Friday, December 23, 2011

Time to wake up

These days only a handful people in Bastrop county have a clue about what’s happening with the proposed Central Texas Airport. The issue seems to have disappeared from our collective consciousness and life has gone on for most everyone. That complacency and denial could come to haunt us.

Some comments that have recently come our way illustrate just how woefully uninformed the public is.

One rumor floating around is that if the developer doesn’t meet an end-of the-year deadline, the project would lose funding. NOT TRUE! The first deadline isn’t until June 30, 2012 seven months from now. The specific requirements that the developer must meet can be found in “Section 9 Company Performance” of the 381 Agreement.

Another rumor is that the US Army Corps of Engineers has granted the permit for work on the airport. WRONG AGAIN! The Corps has requested and is awaiting additional information from the developer based on the comments submitted during the Public Comment period which ended May 9 and and an “Environmental Information Document” submitted by the developer in August. After the requested information is received and processed, the Corps may even hold a public hearing before making a final decision.

Then there is the more general consensus that the airport annoyance has just faded away. This conclusion is a case of ‘out of sight, out of mind’. Just because it’s not in the news, does not mean it’s not inching forward.

It’s time to wake up, folks. Unless of course, the prospect of 737s rumbling overhead and chemicals polluting the Colorado River seems like a welcome addition to the ambiance of our county.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

For the birds

A few days ago, this LTE titled ‘Eagles at airport site’ appeared in the Austin American Statesman:

I own property on the south side of the Colorado River across from the site to the proposed Central Texas Airport in Bastrop County. I have observed and photographed both mature and juvenile bald eagles flying and roosting in the area of the planned take-off and landing patterns for the proposed airport. I hope that Bastrop County officials will withdraw their support of this airport for the preservation of these bald eagles and other wildlife that inhabit this area.

Margaret Maguire
San Antonio

Eagles are a noble and beloved bird but it’s going to take more than sentimental, well-intentioned concerns like Ms. Maguire’s to put the brakes on this project. Forget the Feds as Bald Eagles are no longer on the Endangered Species List. And forget County officials as they inked a 381 (Economic Development) Agreement well over a year ago that legally obligates them to support the project.

Those of us who have taken the time to read the 381 Agreement are well aware of the County’s obligations. Here is a pertinent excerpt from Section 10 titled ‘Mutual Assistance: County Cooperation and Assistance’ (discussed in more detail here):

“. . .to cooperate with and assist Company in any Company application to an Infrastructure Agency, for such approvals, consents or permits and any regulatory, financial or other forms of assistance as shall be deemed reasonable, necessary or appropriate for the planning, design, acquisition, development, construction, equipment, operation and financing of the Project.”

Knowledge is power. This site offers a formidable collection of documents that just might hold the key to getting the job done. Start reading folks . . .

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Show your true colors!

These comments were presented during discussion of the agenda item dealing with the USACE permit application for work on the airport. Some adjustments were made on the fly in response to Ronnie Moore’s presentation at the beginning of the discussion.

Mr. Moore was quite happy to let the USACE do its job without input from the County. This would be a sure way for the developer to have his way with the Corps! However, the Court finally stepped up to the plate and agreed to address concerns about water quality in the comments that will be submitted by the County to the Corps. The Court even discussed if there was a possibility to upgrade the Environmental Assessment (EA) to a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)! The possibility of the Corps holding a Public Hearing and having the EA be made available for public review before a final determination is made was also discussed.

in addition to presenting comments, Steve Box of Environmental Stewardship submitted a detailed letter listing environmental and water quality concerns. He was also asked to contribute appropriate wording to the County’s letter to the Corps. A letter on behalf of Sierra Club was also submitted.

Please consider submitting comments to the USACE before the May 9th deadline.

At the last Court session, I challenged Bastrop County to do the right thing and submit comments to the Army Corps and TCEQ on the permit application that is the subject of this agenda item. Thank you for taking that challenge seriously.

This flawed application is pretty much what we have come to expect from the developer of the proposed Central Texas Airport. It contains incomplete and misleading information and is really unworthy of serious consideration. All in all, it’s more pipedream than reality.

The question is . . . will Bastrop County choose to debunk this fantasy or will it grant another free pass to this ill-conceived project?

If there is any upside to this application, it is that there is an opportunity for the reviewing agencies to hold public hearings. In addition to submitting CRITICAL comments, Bastrop County should request that those hearings take place.

It’s time to show your true colors. Are you going to do everything you can to protect the Colorado River and the taxpaying citizens of this county? Or do your loyalties lie elsewhere.

I guess we’ll know soon enough . . .

Monday, February 7, 2011

‘Geenprint’ ignored

A truncated version of this article was published in the Bastrop Advertiser on February 4, 2009.

‘Geenprint’ ignored
By Phil Cook
February 2011

Jim Carpenter, the developer, claims that he intends to build a “green” airport and industrial park on land in far western Bastrop County bounded on the north by Hwy. 969, where it meets Hwy. 1704, and on the south by the Colorado River. Dismiss Carpenter’s “green” claim out of hand: airports are, by nature, highly polluting. The jet fuel, the lubricants and chemicals needed to service the aircraft, the exhaust from the planes, the noise, the runway and airport lighting, the increased traffic, all are polluting. The pollution and disruption caused by an airport are by no means limited to the site itself. Its effects will be felt well south of Hwy. 71, almost to Elgin to its north, into Travis County to its west, and at the Hyatt-Regency Resort and the McKinney Roughs Nature Park to its east and southeast. Although Carpenter has yet to indicate the position and orientation of the runway, almost any north-south orientation that would fit on the site would aim almost directly at the new Cedar Creek High School, about four miles away.

Carpenter claims that the airport will attract many clean industries and thousands of jobs, but he has produced nothing of substance to support his claims. For example, he claims that a cutting edge solar energy facility will be built there, and that Bluebonnet Electric Coop has agreed to buy the electricity produced. Although the solar facility has been discussed and explored, he has produced no contract for such a facility, and as we learned from Mark Rose, Bluebonnet’s General Manager, in his 1/15 letter in the Advertiser, Bluebonnet has not agreed to buy the electricity produced by such a facility.

The developer claims that “a need” exists for a general aviation airport, that Austin Bergstrom Airport lacks the facilities to store and service all of the private and corporate jets that would fly in and out of Austin if facilities were available. I know of no one in Bastrop County that uses private jets as a means of transportation. Certainly, some residents use small propeller planes for travel, business, and recreation, but the Smithville Airport and other existing facilities can easily handle these planes. As for the rest of us, when we fly, we use the commercial flights at Bergstrom. The folks who want to use private jets can well do the same; no “need” exists.

To my mind, the most disturbing aspect of the airport saga is the way in which the airport was negotiated and supported by some of our local elected officials, and what is says about their disregard for the democratic process. Democracy begins locally, through our school boards, city councils, and commissioners court. These bodies have direct and frequent contact with the public; their plans can and should reflect the considered advice of the citizenry. The Bastrop County Commissioners Court has consistently failed to do this in planning for the airport. The Court has not acted corruptly or selfishly; I think that some members of the Court are so convinced of the beneficial economic development that the airport will bring has led them to disregard the previous land use and development plans for the county that they, themselves played a large part in establishing, and to downplay the negative effects that the airport will bring. Consider the following.

[Read More…]

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Are you a DIMBY?

Back in the day of real environmental activism, the acronym ‘NIMBY - Not In My Back Yard’ (or put that damned thing somewhere else) - was coined. A ‘NIMBY’ approach quietly (and rightfully) faded from the scene many years ago.

But recently, one of our local newspapers revived that unfortunate label to describe the Bastrop County citizens groups that are opposing the Central Texas Airport/Eco-Merge fiasco down on the banks of the Colorado River.

So, in honor of the ‘Resurrection of NIMBY,’ we now introduce ‘DIMBY - Develop In My Back Yard’ - to identify the politicians, groups, and individuals who want to destroy our county with dangerous and noxious developments that they think will turn into a pot of gold.

Here’s how to recognize the DIMBIES who walk among us. Let’s go pin the tail on the DIMBY!

A DIMBY would jump at the chance to bring ‘economic development’ to Bastrop County regardless of the danger to people and the environment.

A DIMBY does not really know what ‘environment’ means.

A DIMBY will believe anything a developer says, regardless of common sense.

In other words, a DIMBY is devoid of common sense.

A DIMBY believes that there is ‘acceptable traffic and acceptable noise’ as long as it brings in $$.

Note that a DIMBY probably wears a hearing-aid and doesn’t drive.

A DIMBY believes in giving tax breaks to corporations in hopes that increased tax revenue will support school districts.

In other words, a DIMBY believes in Santa Claus.

A DIMBY thinks that jet aircraft can fly through flocks of water fowl without damage (like Bastrop County’s Director of Planning & Development does).

A DIMBY believes that when an airport moves in, the surrounding residential properties increase in value (like the Bastrop County Commissioners do).

A DIMBY probably doesn’t live near the Central Texas Airport (like the County officials who cooked up this deal), but thinks it’s ‘all good’ for those of us that are in the line of fire.

A DIMBY believes that the County has ‘no authority’ to protect us but somehow can manage to find the ‘authority’ to sell us down the river in a heartbeat.

Sound familiar? Just how many DIMBIES do you know?

2014 all entries
2013 all entries
2012 all entries
2011 all entries
2010 all entries