The Austin Chronicle

Naked City

Hot Water at Hamilton Pool

By Amy Smith, May 7, 2004, News

Southwest Travis Co. landowners have spent the last year negotiating with environmentalists and the Lower Colorado River Authority over a proposed new water pipeline. But area neighbors who would be most affected by the changes have only recently learned of the proposal, which could bring 1,300 new homes and extended water services to their neck of the woods on Hamilton Pool Road, a little two-lane country road.

Now, the water line proposal is on the fast track toward a May 19 vote by the LCRA board. A final public hearing will be held tonight (Thursday) at Dripping Springs High School, 111 Tiger Ln. at U.S. 290 West. (See for map and more details on the proposal.)

"We're not opposed to the water line; we're saying 'Wait a minute – we're just getting into the game,'" said landowner Gene Lowenthal, a spokesman for the Hamilton Pool Road Scenic Corridor Coalition. The ideal goal, he said, is to convince the LCRA board to postpone the vote until the completion of a regional plan, which could take another five to nine months, according to some estimates.

The three large landowners planning the development want to finance the construction of a water pipeline to service 1,300 new homes on 1,400 acres. Landowner Rebecca Hudson, speaking for the group, says the project would comply with U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service standards. The proposal has drawn strong opposition from the Save Our Springs Alliance and other environmental leaders who fear the pipeline would simply drive more development, more traffic, and more runoff. "In the absence of available surface water," said SOS spokesman Colin Clark, "conservation buyers still have a chance to protect one of the most gorgeous stretches of Hill Country near Austin and keep it from looking like Plano in a few years."

Even the wife of Austin Mayor Will Wynn has jumped into the fray in a show of support for her friend Rebecca Hudson. Speaking at a hearing last month, Anne Elizabeth Wynn's comments left some people sitting with their mouths agape. "While Rebecca has dealt forthrightly with everyone involved," Wynn told the board, "I do not believe she has been dealt with forthrightly by all concerned environmentalists involved." She said she had warned her friend that "these activists you meet with may lead you to believe they appreciate your efforts, while in fact they will be preparing an attack."

Environmentalist Robin Rather, who had been involved in negotiations with Hudson, recalls things differently. "A number of environmentalists have listened politely to Rebecca's plans. They have a right to listen, and they have just as strong a right to passionately disagree with the implications," she said. Rather also pointed out that Hudson's neighbors felt that the landowner had not dealt "forthrightly" with them, as many of them had only learned of her plans a few days before the April hearing. At press time, Wynn had not responded to calls seeking comment.

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