The little known entity, West Travis County Public Utility Agency (WTCPUA), is poised to take an action today, Thursday October 22, that could have dire consequences for Barton Springs and the Edwards Aquifer around Austin. The situation is explained in detail below by long time activist and water quality advocate Christy Muse.
In summary, when the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) built its controversial waterline into the Hill Country and Barton Springs Zone in the early 2000s, the LCRA, under Joe Beal, decided to require adherence to Fish and Wildlife and Texas Council on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) guidelines for developments hooking up to the pipeline. That meant impervious cover limits of 20% for developments getting water or wastewater services from LCRA. The LCRA eventually sold off the water line and its successor, the WTCPUA, was created.
This was one of the strongest environmental measures the LCRA ever undertook. The WTCPUA continued the policy. The WTCPUA provides water and wastewater services in much of the Hill Country near Austin, particularly in the Bee Cave area.
To many longtime Austin area residents, it seems as if development has for years sprawled totally unchecked over the Hill Country near Austin, especially in the Bee Cave area. In many ways that is obviously the case, but the LCRA/WTCPUA measures have served as some protection for Barton Springs water quality — as development has for decades now spread throughout the Barton Springs Zone into areas outside of Austin’s jurisdiction, areas where Austin’s strcit SOS water quality ordinance does not apply.
The water in Barton Springs comes from a wide swath of the Edwards Aquifer both in and outside Austin, with some two-thirds of what is called the Barton Springs Zone outside the City’s jurisdiction. That area stretches from west of Buda and Kyle across large swaths of Hays County to Dripping Springs and to the area around Bee Cave in Travis County. It also includes much of southwest Austin and southwest Travis County.
Now, the WTCPUA board is evidently considering doing away with these measures as part of a lawsuit settlement. They meet today, Thursday October 22, at one o’clock. Below are excerpts from a call to arms sent out by Muse, and a link to the WTCPUA agenda.
“An alarming dismantling and weakening of water quality and environmental protections in Western Travis County is set to occur at 1 p.m., this Thursday, October 22, during a board of directors meeting of the West Travis County Public Utility Commission (WTCPUA). A postponement is needed to fully assess the situation and long-range consequences for our region.
Water quality, water supply, environmental impact, and exponential growth and traffic are all at stake for this treasured region of the Hill Country.. . The WTCPUA is about to toss decades of protective work out the window. The property is in the Barton Creek Watershed, which is part of the Edwards Aquifer Protection Program.”
Muse goes on to explain, “The Regional Water Quality Protection Plan (RWQPP) of June 2005 was instigated by the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) waterlines along Highway 290 and Hamilton Pool Road. There was a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed in 2000 between U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the LCRA that offered some water quality measures for development spurred by the waterline.
Until now, the MOU has been enforced along Hamilton Pool Road. After the WTCPU took over for the LCRA in Western Travis County in 2012-2013, the WTCPUA also honored the MOU.”
Muse, who has a record of being very well informed on water quality issues in western Travis County, maintains that developers of the Provence subdivision along Hamilton Pool Road have already exceeded the impervious cover rules with their subdivision.
She also maintains that the Bee Cave City Council “played a primary role in bulldozing this effort forward with their new seats on the WTCPUA board.”
The Independent will look further into this situation and this morning submitted a list of questions to the WTCPUA. We will provide updates when we hear from the WTCPUA, or as other events occur. For now, however, we provide this news alert to make readers aware of this fast breaking situation.
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