Water Watch: Today, August 15th, Austin moves to Stage II Drought restrictions amid scorching temps and a glimmer of rain in the forecasts late next week. Be sure to read up on the recent water restrictions for the Austin area HERE. Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District is still at Stage IV with low spring flows nearing 12 cfs this week. Mayor Watson addresses the water shortage in his weekly newsletter, encouraging Austinites to be especially “mindful” of our water use in the coming weeks.
A New and Better Direction for Zilker Park: Last night Austin's Animal Advisory Commission passed this resolution on a 10 "yes" to 1 abstention vote (with a few minor amendments that are not yet available. The resolution recommends to the Austin City Council a more natural Zilker Park, one without parking garages and other major construction projects, and one that supports the health and wellbeing of people and wildlife, especially the endangered Barton Springs and Austin Blind salamanders. The video of the meeting is not yet available; we will let you know when it is. This action by the AAC stands with the community that opposed the Zilker Park plan and we thank the commissioners for pointing the way ahead.
Watershed Wins: Late last week, Austin City Council Member Leslie Pool, District 7, announced that she would withdraw her resolution that would have led to the removal of environmental review and consideration of utility extensions within the City’s extraterritorial jurisdiction. This harmful resolution would have given the green light for sprawl development in areas of the Edwards Aquifer with less public scrutiny and few regulations. Thank you for writing in to encourage the City Council to scrap the resolution. We look forward to continuing to monitor and work with the City’s Watershed Protection Department in protecting these areas from overdevelopment and expanding environmental review and protections to areas that need more attention, such as creeks in East Austin.
This Weekend: A community celebration for our local water will take place this Sunday, August 20th at Casa de Luz from 6-9 pm and our Executive Director Bill Bunch will be speaking alongside a program of live music, art, and activations. RSVP at the Mind’s Eye website to attend this event.
We’re relieved to have the Zilker Vision Plan on hold for now, and please stay tuned for ways to stay involved in our ongoing fight to protect the Edwards Aquifer watershed and its precious ecology.
Save Our Springs Alliance
It’s uncommon for us to send out back to back emails, but the recent message from Mayor Watson that the Vision Plan is “shelved” indefinitely deserves a collective celebration. Yesterday, August 7th, Councilmembers Ryan Alter, Paige Ellis, and Zo Qadri came out from the shadows and conceded with a Joint Statement that they would no longer support the Vision Plan due to “irreconcilable differences”. Shortly after, Mayor Watson followed suit with a nod to collaborating in the future to “meet our objectives to preserve and nurture the ecological sanctity of this place while assuring equitable access to all Austinites.”
This is an unexpectedly quick win, and one that would have never happened without all of your passionate emails, strategic meetings, heartfelt conversations, and unfaltering grit. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!! for your time and energy which is what drove home how the “Zero Vision” Plan failed to protect or provide access to the park, and instead would have privatized and monetized the heart and soul of Austin.
Many of you are asking, what’s next? Did we defeat the big, bad Live-Nation-funded-atrocity? First, we rest and thank Mayor Watson and our Council Members who stood up against this plan. Then, we continue to tell the story of what really happened by sharing Uncensored Zilker, Inc. and advocating for protection, restoration and rewilding of Zilker, all of our parks, and the entire city, as called for by the Austin Climate Equity Plan.
Now, for other news - - As our current furnace forecasts confirm, the biggest ongoing threat to our waterways and the Edwards Aquifer is climate heating and resulting drought. The Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District is now at Stage III and approaching Stage IV Drought and the Springs flow which averages 53 cubic feet per second is now at 16 cubic feet per second, which is dangerously low. Please do your part and follow the city’s current guidelines for limiting water usage as much as possible. We need your help to keep Barton Springs clean and flowing.
What in the Hays is Happening?
New subdivisions, new highways, new competition for water supplies — there's a lot being planned for Northeast Hays County.
For our constituents in Hays County and patrons of the now dry Jacob’s Well, we know that Aqua Texas is responsible for overuse by upwards of 84 million gallons, along with several other wasteful water companies. They are currently facing steep penalties and an urgent call to act on a drought management plan, or else they will lose their permits altogether.
Want to know more? Our friends at Save Barton Creek Association are hosting a happy hour talk on Wednesday, August 16th, from 6:30-8:30pm at Texas Keeper Cider in Manchaca. SOS Executive Director Bill Bunch will be on hand to speak to the impacts of potential developments planned for one of the last large undeveloped areas in NE Hays county. Located between Buda and Austin and bordered by Bear and Onion Creeks, this sensitive karst terrain is dotted with caves and springs, is full of botanical diversity, and is right over the Barton Springs portion of the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone. Mike Clifford from the Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance, and Darlene Starr of United Plant Savers will also share their knowledge and insights. Texas Keeper is opening their doors to us exclusively for this event, so bring a friend and come on out to this scenic old homestead at 6:30 to grab a drink, listen to the speakers at 7:00, and join us for questions and conversation after.
More details at SBCA's website
As always, thank you for your loyal support,
Watch Documentary Here
This past Friday, August 4, 2023, Design Workshop – the City of Austin’s contractor that wrote the proposed Zilker Park Vision Plan -- pressured YouTube to remove the 16-minute documentary “Zilker, Inc.: The Plan to Monetize a Natural Treasure” by award winning local film maker Steve Mims. Released last Wednesday, August 2nd , the film had already received almost 5000 views in just 48 hours and received praise from viewers who called it “beautiful” and “powerful.”
Design Workshop has created an intensely unpopular plan that 80% of Austin opposes –- no wonder they want to pull down this film.
A new version called: “Uncensored: Zilker, Inc.; The Plan to Monetize a Natural Treasure” is now live on YouTube and tells the story that Design Workshop is trying to hide with its unfounded “copyright infringement” claim. The “Uncensored” film removes a few seconds of the original that showed Design Workshop’s logo and project images obtained from the Design Workshop website. “While such use falls within the “fair use” doctrine for copyrighted materials, we chose to remove them rather than have Design Workshop censor the film with its unfounded claims,” said Reid Nelson, Mr. Mims’ attorney.
The Austin City Council is scheduled to hear public testimony and decide the fate of the draft Zilker Park Vision Plan at its Thursday, August 31st meeting at City Hall.
Read more about the film below, but here are three simple things you can do to help save Zilker Park:
1. Watch and share the link to the Uncensored: Zilker, Inc. film with all your friends and followers.
2. Tell them you will be at City Hall on August 31st to speak to the City Council on the future of Zilker Park and Barton Springs and urge them to be there with you.
3. GO HERE and send one simple message to Mayor Watson and the Austin City Council asking them to tell Design Workshop to disclose all public information about the plan and stop censoring its critics. We have suggested some language but feel free to erase it and write your own message. A personal message is the best message!
The film, funded by local investors and Save our Springs Alliance, documents overwhelming local opposition to Design Workshop’s proposed “concrete vision” to build three large parking garages, six bridges, a 5000-seat amphitheater, and other structures in Zilker Park.
The film also documents Design Workshop’s closed-door coordination with ACL/ Live Nation representatives. Design Workshop project lead Claire Hempel had denied ACL/ Live Nation’s involvement in the plan but walked it back when caught on video posted to the City’s website. Live Nation/Ticketmaster now owns controlling interest in the ACL Music Festival by way of a side deal with its pet non-profit Austin Parks Foundation. “Is this the real reason Design
Workshop wants to censor this film?” is a question many who have seen the film were asking this weekend.”
The RewildZilker.org coalition of environmental and neighborhood groups did not sponsor the film but has proposed a more popular alternative vision for a natural, recreational Zilker park that would provide more water protection/ climate mitigation/ shade and save taxpayers over $150 million in construction and operation costs. See the Rewilding plan here The only way we are going to save Zilker Park from being converted into a money-making machine for Live Nation and its allied park concessioners is with your help and the help of everyone you know who loves Zilker Park as a public park and not as an outdoor entertainment
district. Spread the word, write and call council, and be there at City Hall on August 31st .
Send Letter to Council Here