Thank you for coming out to speak up for the springs and endangered species last week at the groundwater conservation district meetings that were held to consider whether to let the Mirasol Springs development pump groundwater in one of the most sensitive areas of the Texas Hill Country.
It was standing room only at both the Southwestern Travis County Groundwater Conservation District and Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District meetings with concerned citizens packing the room to let both districts know that there is simply NOT ENOUGH WATER to support the houses, restaurant, spa, hotel, event center, research center, and other facilities on the ever growing list of what Mirasol Springs plans to build next to the sensitive Roy Creek Canyon.
Meeting Hi-Lights: Attendees got to hear Bill Oliver sing about how there is not enough water in the area and hear SOS Executive Director Bill Bunch explain that this is not the right place or time for new development, even one that claims to be conservation minded. Neighbors of the Mirasol Springs development described their deep connection to their land and their fears that Mirasol will cause their wells and springs to go dry. Biologist Crystal Datri underscored the urgency of denying Mirasol’s groundwater permits since their groundwater pumping activities could likely cause the extinction of the Pedernales River springs salamander.
What’s Next? The fight to protect Roy Creek Canyon, the Pedernales River, nearby springs, and nearby endangered species is far from over. The groundwater conservation district meetings last week were just the first steps to challenge Mirasol’s groundwater pumping permits. The next step on the groundwater front is for Save Our Springs Alliance in partnership with Save the Pedernales to negotiate with Mirasol to see if a compromise can be reached. If a compromise that protects the Hill Country cannot be reached, the groundwater conservation districts will hold evidentiary hearings to determine the extent of Mirasol’s impacts on nearby groundwater users and the environment.
Please Continue to Show up for Our Springs! The next opportunity for public engagement on the Mirasol Springs development is on February 12th at 7pm at 1042 Event Center Drive in Dripping Springs, when TCEQ will hold a public meeting on Mirasol’s proposed wastewater permit. You can sign up at the meeting to present oral comments to TCEQ and the developer, and you can submit written comments online through the end of the public meeting.
🗣️ Speak out against irresponsible developments in fragile Central Texas water zones!
Community, we want you to know about these pivotal permit hearings that require our collective action. The proposed Mirasol Development in Northern Hays/Western Travis counties, surrounding the pristine Roy Creek Canyon (pictured above), is having permit hearings next week with both the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District and the Southwestern Travis County Groundwater Conservation District. Each of the districts have issued draft permits, and the meetings will decide whether those draft permits will be accepted or contested. The outcome will determine how much groundwater Mirasol is allowed to pump, which could affect nearby springs in both counties, including those in Roy Creek Canyon, at Hamilton Pool and Westcave Preserves, and at Reimer's Ranch.
There are several threatened and endangered species potentially at risk, including the Pedernales River springs salamander, fatmucket mussels in the river near the mouth of the creeks, Golden-cheeked warblers nesting in the canyons, and Guadalupe bass in the river and creeks. The Mirasol team is planning significant development, including 40-50 large home lots, 2 restaurants, a 70+ room luxury hotel, ~30 rental casitas, a farm, and a research field station, in an area that is mostly under conservation easements, or is parkland. The amount of water used will impact flows in both the Pedernales River (already quite low), and in numerous springs throughout the nearby area. SOS, Save the Pedernales, Travis County, and numerous individual landowners will be requesting contested case hearings, as will the developers themselves, as they are not content with the limited amount of water and conditional restrictions the groundwater districts are intending to implement. We want to be sure to support the groundwater districts' stellar efforts while also holding these developers to standards that will not negatively impact Roy Creek and all of the various and beloved parks and preserves nearby.
Although the Mirasol development has good intentions, they are planning to build a high water use luxury hotel and two restaurants in a place with very limited water availability. They will start by pumping Pedernales River water to drought-like conditions before switching to groundwater, at times when springs and the life that depends on them will already be stressed. The Pedernales River provides up to 24% of the inflow to Lake Travis, Austin's drinking water supply. Reducing its flow reduces the drinking water supply of hundreds of thousands of Austinites. Mirasol plans to collect rainwater on the homes, however it will not be nearly enough to meet the needs of the commercial development.
Your Voice, Your Impact: Take Action!
Please let the groundwater districts know you care about the health of these springs, and their viability as preserves and as public recreational spaces which support abundant and endemic wildlife. Support the districts in limiting the amount of water available for use by the development. If you are a regular user of any of the above mentioned parks and preserves, or of the river itself, please consider speaking on their behalf. Most of these springs and the river itself have been greatly reduced in the last few years, and are already under high stress from prolonged drought. They just cannot support intensive commercial development. You can email the districts with your comments, or come to the meetings and deliver them orally in person. If you prefer not to speak, being in the room to show support for our precious springs will still be extremely helpful; Save the Pedernales will have stickers on hand to wear to show your support. We would like to fill these large spaces to let the developers know they are being carefully watched.
Monday, 1/22/24, 5:30 pm, Bee Cave City Hall, 4000 Galleria Pkwy, Bee Cave, TX 78738: Southwestern Travis County Groundwater District Discussion of SWTGCD draft permit.
For Southwestern Travis: Anyone interested in the application may submit written comments to the District up to the start time of the hearing, or may attend the hearing to submit written comments in person, or make oral comments.
Thursday, 1/25/24, 5:00 PM, Sunset Canyon Baptist Church, 4000 US-290, Dripping Springs: Hearing on the HTGCD Draft Permit. The initial meeting will allow the board to hear from both sides to determine whether the permit will be contested. If it is, another meeting will follow immediately after to begin addressing the contested case.
For Hays Trinity: The District will accept written comments by 4pm the business day before the Board Meeting, 1/24/24. Public comment, limited to 5 minutes, can also be spoken at the meeting, by registering to speak at the start of the meeting. Four of the five wells being used are in this district. For reference, this district has been in Stage 4 Emergency Drought, their most severe, for over 18 months.
And Later In January 2024...Monday, January 29th at 7PM TCEQ Public Meeting about Fitzhugh Concert Venue (Blizexas, LLC) The meeting will be held at Dripping Springs Ranch Park, 1042 Event Center Dr., Dripping Springs, TX. Attending this public meeting is the most effective way to share your concerns with the state officials who will play a deciding role in whether this ill-conceived concert venue moves forward. You can also sign the petition HERE.
Your involvement is crucial in safeguarding the Texas Hill Country and ensuring responsible development that aligns with our shared commitment to water conservation.
Thank you for your unwavering support. Together, we can make a difference!
We are on the Hunt for a Passenger Van or Shuttle for Ecotours
Have a 15-seat passenger van to donate or sell at a reasonable price? Know about one? SOS is looking for a used-but-in-good-shape Ford Transit or similar passenger van for our Barton Springs University ecotours and related educational programs. If you know about a candidate van, write us at firstname.lastname@example.org we will get back to you promptly. Thank you for spreading the word!
Save Our Springs champions this endangered salamander in recent legal initiatives
While most people who are familiar with Barton Springs know of the beloved and endangered Barton Springs Salamander, today we’re discussing another salamander that needs our help, the Pedernales River springs salamander.
Across Texas, the Edwards and Trinity Aquifers and their springs are home to several endangered and threatened species. Due to the unique ecosystem Hill Country limestone-filtered spring water produces, these species are not found anywhere else in the world. To date, there are 13 federally listed endangered species in the Edwards Aquifer.
According to the Endangered Species Act (ESA) an endangered species is “any species which is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range. Whereas a threatened species is “any species which is likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range.”
Pedernales River Springs Salamander
The Pedernales River springs salamander was discovered in 1989 near Travis County’s Hamilton Pool Preserve. While the name is a mouthful, it is quite literal. This tiny salamander lives along the Pedernales River in springs-filled pools and underground spaces where Travis, Hays, and Blanco counties converge near Hamilton Pool.
The Pedernales River Springs Salamander has yet to be formally described with U.S. Fish and Wildlife. However, researchers at the University of Texas Austin and at U.T. Arlington have confirmed its status as a distinct species.
Federal Protection Efforts
Save Our Springs, alongside other environmental groups and scientists, have been working since 2021 to establish the Pedernales River springs salamander as “endangered” under the federal Endangered Species Act.
On October 18th, 2023 Save Our Springs raised urgency with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife to act soon to list the salamander as endangered since time is dwindling for the species. The salamander is a spring-dependent species with an extremely small habitat range that is facing threats from climate change, dwindling groundwater levels, and overdevelopment.
The proposed Mirasol Springs development is among the biggest threats the species now faces. Groundwater modeling predicts that pumping from the Trinity Aquifer for the Mirasol Springs development will contribute to the dewatering of the springs that the species depends on. The development would also draw water directly from the Pedernales river itself, a tributary that makes up 22% of the flow into Lake Travis, a source of Austin’s drinking water. Those same springs that the salamander resides in feed the Pedernales River, and the river is a recharge feature for the aquifer. Lastly,the development is proposing to dispose of its wastewater in a manner that would cause treated sewage to run directly into some of the springsheds that the salamanders call home.
You can learn more about threats facing the Pedernales River springs salamander from SOS’s most recent comments to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on our Reports and Documents webpage here. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is expected to decide on whether to list the Pedernales River Springs salamander soon.
How You Can Help
While we are in a waiting period with U.S. Fish and Wildlife, we will be providing updates and actions you can take (when we know more) through our Newsletter. If you haven’t already, please sign up to join our newsletter.
You can also help by making a donation to SOS and educating others through social channels! Donations allow us to pay for species research and conservation efforts, file petitions with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife, and cover any necessary legal costs we incur during our efforts to conserve water ecosystems throughout the Texas Hill Country.
Help spread the word and stay tuned for more information about the vulnerable Pedernales River springs salamander!
For the love of Salamanders