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LCRA board approves deal with
AEP for system improvementsAgreement to improve transmission capacity The LCRA Board of Directors voted Wednesday to approve a joint development agreement between the agency and a multinational energy company to develop new power transmission infrastructure. General Manager Joe Beal said the agreement would result in improved transmission capacity to South and West Texas and lower rates all over the state. “This is something that we can do to bring savings to the people of Texas,” he told the Board. “It can save the people of Texas—including our customers in Central Texas—around 15 percent,” he said. The unanimous vote authorizes the LCRA to work out a final agreement with American Electric Power (AEP), a multinational based in Columbus, Ohio. Under terms of the agreement, the LCRA will finance and own transmission system improvements while AEP will build and maintain them. Once approved by the Public Utility Commission (PUC), the joint public/private venture will construct up to $500 million in transmission projects over the next five years. Another joint LCRA/AEP endeavor awaiting PUC approval is the development of a $90-million, 150-mile high-voltage line to bring power generated from windmills in West Texas into the grid to help meet the state’s renewable energy goals. The Board also unanimously approved an amendment to the LCRA’s Highland Lakes Marina Ordinance and lifted a moratorium on building new marinas. The moratorium had been in place since last August, according to Susan Zarling, manager of water resource protection for the LCRA. Zarling, who presented the amended ordinance to the Board, said the new document was crafted with the help of a task force comprised of three marina owners and three property owners over the course of about a dozen meetings. She told In Fact Daily they began drafting the new ordinance last summer, but staff had actually been working on it since 1999. The amended ordinance is a comprehensive rewrite of the document, last revised in 1996, and public input from the task force was so invaluable, much of it was incorporated, she said. Because of stricter policies, a large portion of the upper half of Lake Travis will be restricted from new marina development, Zarling pointed out. Major changes in the ordinance include: • Water quality analysis requirements • Gasoline spill control requirements • Solid waste disposal requirements • Prohibiting automatic shut off devices for marina gas pumps • Requiring restroom access for boaters at marinas • Prohibiting unsupervised fuel dispensing on weekends Significant changes in the ordinance relating to safety include: banning marina development wherever the original river channel flows, since that is the deepest, and for some boats, safest navigable part of the waterway. The new ordinance requires a 200-foot setback from the river channel. The distance a marina can extend into the lake has been reduced as well. In a cove area, the distance a marina can extend out into the water will be reduced for safety, as in the main body of the lake. In the main body of the lake, setbacks from a required 2,000-foot wide boating area will increase from 50 feet to 75 feet. The Board also heard an update on the Texas Colorado River Floodplain Coalition, a growing group of 27 communities and 19 cities in eight counties along the lower Colorado River. River Operations Manager Wes Birdwell told the board that 25 local communities have signed interlocal agreements and he anticipates about 10 more communities will join. With the tremendous growth in the river basin, he said some people are moving too close to the river, into the floodplain, creating greater potential for disaster. Beal lauded Birdwell for his efforts to pull the coalition together, saying he was “doing an outstanding job” on a very important matter. “This is raising the awareness of the danger of being in the floodplain,” he said, noting this is the most significant program to promote such awareness since the LCRA was founded (1934). Director David Kithil agreed. “The work you are doing is very important to us and we really appreciate it,” he said. Some of the benefits of the program include: • Increasing state and federal funding of flood-related issues • Increasing public awareness and public input on flood-related issues • Providing guidance to communities in the river basin on how and where to build • Providing constant, basin-wide floodplain management • Providing regional leverage for related legislative funding issues • Providing improved technical assistance and planning tools • Reduced insurance premiums In his General Manager’s Report, Beal pointed out that Gov. Rick Perry will sign a bill today to put penalties for operating a boat while drinking on par with those for drinking and driving. “It’s an important bill for us as we attempt to help folks enjoy the Highland Lakes,” he said. On settling the LCRA’s lawsuit with Longhorn Pipeline, Beal said, “It took a lot of effort.” But, he added, “I’m proud of the way the LCRA was able to get to the end of this problem.” He said the LCRA was tough on Longhorn in the negotiations. “A good test to settle a lawsuit is to see what the other side thinks of you,” he said. “They walked away from us with the feeling the LCRA was a professional organization.” The bottom line is, the lakes are now protected, he said. Griffith has different plan for Bennett Tract development Council to consider zoning, $23 million in waivers, grants Beginning at 4:00p.m. today, the City Council will again be considering the fate of the Bennett Tract and proposed development for the area. New zoning on the property, which is bounded by 11th Street on the north, the alley between E. 7th and E. 8th Streets on the south, I-35 on the west and San Marcos on the east, was approved on first reading only on May 3. Council Members Daryl Slusher and Beverly Griffith voted against the motion, with Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman and Council Member Will Wynn expressing reservations. The proposed changes would require six positive votes because of a number of valid petitions opposing the changes. On Wednesday, Griffith was sharing her own proposal for negotiating with Riata Partners LLC, who are seeking wavers of fees for construction of infrastructure and right-of-way, and grants to develop job training, among other things. Griffith said the entire package is about $23 million, or $66 per square foot (348,480 square feet). Griffith pointed out that the Travis County Appraisal District has appraised the property at $16 a square foot. At that price, she said, the land would be valued at $5,575,680. She said the property would be worth $11,151,360 at double the appraised value, or $32 per square foot. For those prices, Griffith observed, the city could buy the property outright. “The developer is saying, ‘We’re going to create jobs and we’re going to have affordable housing.’ How many jobs can you create and how much affordable housing can you build for $23 million?” Griffith said, “The whole bottom line problem could be we are being asked to support a deal with an entity whose numbers we have not seen. So we don’t know how much they’re paying for the property.” Developer Matt Mathias has a contract to buy the land, which is contingent on the City Council approving the zoning change and the incentive package, Griffith said. She said the city should not consider entering into such an agreement without concrete information on community benefits, including: • The number of jobs created in a high unemployment area. • Childcare provided and for how many children. • Type of training provided and for how many unemployed and underemployed citizens. • Number of reasonably priced housing units provided. Griffith said she hopes that the proposal on the table will not be approved and that the Council will vote to return the zoning to what it was before the first Neighborhood Conservation Combining District was approved a decade ago. If that happens, she said, “You could do a new plan you wouldn’t have to subsidize, and you could spend the $23 million on job training, affordable housing and child care.” In addition, Council Members Raul Alvarez and Danny Thomas, who have tried to work with different segments of the community, may not be in agreement on zoning for certain tracts. ©2001 In Fact News, Inc. All rights reserved. ABIA boasts world’s largest hologram . . . A guitar floats above the sheet music to Gary P. Nunn’s London Homesick Blues . A line from the song tops the 4-foot by 10-foot holographic display, which greets visitors and Austinites returning home as they exit the baggage area. Austin-Bergstrom spokesperson Jackie Mayo said the installation is the first of three, with the next featuring Austin’s natural beauty and the third focusing on technology . . . Further note on Landmark payments to subcontractors . . . Bobbi Enriquez, a consultant for the company who deals with minority subcontractors, told In Fact Daily, “All the paperwork is done on the invoices, so Landmark is ready” to cut checks to its waiting subs within 72 hours after they receive the funds from the bank . . . Still talking . . . Lawyers for the city have been spending long hours working with representatives of the Cedar Avenue plaintiffs. The two sides could reach agreement on a new resolution to the matter sometime today. . . Roadway plan hearing . . . Bill Bunch, executive director of the Save Our Springs Alliance, has sent an email to concerned citizens urging them to oppose the “Bradley toll road,” which would link the south end of MoPac to I-35. The hearing on the roadway plan is scheduled for 6 p.m. today . . . Confusion prevails over Hyde Park plans . . . The confusion over exactly what the Planning Commission approved for the Hyde Park Neighborhood and the Hyde Park Baptist Church continued Wednesday. Commissioner Robin Cravey disagreed with our interpretation of the proposed plans. He said where the church’s NCCD has specific provisions, those provisions will remain in effect. However, where the church’s NCCD is silent, and the neighborhood NCCD addresses the issue, the neighborhood plan’s rule prevails over the base district zoning, he said. Cravey’s interpretation of what was approved may not be the same as that of other commissioners . . . Hays County water legislation: winners and losers . . . Wednesday was the official drop dead day for local House bills. Those that made it through the sausage grinder include HB 3628 and 3629, which validate Hays County Water Control and Improvement Districts No. 1 and No. 2. Also approved was SB 1823, approving and creating Hays County Development District No. 1. Sen. Ken Armbrister (D-Victoria) and Rep. Rick Green (R- Dripping Springs) sponsored all of these bills. They also sponsored a bill for Cypress Realty, which would have created Water Control and Improvement District No. 3. HB 3641 and its companion, SB 1771, never made it out of the Calendars Committee and are officially dead. The Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District, the Hays County Water Planning Partnership, the City of Sunset Valley, and the Save Our Springs Alliance all opposed this particular measure, which would have facilitated the building of 2700 homes over the recharge zone of the Edwards Aquifer.
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