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Hays County joins others contesting Jeremiah Ventures

Monday, January 26, 2009 by Jacob Cottingham

In a special meeting Friday afternoon, Hays County Commissioners unanimously voted to join the contested case hearing against Jeremiah Ventures, which is behind a forthcoming Hays County development. The Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District, the City of Austin, Save Our Springs Alliance and Ruby Ranch Homeowners Association have all filed for a contested case hearing with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. The Lower Colorado River Authority has filed a motion for TCEQ to reconsider their Texas Land Application Permit.


The developer has filed initial plans to build 1,377 homes on 607 acres at 6327 FM 967. They have asked for authorization to dump 330,000 gallons of treated domestic wastewater per day (120 million gallons a year) via surface irrigation across 122.37 acres. The area covered by the proposed permit is in Hays County over the Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone and directly adjacent to the City of Austin’s Water Quality Protection Lands.


Pct. 2 Commissioner Jeff Barton, whose precinct includes the proposed development, filed the resolution in Hays County. The first TCEQ hearing will be today to determine the standing of each contesting party.


On the other hand, Pct. 4 Commissioner Karen Ford told In Fact Daily, “Jeremiah Ventures has done some things that we applaud.” She cited the open space, clustered development and 20 percent impervious cover the proposed development would have. Barton and Ford commended the quality of the effluent, which Barton said would be “exponentially higher” than what is required by law.


However there have been some concerns with the development’s openness to scientific testing. The City of Austin, which does not have jurisdiction over the land, has reportedly been stymied in its attempts to gather environmental data. Others familiar with the back-and-forth between the developer and government bodies have said that some of the requests have been honored. The BSEACD and SOS both have concerns about the soil and vegetation on the site, which may be too thin and rocky for the amount of effluent that would be irrigated. They also are concerned that not all of the recharge features have been identified and preserved.


Barton said he believes Hays can step in between the BSEACD and the developer and arrive at a satisfactory conclusion before it becomes a full-blown contested case hearing.


“The Edwards Aquifer is too valuable a resource to take any chances with,” Barton said. “We don’t know that Jeremiah Ventures is going to pose a danger but we did err on the side of caution and scrutinized that application with great care.”

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