New Water Treatment Plant to Be Built in the Wrong Location

RECEIVED Wed., Jan. 24, 2007

Dear Editor,
    The Austin City Council has made a jaw-dropping final decision to build the new water treatment plant on some of the most environmentally sensitive land in Austin: at the headwaters of Bull Creek and adjacent to Balcones Canyonland Preserve (“Naked City,” News, Jan. 19). Council’s decision comes after the Travis County Commissioners rejected a City Council proposal to move the treatment plant to a less fragile area. Both actions were preceded by years of stonewalling and cover-ups by the Austin Water Utility in appearances before Austin’s Environmental Board, of which I was a former member. So, the Austin Water Utility has at long last realized its inexplicable obsession with landing its project on this sensitive area.
    The water treatment plant will hurt endangered species, including species in the adjoining Balcones Canyonland Preserve created to protect them. Not only will the treatment plant likely disrupt Golden-cheeked Warbler foraging and nesting in woods adjacent to the plant site, but it is anticipated that it will have a devastating impact on the Jollyville Plateau salamander population located downstream from the plant inside the Balcones Canyonland Preserve. Also, the city plans to construct transmission lines from the plant through the preserves themselves, tunneling through the fragile karst ecosystem. Astoundingly, there has been virtually no public discussion of the dollar cost of tunneling these transmission lines under the preserves, or the significant environmental costs.
    A water treatment plant and transmission lines through the BCP here, a roadway expansion in the BCP there, new electric lines through the BCP over there. The BCP lands and their endangered inhabitants will die by a thousand cuts. Your public officials are failing miserably to protect them, or adequately mitigate the harm from new infrastructure development. The citizens of Austin should be outraged. I am.
Mary Ruth Holder
Mt. Vernon, Wash.
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