The July 18th Statesman's front page reports on the pdf federal lawsuit (1.66 MB) Save Our Springs Alliance filed together with former Austin mayors Carole Keeton and Frank Cooksey, music legends and community leaders Jerry Jeff and Susan Walker, and seven other parties, including neighborhood groups and the Friends of the Wildflower Center.  The Statesman report by combined reporter/transportation opinion writer Ben Wear is slanted as usual. There's no mention of the other plaintiff-members of the Keep Mopac Local coalition or their interests that extend beyond protecting Barton Springs and the Edwards Aquifer. The Statesman has steadfastly avoided informing its readers of the harm the 45SW/Mopac South toll loop would do to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Austin High School, Lady Bird Lake Park, or existing Mopac commuters. The Statesman piece does make clear that the battle will likely be resolved over the next few months.  



Twenty-six years ago today over 800 Austinites showed up at City Hall to protest the proposed 4,000 acre "Barton Creek PUD" development. The City Council heard public testimony all through the night, and voted as the sun rose the next day to deny the project. That night sparked the "Save Our Springs" movement, and led directly to Austin voters approving the citizen-initiated Save Our Springs ordinance in August 1992.

Watch excerpts from the Barton Creek Uprising here and read a document brief history of citizen advocacy (614 KB) for Barton Springs and the Edwards Aquifer in our letter to SOS members from last year. Check out Austin photographer extraordinaire Alan Pogue's photos from the June 7th, 1990 Barton Creek Uprising here.

On February 25th, a coalition of individuals and conservation, neighborhood and civic groups filed suit in federal court to force a comprehensive environmental study of the extension and expansion of South Mopac over the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer recharge zone.

Specifically, the suit seeks to stop construction of the proposed SH 45 SW toll road extension to South Mopac, the addition of six non-tolled lanes to the southern 2.1 miles of Mopac, and the addition of 2 to 4 toll lanes to the 8.1 mile stretch of Mopac from north of Slaughter Lane to Cesar Chavez until a federal environmental study is completed on the entire three-segment project.

Austin activist Shudde Fath is the lead plaintiff. Other plaintiffs include former Austin mayors Carole Keeton and Frank Cooksey; citizen activists and music industry stalwarts Susan and Jerry Jeff Walker; and Keep Mopac Local coalition members Save Our Springs Alliance, Save Barton Creek Association, Clean Water Action, and The Friendship Alliance of Northern Hays County. Two new groups, the Friends of the Wildflower Center and Mopac Corridor Neighbors Alliance, are also plaintiffs.


Read the plaintiffs' press statement here and the lawsuit itself here.


Yesterday the Lone Star Sierra Club, National Wildlife Federation, and Galveston Bay Foundation released a comprehensive score card of Texas water utilities, rating their performance on water conservation. Austin scored tops, with 90%. San Antonio, once the undisputed leader in urban water conservation, scored only 73%.

You might ask why the steep fall from grace? SA lost the most points because its estimated water loss from leaky pipes, breaks, and other system losses is almost 15% of total water use. That’s a lot of wasted water. Yet, while the City is failing to take care of its own water pipes, it’s taking desperate measures to keep alive its proposed 142-mile, $3.4 billion project to pipe other peoples’ groundwater to San Antonio. This so-called “Vista Ridge” project has been aggressively opposed by a regional coalition of rural landowners, urban environmentalists and social justice and fiscal conservative activists. 

The Friends of the Wildflower Center are hosting an initial informational meeting next Wednesday, May 18th, from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m. at the Circle C community center, 7817 LaCrosse Ave, 78739. The public is invited.

The Friends group is made of Wildflower Center volunteers, donor/members, and former board members committed to protecting the Center from the noise, air, water, and visual pollution that would be caused by the proposed SH 45 SW/Mopac South toll loop project. They are not affiliated with the Wildflower Center or the University of Texas.

Friday, May 6th we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Balcones Canyonlands Conservation Plan. The Plan, developed over 8 years of research, writing and political struggle, was approved by then U.S. Secretary of Interior Bruce Babbitt on May 2, 1996 at a public ceremony at the Reicher Ranch preserve above Lake Austin. This year’s celebration returns to the ranch this afternoon from 2 to 4 for speechifying and guided nature walks.

The Plan is at once one of Austin’s greatest achievements and biggest lost opportunities. The Plan calls for the protection of roughly 60,000 acres of endangered species habitat in exchange for allowing the destruction of endangered species habitat on most of the remainder of western Travis County. Approximately 3/4s of the required habitat has been protected, with 10 more years to run on the plan and the underlying federal permit. 

Endangered Golden-cheeked warblers have returned to the right-of-way (r-o-w) for the proposed SH 45 SW toll road, erecting yet another legal barrier to CTRMA and TxDOT's rush to build the toll road across the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer recharge zone.

City of Austin biologists have confirmed Golden-cheeked warblers on the 45SW right of way in recent weeks, and on City of Austin watershed protection lands adjacent to the 45SW r-o-w.

Austin and the Austin environmental community lost a beloved leader and friend yesterday when long-time Austin Environmental Commission Chair Dr. Mary Gay Maxwell died in a tragic auto accident in Smithville. Dr. Maxwell was travelling from visiting family in Houston to a civic gathering in Austin. In the late 1990s Dr. Maxwell, a mental health counselor, joined the Save Our Springs Alliance Board of Directors. In 1999, during a time of difficulty, Dr. Maxwell stepped in as SOS's full time volunteer executive director.

Dr. Maxwell shown here receiving an award from Brigid Shea and Bill Bunch for her service to SOS

Oppose The Hose

A loosely knit coalition of interest groups from across central Texas opposing San Antonio's proposed $3.4 billion, 142-mile long "Vista Ridge" water pipe and pumping project gained steam this past week when a San Antonio City Council commissioned study on water planning that had been suppressed was leaked to the media. The report is critical of the project, concluding that the water supply is "high risk" due to a number of factors. Read the leaked report and the Rivard Report's summary of the situation here.

"Oppose-the-hose" forces include the League of Independent Voters of Texas(with a solid base in the counties east and north of Austin where private water sellers, including San Antonio's contract partner, Abengoa, would pump the water), San Antonio environmental, social justice, and fiscal watchdog groups (including Alamo Sierra Club, and others), and conservation groups across the region (Save Our Springs, San Marcos River Foundation, Clean Water Action, etc) Watch for more big news on this front tomorrow and in the days ahead.