Archived Newsletters

County Vote Tomorrow; Take Action Today

The Travis County Commissioners are set to vote tomorrow, Tuesday, at their 9:00 a.m. meeting on whether to commit $15 million to build the SH 45 SW aquifer toll road. That gives everyone between now and then to send an email through the KeepMopacLocal website and/or sign an online petition against the road. The petition was launched by the Sierra Club and is gaining substantial support.

If you are able, attend the County meeting tomorrow at the County Building, 700 Lavaca Street to show your opposition to the project. The matter will be heard promptly near the beginning of the meeting.

Criminal Complaint Filed

Meanwhile, today SOS Alliance filed a criminal complaint against Travis County Commissioner Gerald Daugherty for withholding and attempting to destroy public information consisting of his electronic correspondence on SH 45 SW issues. Commissioner Daugherty's violation of the Texas Public Information Act and the Local Government Records Act adds further reason for postponing any county action on SH 45 SW until all of the relevant public information is disclosed.

Barton Springs Protected

Urban (watershed) Legend Corrected - Read the Austin Chronicle's report on the good work of Austin City Councilmember Laura Morrison and her staff to reverse city staff policy that would have allowed high density development on Robert E. Lee Road just up the hill from Barton Springs.  Special thanks go to Councilmember Morrison, Chronicle reporter Amy Smith, and vigilant and active Zilker neighbors.

Click HERE to contact Commissioners Court and oppose the SH45SW deal.

HELP STOP SH 45 SW!!

Please consider a donation to SOS today to support our work to stop SH 45 SW. You can donate any amount HERE.
Thank you for your consideration.

Yesterday, the Travis County Commissioners Court postponed for one week a proposed commitment of $15 million of additional taxpayer dollars to fund the proposed SH 45 SW aquifer toll road after hearing about two hours of citizen testimony.  The postponement means we have a week for more people to write to the Commissioners Court opposing the $15 million commitment.  Also, if you are able, come to the Commissioners Court meeting next Tuesday, March 18th at 9:00 a.m. to show your opposition. Judge Biscoe stated that it would be the first item on the agenda.

You can watch yesterday's hearing here - starting at 4:54 on the videotape (1:43 PM).

Commissioners Todd and Davis asked lots of questions of county staff yesterday that could not be answered, triggering the postponement. Commissioner Gomez was silent, while Judge Biscoe and Commissioner Daugherty are clearly pushing the toll road as fast as possible.

Commissioner-Elect Brigid Shea spoke very eloquently against the proposal.  County Judge-Elect Sarah Eckhardt also gave a letter expressing her concerns. Since environmental, financial and alternatives analyses cannot be completed until next year, the matter should be postponed until January when Shea and Eckhardt take office.

This is an important round in this 25 year battle - but it certainly won't be the last.  Please help us this week to communicate - especially with Commissioners Gomez and Todd - that this $15 million commitment is premature, damaging to both Barton Springs and Mopac traffic, and should be denied until all environmental, financial and alternatives analyses are completed.

Click HERE to contact Commissioners Court and oppose this deal.

HELP STOP SH 45 SW!!
Please consider a donation to SOS today to support our work to stop SH 45 SW. You can donate any amount HERE.
Thank you for your consideration.

Travis County Commissioners Court meeting postponed until 1:30pm TODAY that includes agenda item 23 that would require Travis County to pay the toll road authority, CTRMA, $15 million to build the SH 45 SW aquifer toll road no later than October 15, 2014.

Please plan to attend this meeting.  The commissioners courtroom on the first floor of the Travis County Administration Building at 700 Lavaca, Austin.

Read our letter asking for the postponement HERE.

Go to KeepMopacLocal.org and tell the Commissioners and our City Council to just say "no thank you" to the aquifer toll road and the pollution and Mopac traffic jam that it would cause.

Please consider a donation to SOS today to support our water conservation and pollution prevention programs. You can donate any amount HERE. Thank you for your contribution!

Water Treatment Plant #4 More Costly to Turn On Then Leave Off

Today Save Our Springs Alliance, Austin Sierra Club, and Change Austin sent a letter to City Council detailing a savings of $2 million per year by deferring the operation of the not-yet-complete Water Treatment Plant #4.

The new plant is scheduled to begin operation this summer, but given that the Austin Water Utility's predicted increases in demand have not occurred, the plant is unneeded into the indefinite future.  Read the full letter, press release, and documentation here.

Also today, the Austin American-Statesman editorial board went half way to admitting that SOS Alliance and our Save Water Save Money allies were right when we told the City Council in 2010 that the Water Utility was dead wrong in predicting future water use and low-balling the water rate hikes that would be required if WTP4, aka the "Billion Dollar Mistake on the Lake," was built. The editorial came in response to our email news blast of last week exposing the shallow and misleading coverage by Statesman reporters of the City's yet-again-and-greater-than-projected water rate hikes.

More Secret Water Hustles - and Rate Hikes to Pay for Them?

Yesterday Statesman reporter Asher Price wrote about backroom negotiations between Austin Water Utility officials and private water sellers seeking to ship groundwater to Austin from the Carrizo Wilcox aquifer. The would-be-sellers have leased up groundwater pumping rights from landowners in Lee and Burleson counties, east of Austin.  The move by AWU to look for backup water supplies is motivated by the Utility's failure to invest water efficiency and the foolhardy abandonment of the City's original and most reliable source of water - Barton Springs. When, in 2008, the City shut down its original "Green Water Treatment Plant," located downtown and on Town Lake just below where Barton Spring flows enter the Colorado River, the City abandoned Barton Springs as a source of water for the City. At the time Mayor Will Wynn promised a new Green WTP would be built downstream, in East Austin, so that Austin would continue to have the clean, reliable Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer water that had served the city since its birth. That promise was later broken in favor of the aforementioned Billion Dollar Mistake on the Lake.

Now City Water officials are talking about "diversifying" our water supplies by pumping other people's springs dry rather than returning to the source they abandoned and protecting Barton Springs flows.

You can't make this stuff up. The true extent of Austin's water failures of the last ten years exceeds our imagination. SOS Alliance and our allies in the Austin environmental community did our best to thwart these mistakes, but the forces of greed and empire building prevailed. Now we all pay the price that keeps going up and up and up.

With your help we will push the truth into the open and steer the Water Utility back to the most affordable, reliable and important source for "new" water for Austin - Barton Springs.

Please consider a donation to SOS today to support our water conservation and pollution prevention programs. You can donate any amount  HERE. Thank you for your contribution!

The official re-launch of the Austin Water Utility's disinformation campaign was signaled by a front page article in today's Austin American-Statesman. In that piece, AWU director Greg Meszaros laid the groundwork for more double-digit water rate hikes by pointing to "unexpected" water savings by Austin residents and businesses. While taking credit for plunging water use, Meszaros and Co. pointed to higher costs, like $400 million for sewer line repairs and AWU's management of wildlife and watershed protection lands as driving the utility's demand for more revenue.

Veteran Statesman reporters Marty Toohey and Asher Price (who should know better) explained that Austin was a "victim of its own success" in saving water, thereby reducing revenues to the utility and, in turn, forcing further rate hikes to make up for the shortfall in water sales. While this correctly states AWU"s financial mess, it has nothing to do with "success" or "unexpected" water conservation by Austin ratepayers.

Rather, it has everything to do with pork barrel politics at its worst and a failure of integrity and leadership from AWU director Meszaros, from his boss, City Manager Marc Ott, and from his boss, a narrow 4-3 city council majority that includes sitting Mayor Leffingwell and councilmembers Mike Martinez and Sheryl Cole.

The Save Water Save Money Coalition of SOS Alliance, Austin Sierra Club, Clean Water Action, and Environment Texas documented for two years running that water use was not increasing as the Water Utility directors insisted.  We demonstrated in 2009 and 2010, using the Utility's own data showing declining water use, that building Water Treatment Plant No. 4, aka the "Billion Dollar Mistake on the Lake" or "WTF4," was a total waste of ratepayer funds. Read more HERE.


Become Another Business for Barton Springs!

We are revitalizing our local business program and hope you will consider becoming a member. As Another Business for Barton Springs, your current and potential customers will recognize that your business helps sustain a large part of what makes Austin a unique and special place to live and work.

In return for your tax-deductible contribution, your business will receive a colorful door decal showing your support for Barton Springs. We will promote your business on our website and in our email news. We also offer your employees a free guided hike and swim eco-tour of the Springs and Barton Creek.

We now offer maps, t-shirts and notecards for sale in your place of business along with free educational materials for distribution to your customers.

Click HERE to print the form to join. Click HERE to view details on our merchandise.

Last night Travis County Commissioner Gerald Daugherty won approval from the CAMPO Board (the Austin metro transportation board) to fast-track dumping 30,000 more cars on Mopac and loads more pollution into the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer. The vote switched out $8.6 million in federal funds for state funds, with the goal of dodging more stringent federal environmental review standards. Thank yous go to Austin City Council members Chris Riley and Bill Spelman for voting against the scheme.

Council member Riley's questions forced Daugherty and lame-duck Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe to admit they are trying to lock in the "aquifer toll road" before a new Travis County judge and county commissioner take office next January. Biscoe stated there was an "agreement" for Travis County to contribute $15 million, Hays County $5 million, and another $80 million or so coming from toll-backed debt-financing by the CTRMA, our local toll road authority. Most interestingly, the county commissioner's court has never voted on such an "agreement." Read more at the Austin Statesman.

Please take a minute to send an email to our local officials urging them to oppose this aquifer paving and Mopac gridlock scheme. Limited transportation dollars should be spent solving transportation problems, not making them worse.

San Antonio Water SystemCommon sense prevails in San Antonio, as San Antonio Water system  staff stepped away from proposals by private water marketers to pipe water from distant aquifers in favor of a local, affordable and incremental approach of drawing more brackish groundwater from southern Bexar County for desalination. Thanks go to SAWS President Robert Puente for the move.

Environmental, civic, and other groups, including SOS Alliance, actively opposed one of the proposals - to pipe up to 50,000 acre-feet per year of groundwater from Kinney and Val Verde counties. That proposal would have directly threatened San Felipe Springs in Del Rio, and Las Moras and Pinto springs in Kinney County. One of the other nixed proposals, from Spanish construction giant Abengoa and their local subsidiary, BlueWaterTx, would have piped groundwater all the way from Lee County, east of Austin, to San Antonio. Austin's water utility also has been secretly negotiating with BlueWaterTx to buy supplemental water for Austin. Building a water efficient economy remains our only affordable, reliable, and environmentally responsible choice for meeting our water needs.

Are you a member of SOS?  JOIN NOW for $15! Just click HERE to make a donation and become a member. Donors of $25 or more will receive our new Barton Creek Greenbelt Map.

Tomorrow, Wednesday, Jan. 15th -- Watershed - the Movie - at the Paramount, a regional premiere of this new documentary on water in the American West, followed by a panel discussion of international water experts. Sponsored by the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation, Austin singer-songwriter Jimmie Dale Gilmore will play before the film at 6:00 p.m. The film starts at 7:00 p.m. Tickets are $15 online or at the door.

Also tomorrow, Wednesday, January 15th from 5 until 8 p.m. the Circle C HOA is hosting a learning and comment session on proposed SH 45 SW and proposed South Mopac expansions. No formal presentation will be made: TxDOT representatives will have graphics and information on the proposed highway/toll road expansion projects (which are, in reality, the same move to convert Mopac to an Interstate 35 West alternative route). The meeting is open to the public and we encourage everyone who lives in the area to attend and urge TxDOT to look at alternatives that avoid further paving and pollution of the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer recharge zone. SOS Alliance representatives will be present with information on alternatives that will improve traffic flow while protecting Texas' most vulnerable major drinking water aquifer.


HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Check out the New Year's Day Polar Bear Plunge pics HERE and the SOS Holiday Party pics HERE.

Read about the 2013 SOS and Hill Country Conservation Highlights including links to last year's news and events HERE.

polar bear splashJump into the New Year with us at the annual Barton Springs Polar Bear Splash!

We'll be at the pool from 9:30 AM until 2:00 PM with plenty of hot coffee, donuts, and our trademark Barton Springs Polar Bear t-shirts. The pool will be open regular hours, 5:00 AM - 10:00 PM. Come as you are or bring a potluck dish to share with others. Bring friends and family. This is the best "feel good" event of the entire year. There is simply no better way to start the New Year (and wash away the old).

Remember - you must enter the Springs through a temporary gate on the upstream side of the bathhouse due to construction of the Barton Springs Grounds Improvements.

Help protect our Great Springs of Texas  with an end of year, tax-deductible donation to Save Our Springs Alliance.  Donate online or mail a check to SOS Alliance, 905A West Oltorf, Austin, TX, 78704.

All donations sent before January 1 will qualify you for a tax-deduction on 2013 tax returns while earning SOS Alliance a matching gift from the Kirk Mitchell Environmental Law Fund.  The SOS Alliance is a qualified 501(c)(3) charitable organization under IRS rules.

Dear Friend of Barton Springs,

As you can see from this photo taken just two months ago, Barton Springs is still beautiful.

With your support, we have worked almost every day for 21 years to bring the best information, ideas, arguments, love, and commitment to the save our springs challenge. The springs are not yet saved, but we have made an enormous difference.

We need your continued help in 2014 to help us keep Barton Springs flowing clear and clean.  If you can, please consider a tax-deductible donation to SOS.
Click here to donate online.

Thank you and warmest wishes for a joyous holiday season. We hope to see you at the New Year's Day Splash at Barton Springs!

SOS Board and Staff

TxDOT is taking comments online through midnight this Friday, December 20th, on initial "scoping" of the proposed zombie aquifer toll road, aka SH 45 Southwest. Read SOS Alliance's scoping comments HERE and then go to TxDOT's SH 45 SW website to see their information and make your own comments online HERE.

Please take a few minutes and make your voice heard now or before midnight Friday. It's easy and TxDOT needs to know that SH 45 SW will only make traffic on Mopac worse while doing shamefully little to improve commuting for northeast Hays County commuters.

mapBarton Creek Trail Maps and gift SOS memberships

Order online HERE two or more Barton Creek Trail Maps before 10:00 AM tomorrow, Friday, and we will put them in the mail by close of business the same day. Or stop by and pick them up. They are only $6 each.  With a donation of $25 or more, you can make it a gift SOS Alliance membership and Barton Creek trail map.

Donate today!!

Please make SOS Alliance a part of your end-of-year charity budget. We are the hardest-working defenders of Barton Springs and our Hill Country home waters: the only group working full-time with scientists and lawyers to save our springs for people, wildlife, and our children and grandchildren. Your donation will be matched by a generous SOS donor!  Donate any amount online HERE.  All donations are tax-deductible.

Please help us continue our conservation work in 2014.  Donate HERE or you can mail a check to P.O. Box 684881, Austin, TX  78768.
Thank you for your consideration.