Aquifer group approves plan to protect water supply and endangered species

Nov. 8, 2011 at 5:08 a.m.

After four years, a plan was approved to manage the Edwards Aquifer and protect endangered wildlife that depend on the water supply.

The Edwards Aquifer Recovery Implementation Program, which approved the plan, is made of representatives from the Hill Country to the Gulf Coast and made up of farmers, industrialists, city representatives and environmentalists. They have been meeting once a month since 2007 to hammer out an agreement that would balance aquifer water use with the water supply needs of endangered and threatened species.

"Yesterday was a historic day in Texas water," Victoria Environmental Services Director Jerry James said Tuesday.

James represented Victoria on the committee, which was formed in 2007 by a mandate from the state Legislature. The Edwards Aquifer Authority was ordered to develop a recovery implementation program, as part of an initiative developed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services.

The move to create the plan is the result of a federal lawsuit filed in 1991 by the Sierra Club charging that the Department of the Interior wasn't doing enough to protect the wildlife dependent on water from the San Marcos and Comal springs, which are supplied by the aquifer. Water from the springs flows into tributaries of the Guadalupe River.

The Edwards Aquifer Authority was created to manage the aquifer. The Edwards Aquifer Authority was ordered to work with various groups to come up with a plan by 2012.

The agreement they produced on Monday is their answer to that order. The plan has to be voted on by the Edwards Aquifer Authority and then approved by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, but this initial agreement was an important step forward. The Edwards Aquifer Authority is scheduled to review the plan in early December.

In addition to protecting wildlife, James said the authority's Habitat Conservation Plan will benefit the Crossroads area by ensuring that some water from the aquifer will continue flowing from the aquifer even in time of drought. As Texas continues to face one of the worst droughts on record, the plan ensures the region will continue to receive some aquifer water flowing into the Guadalupe River.

"Sometimes it takes a bad situation to get everybody's attention where it needs to be. This is a very real situation. We're in it right now," James said.



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