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Save Our Springs Alliance lays out settlement wish list

Save Our Springs Alliance lays out settlement wish list

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Published by John Tedesco
Critics of the proposed highway interchange list their demands and what they're willing to give back in return to avoid filing a lawsuit.
Critics of the proposed highway interchange list their demands and what they're willing to give back in return to avoid filing a lawsuit.

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Categories:Types, Letters
Published by: John Tedesco on Aug 27, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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08/27/2010

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S
.0 S.
March 31,
2010
SAYE
T S,
ALLIANCE
Lisa Adelman
General Counsel
Alamo Regional Mobility Authority
San Antonio, Texas
Via Email
Dear Ms. Adelman:
Pursuant to your request,
this letter restates the key terms of settlement that
Aquifer Guardians In Urban Areas and Texans United for Reform and Freedom
representatives outlined to you and other Alamo Regional Mobility Authorityrepresentatives in our recent meeting.Our goals are to avoid conflict over the recently approved US
281/Loop 1604
interchange, minimize the potential for future conflicts over the US
281
and
Loop 1604
Environmental Impact Statements now underway, and minimize harm to the
environment, neighbors, and commuters along the US
281
and Loop
1604
corridors. As
we stated, we believe that a "Categorical Exclusion" is not legally defensible under the
National Environmental Policy Act for several reasons. We do not find it plausible that a$140 million project characterized as an "interchange" that nevertheless extends over
eight miles in length; will necessarily increase air, water, noise and visual pollution; will
be built within established residential neighborhoods and business centers, over the
Edwards Aquifer recharge zone, and within endangered species habitat; will significantly
alter existing travel patterns; is part and parcel of the US
281
and Loop 1604 projects
currently under environmental review; will cause travel delays and other harmful resultsduring more than two years of construction; and is now admitted to add twenty acres ofimpervious cover, not the ten acres represented by ARMA during the public participation
process, can be said to "categorically" avoid any and all significant environmentalimpacts. We recognize that ARMA and FHWA disagree.
Our preference is that we set aside our disagreements on the CategoricalExclusion and the project it addresses, as well as our past differences, and insteadembrace a new, cooperative relationship that would allow the project to proceed whilecommitting ARMA to working with the community and to making meaningful
investments in community participation and environmental protection. Our proposal is
that ARMA:
*Fund an environmental engineer of our choosing to work hand-in-hand with
ARMA's contractor in the "design" phase of the project to design the project to minimize
Save Our Springs Alliance
(512) 477-2320 voice
P.O. Box 684881
Austin, Texas 78768
http://www.sosalliance.org
(512) 477-6410 fax
221 East 9th Street, Suite 300 • Austin, Texas 78701
email: sosinfoOsosalliance.org
 
harm to the Edwards Aquifer and to project neighbors. This work would focus oncontrolling water and noise pollution. Every effort would be made to resolve any design
disagreements on water, noise, air, and light pollution avoidance and mitigation. ARMA
would retain final decision-making authority consistent with other terms of any
agreement.
*Commit at least fifteen (15) percent of the total project budget to environmentalmitigation. At least half of this amount would be set aside for purchase of EdwardsAquifer recharge zone/endangered species habitat mitigation land. We would beconsulted in prioritizing such mitigation land purchases, which would be located withinfive miles of the project unless otherwise agreed.*Fund a karst expert of our choosing to be on site throughout the site-clearing andexcavation of the project to assure that any voids encountered are properly surveyed andmitigated in accordance with state and federal law (and who is clearly authorized to
report to AGUA and TURF on their work and observations on a regular basis).
*Make a binding commitment to prohibit tolling of both the interchange rampsand US 281 for at least 25 years.*Redesign the public participation processes for the US 281 and Loop 1604 toembrace community stakeholders as true partners in the process. This would include
funding for AGUA and TURF, in cooperation with other neighborhood groups and
stakeholders, to develop a "community alternative" that would be one of the alternativesstudied in depth in each of the 281 and 1604 EIS processes. This work would take placeover the next six months, with the goal of having broad based community support for aUS 281 alternative and a Loop 1604 alternative that met transportation needs whileminimizing both costs and harm to the environment and neighbors. This is afundamentally different approach from the current "stakeholder" process that is
completely controlled by ARMA, with stakeholders left in the role of criticizing
ARMA's work rather than participating as partners in shaping the process and at least oneof the alternatives to be analyzed.In exchange for the above, AGUA and TURF would agree to:*Drop the still pending but dormant US 281 lawsuit;
*Refrain from challenging the "interchange" Categorical Exclusion and
construction of the interchange project with federal stimulus funds;
*Give up any legal claim that the US 281 and Loop 1604 EISs are legally
deficient on the grounds that the two projects are actually a single project requiring asingle EIS. AGUA and TURF would not give up any other procedural or substantiveclaims they may have in the future to challenge the US 281 and/or Loop 1604 project inthe event that ARMA or TxDOT failed to choose the community alternative(s).
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