Stakeholder-supported Habitat Conservation Plan developed by EARIP
A resolution to the longstanding struggle to balance endangered species protection with Edwards Aquifer water use may finally be realized in the form of a stakeholder supported Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP), according to Dr. Robert Gulley, manager of the Edwards Aquifer Recovery Implementation Program (EARIP).
The HCP will serve as a species and habitat management plan to protect listed species associated with the Edwards Aquifer and to comply with the Endangered Species Act. The HCP was developed by stakeholders participating in the EARIP, and their goals included water supply stability during drought.
On Oct. 12, after almost four years of research, analysis and discussion, including a directed effort to minimize the costs of implementing the HCP, the stakeholders gave tentative approval to a draft HCP and the necessary supporting documents that must be filed with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).
“There are many hard won decisions in the plan,” said Jim Bower, stakeholder from the City of Garden Ridge. “Not all parts are appealing to all people, but overall the plan package meets the needs of the region during extreme drought.”
Once formally approved by the stakeholder organizations, the HCP and supporting documents will be presented as recommendations to the Edwards Aquifer Authority (EAA) Board of Directors. Under state law, the EAA must implement a program by Dec. 31, 2012 to ensure that continuous minimum springflows of the Comal and San Marcos springs are maintained to protect listed species as required by federal law. The EAA must review the EARIP recommendations and may use the EARIP documents as the basis for its required protection programs.
“Good faith efforts over the past four years and thousands of hours of work by a diverse group of stakeholders have led to a good solution for a decades-long water battle,” Gulley said.
Since 2006, EARIP participants, including the Edwards Aquifer Authority (EAA), four state agencies, agricultural producers, cities, industries, environmental groups and a broad range of regional stakeholders have come together to develop a plan to protect the federally listed threatened and endangered species of the Edwards Aquifer while satisfying the water supply needs of the region.
The EARIP is facilitated and managed by the Texas A&M Institute of Renewable Natural Resources and is funded by a Section 6 grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service through the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, grants from the Texas Water Development Board, and contributions from stakeholders.
For more information, see the entire EARIP news release.