On July 18th Save Our Springs Alliance and the Center for Biological Diversity filed a second federal lawsuit challenging a portion of TxDOT's push to expand and extend South Mopac over the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer recharge zone. This excellent KXAN news piece covered the story - explaining that TxDOT had sidestepped an Endangered Species Act requirement that it engage with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to assure, at minimum, that the proposed addition of six (6) lanes to the southern two miles of Mopac plus the construction of cross bridges at Slaughter and LaCrosse will not harm listed endangered species. The pdf new lawsuit (153 KB) will likely be consolidated with the pdf pending suit by SOS (1.66 MB) and eleven other parties that calls for TxDOT to complete a comprehensive environmental study on the proposed Mopac/45SW toll loop before building any piece of it. Absent these legal actions, TxDOT and its toll road partner, CTRMA, seek to begin construction as soon as October on the 3.6 mile SH 45 SW toll road. Learn more at KeepMopacLocal.org.
The July 18th Statesman's front page reports on the pdf federal lawsuit (1.66 MB) Save Our Springs Alliance filed together with former Austin mayors Carole Keeton and Frank Cooksey, music legends and community leaders Jerry Jeff and Susan Walker, and seven other parties, including neighborhood groups and the Friends of the Wildflower Center. The Statesman report by combined reporter/transportation opinion writer Ben Wear is slanted as usual. There's no mention of the other plaintiff-members of the Keep Mopac Local coalition or their interests that extend beyond protecting Barton Springs and the Edwards Aquifer. The Statesman has steadfastly avoided informing its readers of the harm the 45SW/Mopac South toll loop would do to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Austin High School, Lady Bird Lake Park, or existing Mopac commuters. The Statesman piece does make clear that the battle will likely be resolved over the next few months.
Twenty-six years ago today over 800 Austinites showed up at City Hall to protest the proposed 4,000 acre "Barton Creek PUD" development. The City Council heard public testimony all through the night, and voted as the sun rose the next day to deny the project. That night sparked the "Save Our Springs" movement, and led directly to Austin voters approving the citizen-initiated Save Our Springs ordinance in August 1992.
Watch excerpts from the Barton Creek Uprising here and read a document brief history of citizen advocacy (614 KB) for Barton Springs and the Edwards Aquifer in our letter to SOS members from last year. Check out Austin photographer extraordinaire Alan Pogue's photos from the June 7th, 1990 Barton Creek Uprising here.
Yesterday the Lone Star Sierra Club, National Wildlife Federation, and Galveston Bay Foundation released a comprehensive score card of Texas water utilities, rating their performance on water conservation. Austin scored tops, with 90%. San Antonio, once the undisputed leader in urban water conservation, scored only 73%.
You might ask why the steep fall from grace? SA lost the most points because its estimated water loss from leaky pipes, breaks, and other system losses is almost 15% of total water use. That’s a lot of wasted water. Yet, while the City is failing to take care of its own water pipes, it’s taking desperate measures to keep alive its proposed 142-mile, $3.4 billion project to pipe other peoples’ groundwater to San Antonio. This so-called “Vista Ridge” project has been aggressively opposed by a regional coalition of rural landowners, urban environmentalists and social justice and fiscal conservative activists.
On February 25th, a coalition of individuals and conservation, neighborhood and civic groups filed suit in federal court to force a comprehensive environmental study of the extension and expansion of South Mopac over the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer recharge zone.
Specifically, the suit seeks to stop construction of the proposed SH 45 SW toll road extension to South Mopac, the addition of six non-tolled lanes to the southern 2.1 miles of Mopac, and the addition of 2 to 4 toll lanes to the 8.1 mile stretch of Mopac from north of Slaughter Lane to Cesar Chavez until a federal environmental study is completed on the entire three-segment project.
Austin activist Shudde Fath is the lead plaintiff. Other plaintiffs include former Austin mayors Carole Keeton and Frank Cooksey; citizen activists and music industry stalwarts Susan and Jerry Jeff Walker; and Keep Mopac Local coalition members Save Our Springs Alliance, Save Barton Creek Association, Clean Water Action, and The Friendship Alliance of Northern Hays County. Two new groups, the Friends of the Wildflower Center and Mopac Corridor Neighbors Alliance, are also plaintiffs.