2020 Year End Letter and Accomplishments
Dear Friend of the Springs,
We hope that during this year of pandemic and political turmoil you have found some relief outdoors, reconnecting with nature, both wild and urban. It’s been a challenge, with Barton Springs, the San Marcos and Comal Rivers closed to the public for much of the summer, and our parks and greenbelts closed or restricted in access. Just when we needed some nature therapy the most, our opportunities were limited.
Like everyone, SOS Alliance adapted. We suspended our Barton Springs University (BSU) hiking and snorkeling eco-tours. Our flagship Barton Springs University day of outdoor learning at Barton Springs moved online, with both live and recorded presentations and videos. Advocacy moved online. With warm fall weather, and our springs and greenbelts reopening, we’ve made up for some lost time with swims and hikes with our own “pod” of close family and friends.
While it hasn’t rained much outside, the last month poured good news for our Hill Country waters—made possible by years of hard work and the generous support of thousands of Save Our Springs friends like you. Please donate again today if you are able, so that, together, we will keep our springs clean and flowing.
On October 27th SOS launched the Barton Springs University 2020 Event online with an inspiring live keynote address and musical performance by Dr. Robert Mace, the Executive Director of Texas State University’s Meadows Center for Water and the Environment.
Other event presentations include SOS produced videos: A Three Springs Tour; Toxic Blue-Green Algae; and Beyond Yuck! Human Waste and Clean Water in Central Texas. The BSU website is now a resource of both SOS original and curated “best of” videos from other sources on the science, history, culture, and policy challenges of protecting our home waters in the face of rapid urban growth and a warming climate.
You can view all of these anytime at BartonSpringsUniversity.org. We need your help to continue to grow BSU in 2021 into a full year of presentations, eco-tours, kid camps and other educational events.
That same day we released a study by Baylor biology professor Ryan King on the biology and chemistry of four Hill Country streams threatened by proposed municipal wastewater discharges. Commissioned by SOS in early 2019, Dr. King’s research opens a window into the secret life of our crystal-clear streams, and what happens to that life when even a small amount of treated sewage is discharged into these streams. Dr. King’s study and a short video are at the BSU website.
Two days later, Travis County District Court Judge Maya Guerra Gamble struck down a permit authorizing Dripping Springs to discharge its treated sewage into Onion Creek. The permit had been issued by TCEQ, our state version of EPA, despite the fact that Onion Creek is the largest source of recharge waters for Barton Springs. SOS and TCEQ attorneys argued our appeal of the permit remotely in June. Judge Guerra Gamble’s letter ruling spells out how TCEQ has violated the Clean Water Act in failing to protect our State’s pristine rivers and streams from wastewater discharges.
This decision establishes a powerful precedent that will help us keep wastewater out of Onion Creek, Barton Creek, the Blanco River, and all of our mostly pristine Hill Country streams. The Judge’s ruling reminds our state regulators, in terms as clear as the water, that Congress’s goals to “maintain and restore the chemical, physical, and biological integrity” of, and eliminate discharges to, our Nation’s waters must guide all of TCEQ’s permitting decisions.
TCEQ’s lawyers at the Texas Attorney General’s office, along with Dripping Springs, have appealed this ruling. We need your generous support to defend this important decision—and to make sure it is followed across the Hill Country today, tomorrow, and in the years ahead.
The following week, our Hill Country land, water, and wildlife won big at the voting polls. Seventy percent (70%) of Hays County voters supported a $75 million parks and open space bond that will protect thousands of acres in the Barton Springs and San Marcos Springs watersheds. These lands include key tracts on the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone that SOS has worked for more than six years to protect in partnership with the San Marcos River Foundation.
The success of the Biden/Harris ticket means that the Trump administration’s assault on our air, land, water, wildlife, the climate, and environmental science can be reversed. New leadership at the EPA and the Department of Interior can make a major difference here in the Hill Country.
These are just a few of the highlights of the year. With your support, and often tips from concerned citizens, SOS’s small staff of environmental advocates and educators work every day to fend off threats and seize opportunities that will protect our Hill Country home.
Please take a few minutes to review SOS’s accomplishments for the year (on the back of this letter). If you are able, please make a generous tax-deductible donation to the Save Our Springs Alliance. You can make an online donation by visiting our website at SOSAlliance.org . Your donation will be matched $1 for every $2 donated.
Our rapid urban growth continues unabated. Your support is critical to our work to manage this growth and to protect our water and critical watershed lands before it’s too late.
Thank you for your past support and for your consideration. We hope to see you soon, safely distanced, for a swim or hike. Meanwhile, please call us or email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or suggestions about our work.
Warm wishes for the holiday season,
Save Our Springs Alliance Board and Staff
P.S. You may donate online at SOSAlliance.org. You can sign up to receive our SOS email news here. It is the best way to stay informed about our work and important Hill Country environmental news.
With the support of our members and our community partners, 2020 has been a busy and productive year for Save Our Springs.
Here are some of our accomplishments:
In 2020, our team of attorneys took several important legal and policy-based actions to address some of our region’s most urgent environmental challenges:
Our Outreach Education team produced a successful virtual, online Barton Springs University (BSU) Day in October. This event featured a live keynote address by Dr. Robert Mace, the Executive Director of Texas State University’s Meadows Center for Water and the Environment along with other new SOS produced videos. You can view all of these videos in addition to other curated videos anytime at BartonSpringsUniversity.org.
We are now in the planning process to revive our BSU year-long outdoor education program that had to be put on hold during the summer. We will have our eco snorkeling tours; kids camps, and educational presentations start up again in 2021 culminating with an even bigger and better BSU Day at Barton Springs in September! Stay tuned for more info on these programs through our email news! Sign up at SOSAlliance.org.
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