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 10, 2011

Second FOIA denied

A second FOIA requesting additional information regarding Permit Application No. SWF-2010-00506 was submitted to the USACE on October 21. One month later on November 21, that request was “forwarded to the Southwestern Division Office for review and determination of releasability”. On December 5, a determination was finally made to deny release of the document. The denial letter is available here. So much for transparency in government . . .

Update: A letter appealing this decision was posted on December 30. Hopefully, the requested letter will be forthcoming.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


These comments were presented during the citizen’s comment period at the August 8 Commissioners Court session.

Today there’s going to be some respectful mythbusting!

There is still lingering confusion about the role that Rep. Mark Strama played in the failed bill that would have annexed land under the jurisdiction of the proposed Central Texas Airport to the Cottonwood Creek WCID #3 in Travis County.

Since the beginning of the Legislative session, Strama’s staff has explained that creation of the bill was facilitated through his office as a ‘courtesy’ that would be offered to anyone requesting assistance in drafting possible legislation. Somehow this legislative ’service’ was misinterpreted as pro-active support and a myth quickly surfaced that the Representative was going to sponsor the bill.

In reality, Rep. Strama never took a position. In part because legislators are reluctant to meddle in another district’s business . . . especially concerning a contentious issue. In part because staff research quickly revealed substantial deficiencies in the project.

There was a collective sigh of relief when the Legislative session ended and no one had stepped forward to sponsor the bill. This gave rise to the myth that the issue is dead until the next legislative session. NOT SO! While the legislative approach is the easiest and therefore most desirable to developers, it is not the only way to create a MUD or WCID.

Last week I talked to the TCEQ to learn a little more about the process. Title 30: Chapter 293 of the Texas Administrative Code describes the TCEQ’s role in the formation of water districts. Texas Statutes: Chapter 51 details requirements for WCIDs and Texas Statutes: Chapter 54 details those for MUDs. Generally, the application process seems to require filing a petition to appropriate agencies and entities, a timely Public Notice in the local paper and consent from local entities including the affected county and/or city. Be prepared. This is not easy reading.

So we are anything but free and clear until 2013. Vigilance is especially warranted now that airport interests have acquired the Falcon Seaboard property. Either a MUD or WCID spearheaded at that location would not bode well for the county’s future.

Judge McDonald, you have stated publicly that any MUD-related activity would “require a public meeting”. Should one of these non-legislative options arise, the citizens of this county are going to hold you to your word and we will expect this Court to do more than rubberstamp such a proposal.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

CTA support MIA

These comments were presented during the citizen’s comment period of the June 27th Commissioners Court session. The material is a rework of the post immediately below. Please note that this was Vivian Dildy’s first appearance since her appointment to the vacated Precinct 4 Commissioners seat. Welcome on board!

The comments that were submitted to the Army Corps in response to the March 25 Public Notice were requested by a FOIA on May 11. They finally arrived last week. Here are some interesting stats about them.

There were a total of 60 comments. Of those, 4 were from official entities - LCRA, TPWD, City of Bastrop and Bastrop County. There were 2 from environmental organizations - Environmental Stewardship and Sierra Club. Of the remaining comments, 52 were from concerned citizens. With a total of 35, Cedar Creek residents posted twice as many as Elgin residents who provided 17. Only 2 comments supported the project and neither of them dealt with issues germane to the permit on which the Army Corps will be ruling.

The first of the two, received April 25, consists of one sentence scribbled at the bottom of a letter that ECO-Merge appears to have sent to its supporters on March 24 in an attempt to generate positive input to the Public Notice. It took a good while to decipher the handwriting which simply says “I strongly support the Ecomerge project”. The signature is pretty illegible but might be D. or Don Hill.

Interestingly, the ECO-Merge call-to-action is dated the day BEFORE the Public Notice was posted on March 25th. Most likely it was blasted to anyone who ever expressed support for the project. Please note that the Army Corps contact addresses are different than those in the Public Notice. Are improperly addressed comments even valid?

The second letter, received May 9 and also improperly addressed, came from Bill Graves, the Superintendent of the Elgin ISD. It’s all about money and how there is ‘no downside in this project’. It’s sad that this ‘educator’ hasn’t done his homework and considered the collateral damage. There is none so blind as he who dreams of a windfall . . .

So it seems that ECO-Merge’s pre-notification plea for support was pretty much of a bust. Is there ANY credible public support for this project? In contrast, submissions from the official entities, environmental organizations and well-informed citizens provided responsive, detailed comments. A selection of the more original and informative submissions have been scanned and posted to the StopCTA website.

The people have spoken loudly and clearly: THIS PROJECT IS A VERY BAD IDEA AND NEEDS TO BE STOPPED NOW!! But will our voices be heard?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

SB1257 . . . RIP

SB1257 died quietly in the House Land and Resource Management Committee at the end of the legislative session on May 31. The slight possibility that the bill would be amended to other legislation just before the close of the session never materialized.

The bill, introduced by Sen. Hegar, intended to place restrictions on the annexation of non-contiguous land across a county line. The Commissioners Court of the annexed county would have been responsible for the decision. In Bastrop County, putting the Commissioners in charge would have been a bit like the proverbial fox guarding the hen house.

This bill was drafted specifically because of a push by developers of the controversial proposed Central Texas Airport project to annex land in Bastrop County to the Cottonwood Creek WCID #3 in Travis County. Annexation would allow developers to issue bonds to recoup cost of airport infrastructure..

While this bill was well-intentioned, there were glaring omissions. No provisions for citizen notification and participation were included. Neither was there any language to protect city authority should the land in question be within their ETJ.

So we’re back where we started before all the SB1257 hoopla. Hopefully, the strongly worded joint letter sent by Sens. Hegar and Watson to the Board of Directors of Cottonwood Creek WCID#3 will ensure that airport developers do not run roughshod over this county and its residents with a backroom deal.

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