade trees are relatively scarce along its streets. In this part of Dallas, the…

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Using the Airbnb Model to Protect the Environment

Using the Airbnb Model to Protect the Environment

As the world’s population grows, so does demand for land. One upshot is that setting aside big tracts to protect endangered species and carbon-rich forests is increasingly expensive. Enter the Airbnb economic model. While it’s not a panacea, it provides attractive solutions for conservation as well as housing. Much as homeowners can use Airbnb and other services to turn their living space into pop-up hotels when demand warrants it, conservationists are creating “pop-up nature reserves” on idle land… Read more…

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Bastrop County landowners can challenge groundwater permit, court says

Bastrop County landowners can challenge groundwater permit, court says

Four Bastrop County landowners won a decisive court victory this week when a district judge decided he would allow them to challenge a permit to withdraw 15 billion gallons of groundwater annually from the Simsboro formation of the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer. The landowners have been concerned for several years that the planned pumping by Recharge Water, formerly known as End Op, would drain their own private water supplies and hurt the area’s streams and aquifers. Recharge Water plans to export the…

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Seeing Stars in Dripping Springs

Seeing Stars in Dripping Springs

  • January 5, 2018
  • News

Dripping Springs’ municipal motto—“Gateway to the Hill Country”—suggests the city is westward-looking, more in tune with its rural roots than with the buzzing boomtown glowing like a giant arc lamp 25 miles to the east. Culturally, politically and ecologically, the area around Dripping Springs exists in an uncomfortable limbo between urban convenience and rural solitude—a tension exacerbated by the many Austin expats finding their way west. They seek the peacefulness and space of country living—and they bring commerce and development…

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San Antonio River, a City’s Pride, Yet Still Impaired

San Antonio River, a City’s Pride, Yet Still Impaired

  • January 4, 2018
  • News

People in San Antonio are more educated about water conservation and management than anywhere else I have lived, and as the city’s Tricentennial approaches in May, people are understandably proud of the $384 million San Antonio River Improvements Project. The restoration and revitalization of the river was 15 years in the making, beginning in 1998 with a 22-person  San Antonio River Oversight Committee, and reaching fruition in 2013 with the opening of the Mission Reach. Former Mayor Lila Cockrell and Irby Hightower,…

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Be wary of border ‘takings’ for wall

Be wary of border ‘takings’ for wall

  • January 3, 2018
  • News

Abuse is precisely what occurred when the government acquired border land a decade ago, including for a barrier in southernmost Texas, according to an investigation by the Texas Tribune and ProPublica. The reporting by T. Christian Miller of ProPublica and the Texas Tribune’s Kiah Collier and Julián Aguilar told of “takings” that were saturated with incompetence, ignorance of the law, harmful shortcuts and government heavy-handedness. How this land was “taken” should make us concerned for border landowners in any future with a…

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