Mason, Texas – The Mason Sub-Regional Planning Commission (MSRPC) made it clear last Wednesday in a meeting with Clayton Napier of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) that they fully expect LCRA TSC to perform a complete environmental impact statement if they intend to construct the 345-kv transmission line through Mason County.
"This is the third coordination meeting we’ve held in Mason with state and now federal agencies placing all of them on legal notice that we know the law and the law requires the FWS, the responsible federal agency, to perform a full and complete Environmental Impact Statement," exclaimed Jerry Bearden, Mason County Judge and chairman of the Mason Sub-Regional Planning Commission.
Mayor Brent Hinckley, also on the MSRPC, wasn’t as patient this time stating his frustration with LCRA and their lack of transparency with the City and the planning commission. "We formed this commission to protect our community and we expect LCRA as well as the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service to abide by the law and perform the necessary study," stated Hinckley.
The MSRPC has provided LCRA, the Public Utilities Commission, Texas Parks and Wildlife, and now the U.S. Fish and Wildlife with specific impacts on Mason County, any one of which triggers the federal National Environmental Policy Act and a complete environmental study.
Clayton Napier out of Austin’s district office for the FWS emphatically stated that his office and his department was the responsible agency and that a "rigorous and complete EIS would be performed." However, it was also made clear that LCRA had been delegated the authority to perform the study.
"That’s like assigning the fox to guard the hen house," said G. "Gerry" T. Bohmfalk, Ph.D., who is the director of research and development for SCENTRY Biological, Inc. out of Arizona and an associate member of the MSRPC. Bohmfalk is a world-renowned entomologist and expert on natural habitats and endangered species.
LCRA is claiming they are only performing an Environmental Assessment, which falls short of a full EIS, which FWS admitted they are supposed to be performing. "So, we have two agencies telling us different stories so it’s up to us to find out which is accurate and make sure LCRA is performing what is required of them. If not, we’re considering asking FWS to remove them as the lead agency in charge of the study and performing our own alternative study," said Bearden.
The City of Mason and Mason County have formed a planning commission utilizing Section 391 of the Texas Local Government Code that requires state agencies to coordinate their plans and policies with any planning commission. MSRPC opposes LCRA’s transmission line and has formed to fight to have their proposed line removed from the county all together.