By Kathi Bliss
While most eyes in the county are turned on the controversial development of the 130 Environmental Park at the intersection of SH130 and FM 1185, another development which could have far-reaching impact on the environment is moving quietly through permitting processes.
On Wednesday evening, Oct. 23, the Uhland Board of Aldermen scheduled a special meeting to discuss the possibility of annexing more that 2,400 acres into the City of Uhland’s extraterritorial jurisdiction for the development of the Walton Caldwell Ranch, a multi-use residential and commercial complex planned by Walton Texas, LP.
That development, in its early planning phases, will also be discussed by the Caldwell County Commissioners Court on Monday, as the developer and the County continue to negotiate contractual obligations within Caldwell County’s Subdivision Restriction rules.
An under-recognized problem with the potential development centers around a permit sought from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) for a wastewater treatment plant that would add up to 1.5 million gallons of effluent daily into the Plum Creek watershed, specifically into the Clear Fork Creek area.
Back in 1995, the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority (GBRA) performed a study in the area as they attempted to determine an appropriate location for Lockhart’s wastewater treatment facility. That study deemed the Clear Fork Creek an inappropriate location for such a facility, because pooling and other flow restrictions would have a negative impact on the creekbed.
Walton Texas’s permit, filed earlier this year, went through the process of public commentary, wherein residents of Clear Fork Creek appealed to the natural features and both the domestic and wild waterfowl in the area, and expressed concern that 1.5 million gallons added daily to the watershed would destroy the creekbeds.
TCEQ denied the appeal, suggesting that the addition of 1.5 million gallons would be “similar to the flow of 38 standard water hoses operating at 60 psi.”
However, in realistic terms, 1.5 million gallons is more than the total volume of the City of Lockhart’s three water towers. Understandably, area residents are concerned about such a volume of water being ejected into the creek daily.
Adding to the complications, the City of Lockhart has recently struck a deal with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to add retention ponds to the area surrounding Clear Fork Creek, because the addition of impervious cover via the construction of SH130 has made the area more prone to flooding during normal and serious rain events. Area residents are concerned that problem could only get worse with the addition of 1.5 million gallons on a daily basis.
Furthering the debate, TCEQ has recently levied hefty fines against another developer, for a failed treatment plant in the Kyle area that dumped thousandsof gallons of sludge into the Plum Creek Watershed prior to discovery of the plant failure.
What’s more, the Texas Historical Commission submitted a letter in February, which suggests the site for the plant may contain archeological deposits. According to Mark Wolfe, the State Historic Preservation Officer, two archeological sites have been identified nearby. He requested that a complete study be done to identify any historic properties, prior to the disturbance of any ground for the facility or its required pipe systems.
For now, the Walton Texas project is in stasis at TCEQ, as deadlines have passed for contested case hearings and appeals. One property owner has filed a Request for Reconsideration after his initial objections were overruled, but no date for that rehearing has been set. In the meantime, it falls then to the residents of the area to determine their best course of action to mitigate the impact of the coming facility.
The Uhland Board of Aldermen have scheduled their meeting about the annexation at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 23, in Uhland City Hall, 15 Old Spanish Trail, Uhland, Texas. The Caldwell County Commissioners will meet on Monday at 9 a.m. at the Zedler Mill 1170 S. Laurel, in Luling, Texas.
Follow this coming development in future issues of the Post-Register, or find us online at www.post-register.com