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.
The Friends of the Wildflower Center are hosting an initial informational meeting next Wednesday, May 18th, from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m. at the Circle C community center, 7817 LaCrosse Ave, 78739. The public is invited.
The Friends group is made of Wildflower Center volunteers, donor/members, and former board members committed to protecting the Center from the noise, air, water, and visual pollution that would be caused by the proposed SH 45 SW/Mopac South toll loop project. They are not affiliated with the Wildflower Center or the University of Texas.
Friday, May 6th we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Balcones Canyonlands Conservation Plan. The Plan, developed over 8 years of research, writing and political struggle, was approved by then U.S. Secretary of Interior Bruce Babbitt on May 2, 1996 at a public ceremony at the Reicher Ranch preserve above Lake Austin. This year’s celebration returns to the ranch this afternoon from 2 to 4 for speechifying and guided nature walks.
The Plan is at once one of Austin’s greatest achievements and biggest lost opportunities. The Plan calls for the protection of roughly 60,000 acres of endangered species habitat in exchange for allowing the destruction of endangered species habitat on most of the remainder of western Travis County. Approximately 3/4s of the required habitat has been protected, with 10 more years to run on the plan and the underlying federal permit.
Endangered Golden-cheeked warblers have returned to the right-of-way (r-o-w) for the proposed SH 45 SW toll road, erecting yet another legal barrier to CTRMA and TxDOT's rush to build the toll road across the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer recharge zone.
City of Austin biologists have confirmed Golden-cheeked warblers on the 45SW right of way in recent weeks, and on City of Austin watershed protection lands adjacent to the 45SW r-o-w.