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GBRA Says a $3.25 Million ‘Habitat Conservation Plan’ Will Protect Guadalupe River Basin

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GBRA Says a $3.25 Million ‘Habitat Conservation Plan’ Will Protect Guadalupe River Basin

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GBRA staff use ‘electrofishing’ to sample fish populations and determine their abundance, density and species composition in Geronimo Creek, a tributary of the Guadalupe River. A new holistic plan under development by the authority will help protect endangered-and-threatened species. Facebook image.

Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority (GBRA) wants to protect the Guadalupe River Basin from population growth and increased demand on the river as a resource and is developing a ‘holistic’ habitat-conservation plan (HCP) to protect endangered-and-threatened species.

The total cost of the project, which was approved in 2019, is $3.25 million and includes $1 million in federal grant funds administered by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), GBRA said in a press release issued today. Development of the HCP is expected to take three to five years.

GBRA — which sells water from Canyon Lake to downstream customers — said the HCP, now under development, will become a critical component of its sustainability efforts for decades to come. The document aligns with GBRA’s mission of conserving and protecting the Guadalupe River Basin.

The Guadalupe River Basin stretches from the headwaters in Kerr County to San Antonio Bay. The human population in this area is estimated to grow 195% by 2050, GBRA said.

Nathan Pence, GBRA’s executive manager of Environmental Science, said the Guadalupe River is a critical resource for a variety of species — aquatic, riparian, avian and human.

The river is home to 18 federally listed endangered species; eight federally listed threatened species; numerous candidate species under consideration for endangered status; and potentially newly described species.

GBRA said it already works to protect key species like whooping cranes, freshwater mussels and spring obligate salamanders even as it plans for future residential and commercial growth.

“The development of this HCP reinforces GBRA’s commitment to protecting and preserving our ecosystem while continuing to provide high-quality water and wastewater-utility services to more than 350,000 Texans,” Pence said.

GBRA General Manager and CEO Kevin Patteson said the plan also will serve as a roadmap for working collaboratively with partners and communities to better develop water-resource management and protect the environment.

The HCP’s “holistic-and-comprehensive approach” to conservation also addresses complex issues like climate change, he said.

GBRA in its statement said the plan also strengthens its position as a regional leader, allowing other utilities, municipalities, industries and individuals to formally participate under provisions outlined in the 1973 Endangered Species Act, which protects imperiled species in the United States.

HCPs were designed to create partnerships between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and non-federal parties like the GBRA to conserve the ecosystems endangered and threatened species depend on, GBRA said in its statement. They help minimize and mitigate the impacts of activities including the provision of water and wastewater services.

Austin-based environmental consulting firm Blanton & Associates will spearhead the HCP’s development. Included on the team are ICF Jones & Stokes, R.J. Brandes Company, Kennedy Resource Company, WSP Global, Inc., Texas A&M Natural Resources Institute, Lloyd Gosselink Rochelle & Townsend, P.C. and Suzanne Schwartz.

About the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority (GBRA)

GBRA was established as a water conservation-and-reclamation district by the Texas legislature in 1933 and now serves as a leader and steward of water resources across a 10-county statutory district including Kendall, Comal, Hays, Caldwell, Guadalupe, Gonzales, DeWitt, Victoria, Calhoun and Refugio counties. The authority provides reliable high-quality water and wastewater treatment services, conserves and protects the Guadalupe River Basin, generates hydroelectric power, manages recreational areas, offers laboratory services, creates educational programming and plans for and supports community growth and development.

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