San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas
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August 28th, 2008
Grant will fund springflow study

From the Texas Water Development Board

At their meeting in Austin on Monday, the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) voted to grant $127,470 to the Edwards Aquifer Recovery Implementation Program (EARIP).  The grant will be used to hire a team of scientists to evaluate biological impacts of spring flow and other factors such as recreational impacts, flood flows, non-native species, stormwater runoff and local development activities on three endangered species in the Comal and San Marcos springs.

The team of scientists is led by Thomas Hardy, Ph.D. of Utah State University and includes members of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Texas State University, the Edwards Aquifer Authority, Bio-West, Inc., U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Texas A&M University and the U.S. Geological Survey. Information developed by the group will be reviewed and used by the EARIP Science Subcommittee to make recommendations on withdrawals from the Edwards Aquifer during critical periods.

The three species, Texas wild rice, Comal Springs riffle beetle and the fountain darter, are believed to be indicator species with respect to the impacts of flows on other federally listed threatened and endangered species associated with the Edwards Aquifer.

Weir Labatt, who serves on the TWDB and was appointed by that board to serve on the Steering Committee of the EARIP, said to his fellow TWDB members at the meeting Monday, “The EARIP is working hard, bringing together diverse stakeholders to collaborate on decisions based on science.  We need to make sure they have the funding now to accomplish their goals by their legislative deadline of 2012.”

Robert Gulley, Project Manager for the EARIP, said that the grant will cover up to 50 percent of the costs of this important study.  The remainder of the costs will be paid by a small group of the stakeholders in the EARIP.  Dr. Gulley said that to date 22 agencies, organizations and individuals have paid over $200,000 to fund the operation of the EARIP.

In accordance with Texas Senate Bill 3 from 2007, the EARIP is working through a formal consensus-building process among regional stakeholders to arrive at a plan to protect the endangered species while managing the aquifer for the benefit of all. Stakeholders include water utilities, cities, groundwater districts, agricultural users, industrial users, environmental organizations, river authorities, downstream and coastal communities, and state and federal agencies.

The EARIP created its organizational structure in the past year (2007-2008), hiring a Program Manager and appointing subcommittees on science, recharge, finance, and public outreach. The Steering Committee has a goal of completing a habitat conservation plan that includes recommendations for aquifer management by September 2012.

For additional information, the EARIP website is http://earip.tamu.edu/.

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