Wednesday, September 4, 2013

No more excuses

A few days before the 381 Agreement for the proposed Central Texas Airport was approved, Cyndi Wright, editor of the Advertiser emailed Jim Carpenter this request:

“it looks like the possibility of approving a 381 agreement is on the agenda for Monday’s commissioner court meeting. Would you like to make a statement for the pre-meeting story?”

Within minutes, the developer emailed Geoff Connor and County Engineer Ronnie Moore for advice about what would be “best for the project’s success from both the County’s perspective as well as ours”. By the end of the day, Moore had taken charge and emailed a three paragraph blurb to both the Advertiser and separately (with an explanatory preface) to Jim Carpenter and Goeff Connor.

The first two paragraphs explain some basics about the 381 Agreement. But the third describes actions outside the 381 Agreement that “CTA must take in order to begin construction of the airport.”:

“CTA must still secure all necessary financing to purchase the land and obtain approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for modifications to the FEMA-designated flood plain. The project must also comply with the Texas Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (TPDES) requirements as implemented and monitored byt the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.”

Mr. Moore may have been confused as to WHY the CTA needed a permit from the Corps - FEMA handles flood plain issues, the Corps domain is Section 404 of the Clean Water Act. But he was correct that approval from the Corps would be required.

So there you have it. We now know what Jim Carpenter knew and when he knew it. He was on notice BEFORE the 381 Agreement was in place that the Corps needed to be involved with the project. He ignored Ronnie Moore’s advice. If concerned citizens had not brought the project to the Corps’ attention would the developer have ever contacted the Corps? Or would airport construction have started without a permit in place? That seems like a real possibility. And what a mess that would have been!

So please Mr. Carpenter . . . no more whining about delays and no more excuses. You have no one to blame but yourself.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Don’t panic, folks

The news that the the proposed Central Texas Airport finally received its permit from the USACE is undoubtedly causing waves of panic among the clueless and under-informed. But relax. The permit is just the first of many obstacles that could derail the project.

In fact, it should not come as a surprise that the permit was granted. The Corps did their job and did it well. But ultimately their hands were tied because of the lack of any Federal funding which would have triggered greater environmental and safety protections.

Moving forward, keep in mind that no concrete plans have yet been submitted to Bastrop County for review. Neither has the County accepted the claim of Force Majeure made by the developer just before the June 30, 2012 deadline for commencement of the project was missed. In fact, the County has yet to receive the documentation supporting Force Majeure that was promised one year ago despite multiple requests (probably because there isn’t any). There will be regulatory involvement with the TCEQ over several environmental issues. And remember that the FAA denied renewal of the CTA airspace in fall of 2011. Oh and then there is that fact, that although the airport land is supposedly under contact, it is still not owned by the developer.

Meanwhile, the clock is ticking. If the airport is not completed by June 30, 2014, the 381 Agreement expires and the County can breathe a sigh of relief. Of course the airport could still be built without the 381 Agreement if the money can be found. In this economy, that seems like a long shot.


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

USACE grants permit

It’s been a long time coming. Last Friday, the USACE finally granted the permit for the proposed Central Texas Airport. The TCEQ has also reviewed and OK’d the document and all parties involved have signed on the dotted line. StopCTA has already submitted a formal request to obtain the document which consists of an Environmental Assessment, a Statement of Findings and an Alternatives Analysis.

But even with permit in hand, this saga is far from over. Stay tuned as the next chapters unfold . . .

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The undead

The proposed Central Texas Airport hasn’t been in the ‘news’ since the developer’s failure to meet the June 30, 2012 deadline specified in the 381 Agreement. And it appears from these most recent documents that the developer had not been communicating with either the USACE or aci consulting for most of last year. But contrary to popular opinion which has assumed the airport is dead, we now know otherwise. Surprise, surprise! It’s baaaaack!!

On February 15, 2013, Integrated Environmental Solutions (IES) submitted the Mitigation Plan needed to complete the CTA’s permit application at the USACE. The email from IES simply states:

“Attached is the revised mitigation plan for the Central Texas Airport, SWF-201-506. This mitigation plan supersedes all previous versions.”

This mitigation plan is quite different from the previous versions because the mitigation banking credits are calculated according to a very specific formula - the Texas Rapid Assessment Method (TxRAM). Those data forms are not being made available here because they were completed by hand so rather illegible and the data itself is rather cryptic.

After the Corps makes a final determination and generates the necessary document (which could be quite lengthy), it will be sent to the TCEQ which will have 10 days to respond. If both agencies approve it, the permitting will be granted.

Wake up and get ready for round two, folks. It’s not over yet . . .

Monday, April 15, 2013

Is anybody there?

There was very little communication between aci consulting and the USACE for months after the revisions to the light emissions section of the EID. Then beginning in August 2012, the Corps began to inquire if there was any change to the status of the CTA project. One unredacted response from Lauren Dill on November 27, 2012 stated, “I have not heard anything new”. Apparently, neither aci or the Corps had heard anything from the developer in months.

After multiple inquires to aci on August 7, September 7, September 20, October 11 and November 27 the Corps sent an email on December 6, 2012 to Steve Paulson (aci) and copied to Lauren Dill (aci) and also to Jim Carpenter. This time there was a response from noneother than the developer:

“Please direct your communications to me so that I know what the USACE needs and can provide you a prompt response . . .

Thanks you and please keep the application pending so I can respond to your requirements.”

It is interesting to note that in addition to the previous recipients, the the developer copied his response to Walter Tacquard, Patrick Lindner, Jerry M. Keyes and Geoffrey S. Connor.

These individuals deserve a bit of an introduction. Walter I. Tacquard, III is the Senior Vice President of Development & Construction on the CTA Team and contributor to Ronnie McDonald’s 2010 reelection campaign. Patrick Lindner is the CTA attorney who to date has not responded to the County’s request from July of 2012 for additional documentation on the Force Majeure issue. Jerry M. Keyes is yet another attorney on the CTA Team. And Geoff Connor is a former Texas Secretary of State (appointed by Gov. Perry) and attorney on the CTA Team.

The substantive portion of the Corps’ December 11 response to Mr. Carpenter has been redacted but as a result, the permitting process has been moving forward in 2013.

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