San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

September 8th, 2010
Carma nixes plan for grey water over golf course

by ANDY SEVILLA
Associate Editor

Responding to public outcry, the developers of the controversial Paso Robles development say they will not use treated waste water above the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone.

Carma Texas had planned to water at 18-hole golf course in the gated community with wastewater treated by the City of San Marcos, including five holes that are located, at least in part, over the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone. Three holes of the golf course are situated entirely above the Edwards Aquifer.

The developers and city officials have begun discussions to use potable water over the portions of the golf course covering the aquifer.

“We’re not going to use reclaimed water on the recharge zone,” said Carma Texas General Manager Shaun Cranston. “…We’d like to use the reclaimed water on the rest of the (golf) course, so we can conserve drinking water.”

Cranston said the city’s treated waste water will be used for irrigation and to water the other 13 holes of the golf course.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) approved a Special Exception Request in April 2009, which allows reclaimed water to be used on the golf course, including the holes over the aquifer.

The Edwards Aquifer Authority (EAA), however, voiced disapproval with the use of treated waste water above the recharge zone, because of “a degradation of ambient water quality.” The EAA has now changed course after Carma notified it of the plan against using reclaimed water directly above the recharge zone.

“Please note that (Edwards Aquifer) Authority staff would support a decision that avoids the use of reclaimed water on the recharge zone and would greatly appreciate such a proactive approach to protecting the quality of water in the Edwards Aquifer,” said John R. Hoyt, EAA’s assistant general manager of aquifer management in a letter addressed to Carma on Aug. 31.

City staff has defended the use of reclaimed water above the recharge zone because of the high degree of quality to which it’s treated, and because it would serve as an added revenue source for San Marcos. But after much public opposition, the city requested that Carma use potable water over the recharge zone, instead.

San Marcos spokesperson Melissa Millecam said the city asked Carma to reconsider treated wastewater use over the aquifer in response to resident concerns.

“The citizens have asked us to look into alternatives for watering over the recharge zone, and I think we’ve done a responsible job of it,” Cranston said, adding that negotiations are in effect with the city regarding potable water use on the five holes of the proposed golf course situated above the aquifer.

The Paso Robles development has been an issue of much discussion at City Hall, mainly due to resident opposition to the project during public hearings. Residents have expressed concerns about traffic implications, the environment, and the developers’ request for a Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone (TIRZ).

The project consists of 1,338.6 acres, 432 of which are in the city limits. The other 906.5 acres would be annexed into the city. The development will have up to 3,450 homes, translating to a density of 2.7 units per acre.

The Edwards Aquifer sits under about 205 acres of the project’s whole land area.

The proposed 18-hole golf course will be open to the public under a daily fee, and is set to be designed and operated under general conformity with the Audubon International Signature Program.

Currently in use as a cattle ranch, the property delivers $7,578 in annual property tax to San Marcos. If it gets fully annexed into the city limits and after full build out, it’s projected to present $3,897,169 in annual property taxes, as well as $2,165,130 in sales tax. The property doesn’t presently generate a sales tax revenue for San Marcos.

The developers’ requested TIRZ allows for reimbursements to Carma above the base amount of taxes currently generated by the property. The reimbursements would pay Carma back for Hunter Road water lines, McCarty Lane water tank pumps, regional water line infrastructure, regional offsite waster water improvements, waste water tank line and over sizing improvements, and for a reclaimed water line.

During the creation of Paso Robles’ plan, the developers have had 50 formal city meetings, as well as meetings with TCEQ, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Hays County, and San Marcos CISD. According to a presentation by Carma, 14 of the meetings were posted as public meetings.

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11 thoughts on “Carma nixes plan for grey water over golf course

  1. Great news! Carma is showing first class on this. Donating more prkland now changing water for Eaa.
    This course is gonna be beautiful!

  2. Correction to this article: The Edwards Aquifer lies under pretty much the whole property, that is why the golf course should be lined. In fact a major conduit of aquifer water runs just beneath the property, running parallel with Hunter Rd. The aquifer water comes from the New Braunfels area and San Antonio, flowing at a rate of about 1400 ft. per day in what is almost like an underground canal toward Primer’s Fissure, Ezell’s Cave and the San Marcos Springs. This water supplies the hundreds of wells that surround the property, which would be affected by the treated wastewater and all the chemicals used on the golf course. You can read about this conduit on the EAA website in their technical studies about the San Marcos pool, as some people call it, in the aquifer. The conduit is formed by a dropped fault block between the Comal and San Marcos faults. The conduit is why there are so many wells in that area, it is a sweet spot in the aquifer, with rapid flow toward the city.

    The letter from EAA about the offer of Carma to use potable water on five holes of the golf course is being misused on the city’s website, and misunderstood by reporters. Of course it is correct that EAA would consider potable water a good idea for the small corner of the property that is recharge zone, but this letter is not about the rest of the golf course which includes the contributing zone and the transition zone. Treated wastewater should not be used in those two zones either. Glenn Longley of the Edwards Aquifer Research and Data Center has made it clear that all three of these zones are inappropriate for this kind of use. Tom Brandt, the director of the endangered species refugium on McCarty has also stood firmly with San Marcos River Foundation at a P&Z meeting to object to this threat to the refugium wells .

    If a lining is not done under the golf course, the chemicals used on the course will go down to the aquifer, or wash into the ravines which will then send the chemicals to the recharge zone. Even if the golf course is lined, the runoff will then travel to the recharge zone just beyond the borders of the golf course and drain down into the open holes of the karst limestone. There is not a free lunch when it comes to the aquifer. You either protect it or you don’t. You pay with your wells being contaminated.

    San Marcans deserve at least the protection that San Antonio requires of its developers. San Antonio didn’t allow treated wastewater on their PGA course, and they did require a fully lined golf course. They also required that the developer pay the city utility $100,000 per year to test the water thoroughly and carefully for the chemicals that the golf course uses. San Antonio has a clear idea of how quickly contamination moves through the aquifer because of the decades-old Air Force plume of contamination in that city, and they realize how impossible it is to fix that kind of problem. San Antonio recently received a major dose of education on this subject when a wastewater line on the recharge zone broke and crews mistakenly tried to solve it with dilution, by washing the area down. There were two big spikes of contamination in nearby wells, one from the spill and one from the cleanup, and some people were made sick by a restaurant using well water.

    The City of San Marcos website is being used to promote the Paso Robles subdivision. I don’t understand why a city would want to promote a development, and I wonder if this is an abuse of governmental property. The other letter the city also posted on their website promoting Paso Robles, is written by the developer’s paid consultant to defend his geological assessment of the site. He paraphrases my letter to the Council to meet his needs. The city should print my letter in full, so everyone understands what is at stake, and so that the city is not just displaying one side of the story. If their point is to inform the public about Paso Robles, this website is certainly doing a one-sided job, and I plan to complain to the Council.

  3. In response to the last paragraph, it seems similar to the issue with city resources being used to support ACC annexation, and the resulting lawsuit.

  4. Welcome to the world of special interests and special interest public officials. Those of us who look behind the self-serving political rhetoric have been working to promote good government for years. Good government requires accountability and qualified candidates (in any party) with personal integrity and a public service mindset—not serving special interests for quid pro quo campaign financing.

  5. Remember when we were falling all over ourselves, to approve everything they asked for? Perhaps next time, we (the city) will remember this, and know that it is ok (and greatly appreciated) if our elected officials negotiate for the best deal possible, and that negotiating does not cause *serious* developers packing.

    Thanks to everyone who insisted (and continue to insist) on something better than the first offer on the table.

  6. Re-read Ms. Wassenich, here and elsewhere. She knows much of the science and geology, and studies and hangs out with others who know more. She correctly notes that luck can play only a miniscule part in the outcome; that the probability of generalized disaster (even if the “white-board” plan being altered and resubmitted and waved about develops as nominally planned. The odds of a complex and widespread failure to protect our water source are VERY high, the odds of a non-event terribly low. Whatever is ultimately built, and however it is managed, whatever the cost in $$$$ and livelihoods and future “reparations” (none of which will ever be a “restoration” under any scenario), will be the legacy of the promoters (who will be gone) and the co-conspirators (who, in or out of office, will have no “plausible deniability” for damage done.

    I am chagrined over and again to hear this “project” described as if these folks chose THIS location and configuration, THIS plan and assessment, as some sort of charity work being done for the benefit of San Marcos, Hays County, and the folks downstream who will be affected just as surely as New Orleans is by the stuff put in the Big Muddy at Minnesota. They came to make big money, quickly, not to give us a Christmas present–and not for free, at that. The best one can say is, “I think I’ll close my eyes, take a deep breath, and gamble nothing fails.”

    Now consider the number of “lost” documents, internal and external recommendations, etc. The apologies for not airing the thing whole, and for ALL the community, even those who have no clue they may be affected in the least. The attempt to say nobody WILL be affected but at “ground zero.” There is MORAL culpability here, whether the LEGAL allegations pan out or not. In addition there is the very real risk Dianne points out that, if we don’t continue to set the pace in management practice for the Edwards Region, we will be attacked AGAIN and overwhelmed by our good friends to the West and South. That means, Lester, that they would rather suck us totally dry than follow our conservation lead. And they have both the money and power to seize that opportunity, given a tiny opening. A big one as proposed will be a very soft target for them, in both the Lege and the Court. Russian roulette for $$$ to the few, at the behest of cheerleaders with personal interests out front?

    What kind of “branding”/PR trick will we later use to promote our wet-weather stream, or boggy marsh, or small dirty ditch full of construction spoil? Or our mostly dry and dead former river bed? And our water will then come from…?

    Not incidentally, seen any of the latest marketing materials for Blanco Vista? Kind of different than “planned.”

  7. golf course ?
    where are the rain water collection facilities and other sustainable development features of all this planned development ? Who says golf course definitely says less trees.
    I thought water was the absolute key to sustainable living.
    And the comment of the city website promoting a developer who, from what i Gather here, really does not much to promote san marcos as a great place to live. Woaw. This cannot be legal.
    I do applaud the effort of having a quality residential community in the area (not another multifamily complex), but surely as this day and age, we can and should do better. I do not see anything that set this project above any other.

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