Naked City

Off the Desk

The Lower Colorado River Authority keeps getting hit from all sides. The agency was left at the altar a few weeks ago when U.S. Fish & Wildlife decided to rethink its pact with the LCRA on the construction of a $16 million water pipeline project in southwestern Travis and northern Hays counties. The LCRA had wanted F&W to seal the deal by Sept. 1, but the federal environmental agency felt it needed more time to re-evaluate the agreement, says F&W's Bill Seawell, assistant field supervisor in Austin. The two agencies had entered into an understanding in August that called for F&W's endorsement of the pipeline if LCRA vowed to limit density over the Barton Springs watershed. That would mean holding builders in compliance with the Endangered Species Act if they expect to dip into the pipeline's water supply. That caveat got the Texas Capitol Area Builders Association in a dither and the group filed a notice of intent to sue F&W. "Land-use control and administration is not the responsibility of the federal government," says TxCABA's Harry Savio. Enviro activists, meanwhile, applauded F&W's cold feet. "I see no reason for them to rush into this agreement," says SOS Alliance President Robin Rather. Both SOS and the Hays County Water Planning Partnership have waged legal threats against the LCRA over the much-maligned pipeline. The LCRA, meanwhile, says it's not giving up on F&W's blessing on the project ...

You can tell fall has arrived at the local courthouse when hallway conversations drift from docket chatter to who's positioning himself to run for judge. It's early yet, but not too early to speculate on prospective candidates for two open district court benches on the civil side. With Mary Pearl Williams headed for retirement and Ernest Garcia -- an appointee of Gov. George Bush -- trying to keep his historic seat (he's the only Republican and the only Hispanic to hold the title), the field of hopefuls could grow fairly extensive by the end of the year. The names cropping up as potential contenders against Garcia include attorneys Pat Mullen, Darlene Byrne, and Gisela Triana, a justice of the peace who would have to resign her post to run. Angling to fill Williams' vacancy are two attorneys so far -- Scott Jenkins and Susan Haney. Jenkins, a trial lawyer, appears to be the Dem's favorite, as he's already accomplished the unusual feat of raising more than $70,000 at his first fundraiser ...

We never thought we'd see the day, but Brigid Shea, an SOS Alliance founder and general worker bee, is saying goodbye to all that. Having served first as SOS executive director and more recently as communications director, the environmental war veteran plans to become a full-time mother to her two boys, though she likely will assume a seat on the board of directors. Shea, a former City Council member, helped build SOS from the ground up. What was a rabble-rousing fringe group 10 years ago is today a strong political force that has managed to bridge partnerships with old nemesis groups like the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce. Shea's departure comes in the midst of other changes at SOS, with counsel Bill Bunch taking a sabbatical for a few months. While SOS has been without an executive director for awhile, the search to fill the post now begins in earnest. Vice chair Mack Ray Hernandez is heading up the hunt.

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