Archived Newsletters

This morning at 1:30 a.m. the Austin City Council voted six to Leffingwell to clearly reaffirm the City's opposition to the SH 45 SW aquifer toll road. The resolution also called on TxDOT, Travis County, Hays County, CAMPO, and CTRMA to put 45 SW on hold until there is a comprehensive analysis of building the SH 45 SW/Mopac loop project.

We extend our deep gratitude to the resolution sponsors - Councilmembers Kathie Tovo and Laura Morrison. Special thanks also go to Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole for adding an important "study the whole project first" amendment. We also thank Councilmembers Mike Martinez, Bill Spelman, and Chris Riley for supporting the measure.

Many thanks go to the thousands of people who have sent emails and signed online petitions against the 45 SW aquifer toll road over the last month or two. The vote was a major win for SOS and the KeepMopacLocal.org coalition.

Currently TxDOT and the toll road authority (CTRMA) have chopped up the 45SW/Mopac loop project into 5 different pieces, isolating each piece and pretending like they aren't all the same project to convert Mopac from a local commuter highway into an Interstate 35 reliever route. The 6-1 council majority spoke clearly against the rush to build 45 SW over the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer recharge zone and to divert I-35 traffic over to Mopac.

In his lone dissent, the Mayor insisted that there is little the City can do given the funding of SH 45 SW by other agencies. This is not true. The City has a big say in what happens with 45 SW and last night's vote gave clear direction to the City Manager and the other agencies that the City is not going to just sit on its hands and look the other way. This story is far from over.

Water News

The City of Austin's Water Resources Planning Task Force will hold its third meeting next Monday at 3:30 p.m. at the Water Utility's Waller Creek Center, 625 E. 10th Street. Check out Amy Smith's excellent piece on the Task Force in this week's Austin Chronicle here.... This week's rain put some water in the creeks feeding the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer, including Barton Creek.  We need a lot more, but the much needed rain did make a difference to local creeks and to Barton Springs.

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Summer membership special

Student / Individual $10  ~  Family $15

Save Our Springs Alliance is the only watchdog organization working full time with scientists, lawyers, and educators to protect the land, water and wildlife of the Hill Country and the Edwards Aquifer Ecosystem. We simply cannot do this work without the continued support of donors like you. Please consider becoming a member today!  Thank you for your consideration.


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Tomorrow, Thursday, May 15, the Austin City Council is set to vote on a resolution sponsored by Council Members Kathie Tovo and Laura Morrison restating the City's opposition to the proposed SH45 SW aquifer toll road. The resolution will also urge a comprehensive study of the proposed SH45 SW/Mopac loop by TxDOT, Travis County, and other entities before any piece of the loop is built.

Item 22 on the council's agenda will be set for hearing no sooner than 6:00 p.m.   Please join us at City Hall tomorrow to urge the Council to "Keep Mopac Local" and oppose the $100 million aquifer toll road.  If you are unable to attend, you may send one email to all council members here.  Join us in thanking Council Members Tovo and Morrison for bringing this action forward.

The proposed council action comes on the heels of the CAMPO transportation board voting on Monday to approve $752 million to build toll roads in the 2015 to 2018 period, including $100 million for 45 SW.Of that amount, tolls would likely cover less than $30 million; the remainder would come from taxes.Special thanks go to Austin Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole and City Council Members Bill Spelman and Chris Riley for voting against the funding for the SH45 SW aquifer toll road.

The campaign to "Keep Mopac Local" and keep Interstate 35 traffic off of Mopac and the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer will continue for the next year or more. We'll need your help and support every step of the way. Learn more at KeepMopacLocal.org.

sos campaignJOIN SOS ALLIANCE!

Summer membership special

Student/Individual $10  Family $15

Save Our Springs Alliance is the only watchdog organization working full time with scientists, lawyers, and educators to protect the land, water and wildlife of the Hill Country and the Edwards Aquifer Ecosystem. We simply cannot do this work without the continued support of donors like you. Please consider becoming a member today!  Thank you for your consideration.

Click to here become a member of SOS!

read and leak

The day after  the Austin Water Resources Planning Task Force met for the first time, the White House released the National Climate Assessment. Written by scientists across the nation, the Assessment summarizes the impacts of climate change on the United States, "now and in the future." In a feature front page story today, Statesman reporter Asher Price tells us, "The dire Texas drought conditions of 2011 were a preview of future climate conditions in the region." Then, quoting from the Great Plains section of the report, which includes Texas: "Existing adaptation and planning efforts are inadequate to respond to these projected impacts." This scientific consensus document defines the challenge facing the Task Force, the Austin metro-region, and our nation as a whole.  (Predictably, the report was dismissed by several Texas Republican officials as a political document.)

The Water Task Force was created by council resolution at the request of SOS Alliance, the Austin Sierra Club, Environment Texas, and Clean Water Action. Their charge is a tall one: to report back to council by mid-June. SOS Alliance will be working over-time to provide information and input to the Task Force.

Take Action Today - Water and transportation are two sides of the same coin. We cannot shift to a water efficient economy without doing the same for transportation. As we consume less water, we also must drive less - saving fuel, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, protecting water supply watersheds, and building more compact, water-efficient communities.

Please take a few minutes to send one email today to our local and state officials to "Just Say No Thank You" to the proposed $100 million SH 45 SW aquifer toll road. A reopened, official comment period closes this Friday.  (If you sent a message through the Keep Mopac Local website more than a month ago, please send another one today to be part of the official comment record.) And stay tuned for further news on SH 45 SW. Our fight for responsible, sustainable transportation investments that protect our limited water supplies will continue through the year - but this is an important step where your voice can be heard. And thank you for your continuing support on this issue.

SH 45 SW was recognized last year by the Sierra Club as the worst proposed road project in all of Texas. Building it would connect South Mopac to Interstate 35, instantly converting Mopac from a local commuter highway into Interstate 35 West. It's hard to imagine a worse thing for Barton Springs, current Mopac commuters, and the neighborhoods along Mopac from Circle C to Williamson County.

nullJOIN SOS ALLIANCE!

Summer membership special
Student / Individual $10   Family $15

As you may know, Save Our Springs Alliance is the only watchdog organization working full time with scientists, lawyers, and educators to protect the land, water and wildlife of the Hill Country and the Edwards Aquifer Ecosystem. We simply cannot do this work without the continued support of donors like you. Please consider becoming a member today! Thank you for your consideration.

Click to here become a member of SOS!

Today through May 9th each of us has another opportunity to just say "No, thank you!" to the  proposed $100 million aquifer toll road.  Please do!! Our transportation officials (CAMPO) re-opened the comment period on the proposed 2015-to-2018 funding plan, which includes the $100 million in taxpayer funds for aquifer toll road.   The 4 year funding plan calls for a total of $1.1 billion in spending, over $700 million being for toll roads.

Please go to the Keep Mopac Local webpage here today and send a single message to CAMPO and other local and state officials with a voice on the matter. Catch Amy Smith's excellent new Austin Chronicle article on the proposed construction of SH 45 SW and the freeway main lanes and bridges at the Slaughter/Mopac and LaCrosse/Mopac (next to the Wildflower Center) intersections.  She reports on Keep Mopac Local's consulting traffic expert, Mike Brown's, proposal for improving the intersections without building expensive, destructive, freeway lanes and bridges. You can watch Mike Brown's presentation here.

You can also catch up on a summary of the last few months of Mopac and SH 45 SW news from the Keep Mopac Local coalition here.

Read more here.

Water News

Last week the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District declared a "Stage II Alarm Drought" for the Barton Springs segment of the Edwards Aquifer. This requires a 20% reduction of pumping from the District's permittees. This should remind all of us to reduce our water use as the drought drags on. It's important to note that the Barton Springs Edwards filled up to well above average after the October rains while the Highland Lakes remained almost level at 38% full.

Next Monday night the City of Austin's new Water Resources Planning Task Force will hold its first meeting. Exact time and place have yet to be announced.

JOIN SOS ALLIANCE!

Summer membership special
Student / Individual $10   Family $15

As you may know, Save Our Springs Alliance is the only watchdog organization working full time with scientists, lawyers, and educators to protect the land, water and wildlife of the Hill Country and the Edwards Aquifer Ecosystem. We simply cannot do this work without the continued support of donors like you. Please consider becoming a member today! Thank you for your consideration.

Click to here become a member of SOS!

Proposed Mopac Expansion "Open House" today at Barton Creek Mall

Today, Tuesday April 29th from 3:30 to 7:00 PM, TxDOT and the CTRMA will host an "Open House" on the proposed "South Mopac" expansion of up to 2 additional lanes in each direction. This project has been flying under the radar - and is really the same project as the SH 45 SW toll road: taken together, they would loop South Mopac to Interstate 35 and convert Mopac to an alternative "I-35 West."  Today is the first chance to see what the highway builders have in mind.

Don't be fooled. The "Mopac South" project website and public information has been extremely misleading. First, there is the name of the "project." Then, the very first words on the www.MopacSouth.com website read "The Mopac corridor south of Lady Bird Lake . . . "  There's not a single word on the front page of the website that tells the reader that the project starts north of the river, at Cesar Chavez. We doubt this is just by accident. Any effort to expand the Mopac bridge over Town Lake and build "flyovers" will require additional taking of park land north and south of the river, and will impinge on Austin High School, the extremely popular hike-and-bike bridge under the Mopac bridge, and West Austin neighborhoods and businesses north of the river. For TxDOT and the toll road authority, its much better to have people think the project only affects "south of Lady Bird Lake."

Join us this afternoon at Barton Creek Mall (Never thought we would say that, did you?) Separate (but not really) TxDOT and CTRMA are trying to rush ahead with building freeway main lanes and bridges at the Slaughter/Mopac and LaCross/Mopac intersections, separate from the larger "Mopac South" project, and also separate from the proposed SH 45 SW toll road project immediately to the south. The cost and environmental damage of these proposed projects are unnecessary. Much faster, cheaper options exist to improve traffic flow at these intersections without harming neighbors, neighboring businesses, or the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Last week Keep Mopac Local traffic consultant Mike Brown released his analysis showing that traffic flow at these intersections can be improved greatly just by changing the signal timing. Also, Mike shows that "innovative intersection" designs can greatly improve flow at Slaughter and Mopac without building freeway main lanes and bridges. Finally, he shows that the freeway main lanes and bridges really only benefit thru traffic: local traffic on Slaughter Lane will not significantly improve. Watch Mike's video HERE.

Grandfathering Ordinance Back At City Council This Thursday

The Austin City Council will finally hear public testimony this Thursday on the proposed grandfathering, or "project duration," ordinance this Thursday. It is item 72, at the end of the council's agenda. The Real Estate Council is pushing for a minimum of 20 years of grandfathering whenever a new "project" application is filed. Any subsequently adopted ordinances or rules, with some exceptions, would not apply for the life of the project. City Staff initially recommended an ordinance with a three year project life. Then they moved to a scheme of thirteen years or more. SOS and neighborhood leaders have pushed for a five year term, with anything actively under development allowed to continue to completion.

JOIN SOS ALLIANCE!

Summer membership special
Student/Individual $10   Family $15

As you may know, Save Our Springs Alliance is the only watchdog organization working full time with scientists, lawyers, and educators to protect the land, water and wildlife of the Hill Country and the Edwards Aquifer Ecosystem. We simply cannot do this work without the continued support of donors like you. Please consider becoming a member today! Thank you for your consideration.

Click to here become a member of SOS!

Join us tomorrow, Thursday, April 24th at 4:00 p.m. for an important presentation on alternatives to proposed SH 45 SW and South Mopac freeway bridges. Mike Brown of  Metroanalytics and Innovate Intersections, a consulting expert to the Keep Mopac Local coalition, will be our lead speaker.

For a sneak preview of Mike's presentation, watch part of his animation HERE on how to improve traffic flow at the Mopac and Slaughter Lane intersection without building a full blown I-35-like freeway with bridges and new main lanes.

Interested citizens, media, public officials, and candidates are invited and encouraged to attend. There will also be some discussion on alternatives to CAMPO's overall approach to transportation planning in Austin. The presentation will be in the Shudde Fath Assembly Room, first floor of the Austin Energy Building, 721 Barton Springs Road, 4:00 p.m. sharp.  Parking is available across the street at the Palmer Events Center.

BS universityJOIN SOS ALLIANCE!

Summer membership special ~ Student / Individual $10 ~ Family $15

As you may know, Save Our Springs Alliance is the only watchdog organization working full time with scientists, lawyers, and educators to protect the land, water and wildlife of the Hill Country and the Edwards Aquifer Ecosystem.  We simply cannot do this work without the continued support of donors like you.   Please consider becoming a member today!  Thank you for your consideration. 

Click to here become a member of SOS!

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Learn, Hike, Join!

Mopac, SH 45 SW, and Barton Springs Presentation Thursday

Join us on Thursday April 24th at 4:00 PM for an important presentation on alternatives to proposed SH 45 SW and South Mopac freeway bridges. Mike Brown of  Metroanalytics and Innovate Intersections, a consulting expert to the Keep Mopac Local coalition, will be our lead speaker. Interested citizens, media, public officials, and candidates are invited and encouraged to attend. Watch out early next week for a sneak preview of some of Mike Brown's work. There will also be some discussion on alternatives to CAMPO's overall approach to transportation planning in Austin. The presentation is in the Shudde Fath Assembly Room, first floor of the Austin Energy Building, 721 Barton Springs Road, 4:00 PM sharp. We will send video on this presentation Monday.

Kent Butler Summit Friday

On Friday April 25th, Mike Brown will be part of a transportation panel at 10:45 AM at the Kent Butler Summit, a one-day conference on conservation and development in the Barton Springs watershed taking place at the Wildflower Center. Brigid Shea will be part of a panel discussion immediate following Mike's panel (which includes Carlos Swonke, TxDOT's environmental officer on the SH 45 SW toll road project). The summit lasts most of the day and costs $25 to attend. You can sign up for the Kent Butler summit here.

Hike Barton Creek Greenbelt Saturday Morning

Join SOS Alliance Executive Director Bill Bunch at 9:00 AM Saturday, April 26th at the Scottish Woods Trail access to the Barton Creek greenbelt for a 2.5 hour hike and splash on Barton Creek. We'll do a favored loop trail, ending back at the start. Wear a swim suit if you want to get wet. Hiking shoes or hiking water sandals. Bring water. We'll talk water along the way and pick up some trash as well.

Hike limited to 15 people. Suggested $10 donation. Please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to reserve a spot.




Austin Earth Day Festival 2014 "Austin's Day to Rally for the Earth - Celebrating Our Diversity of Austin Culture"

Join SOS Alliance at the Austin Earth Day Festival at  the "Historic Browning Hangar" at Mueller on Saturday, April 26th, 2014, noon - 6 PM The festival highlights our diversity of Austin culture with a huge variety of music and entertainment, along with speakers, demonstrations, exhibitors, entertainment for kids, food trailers and more. Austin Earth Day Festival 2014 is produced in partnership with Mueller Austin, "Austin's sustainable mixed-use urban village", and many partners representing the Austin area environmental community. Learn more HERE.

Protect Barton Springs

JOIN SOS ALLIANCE!

Student / Individual $10   Family $15

Save Our Springs Alliance is the only watchdog organization working full time with scientists, lawyers, and educators to protect the land, water and wildlife of the Hill Country and the Edwards Aquifer Ecosystem. We simply cannot do this work without the continued support of donors like you. Please consider becoming a member today! Thank you for your consideration.

Click here to become a member of SOS!

Mopac, SH 45 SW, and Barton Springs presentation next Thursday

 

Join us next Thursday, April 24th at 4:00 PM for an important presentation on alternatives to proposed SH 45 SW and South Mopac freeway bridges. Mike Brown of Metroanalytics and Innovate Intersections, a consulting expert to the Keep Mopac Local coalition, will be our lead speaker. Interested citizens, media, public officials, and candidates are invited and encouraged to attend. Watch out early next week for a sneak preview of some of Mike Brown's work. There will also be some discussion on alternatives to CAMPO's overall approach to transportation planning in Austin. The presentation is in the Shudde Fath Assembly Room, first floor of the Austin Energy Building, 721 Barton Springs Road, 4:00 PM sharp.

Kent Butler Summit next Friday

On Friday April 25th, Mike Brown will be part of a transportation panel at 10:45 AM at the Kent Butler Summit, a one-day conference on conservation and development in the Barton Springs watershed taking place at the Wildflower Center. Brigid Shea will be part of a panel discussion immediate following Mike's panel (which includes Carlos Swonke, TxDOT's environmental officer on the SH 45 SW toll road project). The summit lasts most of the day and costs $25 to attend. You can sign up for the Kent Butler summit here.

Best Barton Creek Hike ever - next Saturday

Join SOS Alliance Executive Director Bill Bunch at 9:00 AM Saturday, April 26th, at the Scottish Woods Trail access to the Barton Creek greenbelt for a 2.5 hour hike and splash on Barton Creek. We'll do a favored loop trail, ending back at the start. Wear a swim suit if you want to get wet. Hiking shoes or hiking water sandals. Bring water. We'll talk water along the way and pick up some trash as well. Hike limited to 15 people. Suggested $10 donation. Please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to reserve a spot.

SH 45 SW update

It took a lawsuit under the Texas Public Information Act, but the local toll road authority, CTRMA, finally handed over a "traffic and revenue" study of the proposed 45SW. We're still analyzing the documents and will provide an update soon. Meanwhile, this past Monday our local "CAMPO" transportation board postponed taking any action to approve funding for SH 45 SW and other projects until at least May 9. Stay tuned on this as well.

JOIN SOS ALLIANCE!

Our Spring / Summer Membership Drive has begun!   Student / Individual $10   Family $15

Save Our Springs Alliance is the only watchdog organization working full time with scientists, lawyers, and educators to protect the land, water and wildlife of the Hill Country and the Edwards Aquifer Ecosystem.  We simply cannot do this work without the continued support of donors like you. Please consider becoming a member today! Thank you for your consideration.

Click to here become a member of SOS!

Please join Save Barton Creek Association Monday, March 24th (6 to 10 pm) at the Zilker Clubhouse for the (rescheduled) 34th Annual Membership Meeting and Awards Banquet. There will be a Salt Lick feast, great company, live music by Bill Oliver and Friends, local brews and they will be honoring environmental champions and activists who ensure the survival of Barton Creek. Check out SBCA's website to renew your membership.

 

Grandfathers Return  --  Zombies Face Limits

The long-delayed project duration/grandfathering ordinance will be back before the Austin Planning Commission Tuesday evening and on the City Council agenda Thursday.  Read the draft ordinance and supporting information from the PC agenda here (third PDF from the bottom). The Real Estate Council of Austin (RECA) is calling for eternal life for all development projects and is opposing the ordinance across the board, but suggests a compromise grandfathering term of 20 years (longer for larger projects). Read more here.

Speaking of Zombies...

The zombie aquifer toll road, approved by a lame duck majority of the Travis County Commissioners for an additional $15 million of taxpayer-supported debt last Tuesday, faces renewed scrutiny for yet another new traffic study, dated March 3, 2014 but unaddressed by the county, CAMPO, or TxDOT officials.  The new study, from the toll road authority, CTRMA,  varies substantially from the December traffic study by the University of Texas traffic modelling center.  Read more here.

JOIN SOS ALLIANCE!

Our Spring/Summer Membership Drive has begun!     Student/Individual $10     Family $15

Save Our Springs Alliance is the only watchdog organization working full time with scientists, lawyers, and educators to protect the land, water and wildlife of the Hill Country and the Edwards Aquifer Ecosystem. We simply cannot do this work without the continued support of donors like you. Please consider becoming a member today! Thank you for your consideration.

Click to here become a member of SOS!

After a one week postponement, the lame duck Travis County Commissioners' Court voted 4-to-1 to pay $15 million more of county taxpayer dollars toward the SH 45 SW aquifer toll road. Two of those four votes will be off of the county governing body come January, replaced by Democratic party nominees Sarah Eckhardt (county judge) and Brigid Shea (commissioner). (In these two races, the Republican candidates stand virtually no chance of prevailing.)  Both Eckhardt and Shea oppose the project. You can watch the lively citizen testimony and debate here (advance the video to 44:30). 

While unfortunate, this is just one stop on a long process. As Ms. Shea stated, the commissioners' vote "does not pass the smell test" given that environmental, budgeting, and alternatives analyses have yet to be completed. Please stay tuned on this critical issue for the future of Barton Springs and for transportation planning in Travis County.

The commissioners did amend the final approval to recognize their legal obligation to protect Flint Ridge cave -- one of the most significant caves in Travis County that passes under the proposed toll road right-of-way. 

We give special thanks to Commissioner Ron Davis for continuing to oppose the aquifer toll road.

Also thanks go to Craig Nazor, who launched an online petition against the project that generated over 2300 signatures against the project in just a few short days. And, many thanks to everyone who signed that petition and the over 1700 people who sent an email through the Keep Mopac Local website.

JOIN SOS ALLIANCE!

Our Spring/Summer Membership Drive has begun!
Student / Individual $10  Family $15

As you may know, Save Our Springs Alliance is the only watchdog organization working full time with scientists, lawyers, and educators to protect the land, water and wildlife of the Hill Country and the Edwards Aquifer Ecosystem. We simply cannot do this work without the continued support of donors like you. Please consider becoming a member today! Thank you for your consideration.

Click to here become a member of SOS!