Tuesday, August 22, 2006

ENV: Black-caps Hold Up Water Plant

Bird may hold up water plant
by News 8 Austin Staff, 8/18/2006 9:04 AM, Picture courtesy of manybirds.com.

Finding a place for a water treatment plant in Austin is not easy.

"It seems like water treatment plants are always controversial," Austin City Councilman Lee Leffingwell said.

Now the city of Austin wants to build Water Treatment Plant No. 4 near Lake Travis.

The reason this is controversial is because the land is home to the black-capped vireo, federally listed endangered bird. The bird is found only in Central Texas and in three counties in Oklahoma.

"I do not believe that by relocating or moving these five nesting pairs we will endanger the black-capped vireo," Leffingwell said.

"I would rather be wrong about this but I am relying on biologist,” Chris Lehman of the Austin Sierra Club said.

A biologist said the birds won't survive, if the City tries to move them, Lehman said.

"We weren't allowed by U.S, Fish and Wildlife to ride bicycles through these preserves, because that was to invasive. But now we're going to stick a water treatment plant, not just on any part of the preserve but on the inhabited part,” Lehman said.

The inhabited part is 45 acres of the 24,000 acre preserve located just off RM 620.

Originally, the city was looking at building the treatment plant at the headwaters of Bull Creek.

"That is a fully permitted site. We do not need any approvals to build a water treatment plant there,” Leffingwell said.

The city chose the Balcones site because they thought it would be less intrusive.

"This is the lesser of two evils. Many people speaking for the environmental board say these are two horrible choices,” Lehman said.

Either choice will have a direct impact on the future of Austin's water supply and could have an impact of the future of a rare flock.

Before the city can give the go ahead for the treatment plant, the Travis County commissioners will have to approve the project. They are set to vote on the issue Tuesday.

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