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November 16th, 2008
Aquifer panel completes report on San Marcos pool, minimum flows

From the Edwards Aquifer Recovery Implementation program

The Science Subcommittee of the Edwards Aquifer Recovery Implementation Program (EARIP) reached consensus on its aquifer report. Fifteen scientists on the subcommittee worked for 9 months to review aquifer studies and answer two questions posed by the 80th Texas Legislature: (1) Does the best available science support the creation of a separate San Marcos pool for regulating the aquifer, and (2) are minimal flows necessary for protecting the endangered species in and near the springs?

The report will be reviewed by an independent panel of scientists put together by Sustainable Ecosystems Institute of Portland, Oregon. The report is one of the three studies that will play a critical role in defining the action and forming the basis for a Habitat Conservation Plan the stakeholders are working toward. The subcommittee’s report is available on the EARIP website www.earip.tamu.edu in the Program Documents section and in the Science Subcommittee section. The peer review will be completed and available in March.

Trinity University hosted the joint stakeholder and Steering Committee meeting of the EARIP Thursday, where EARIP Program Manager Dr. Robert Gulley reported that written comments sent to the Texas House Natural Resources Committee this week are also on the EARIP website in the Program Documents section. The comments updated the House on accomplishments of the EARIP thus far, including the many legislative deadlines met by the stakeholders. The comments also included a discussion of the budgetary needs of the EARIP, funds raised thus far, and potential sources of additional funding.

Other items covered at the meeting include the election of officers for 2009, which are Chair Con Mims of the Nueces River Authority, Vice-chair Myron Hess of National Wildlife Federation and Secretary Steve Raabe of San Antonio River Authority. These new officers will replace 2008 officers:  Chair Robert Potts and Vice-chair Cindy Loeffler of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Steve Raabe is serving a second year as Secretary in 2009. The EARIP project management budget of $192,000 was approved for the coming year, all of which has been raised in pledges from stakeholders. The finance subcommittee reported that the EARIP has applied for a grant  from the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service which will be essential to allow the EARIP to complete the Habitat Conservation Plan for the endangered species associated with the aquifer. The EARIP also expects to ask the Texas Legislature for funding to keep the process moving ahead. The meeting also included reports and discussions on recharge research, public outreach, operational rule amendments, and the upcoming legislative session.

The EARIP is working through a formal consensus-building process among regional stakeholders to arrive at a plan to protect endangered species associated with the Edwards Aquifer while managing the aquifer for the benefit of all. Stakeholders include water utilities, cities, groundwater conservation districts, agricultural users, industrial users, environmental organizations, river authorities, downstream and coastal communities, interested citizens, and state and federal agencies.

The group created its organizational structure in the past year (2007-2008), hiring a Program Manager and appointing subcommittees for science, recharge, finance, and public outreach, as well as a workgroup on biological modeling. The EARIP has a goal of completing a Habitat Conservation Plan that includes recommendations for aquifer management by September 2012.

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

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