Last Thursday, April 22, nearly 50 Mason County residents and landowners attended the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) Scoping meeting at the Stevenson Center in Junction. Organized by the Texas Hill Country Heritage Association, nearly 20 people spoke in a pre-arranged contingency that presented detailed information.
Over the next several weeks, the Mason County News has graciously agreed to run the comments presented at the Scoping meeting to help its readers better understand the importance of what we accomplished with our oral and written comments. FWS now knows we know the law and by placing our comments into their official record, they cannot ignore the law or our demands. It was a brilliant maneuver that neither FWS nor LCRA saw coming.
The comments you will read over the next several weeks are all "triggers" that cause the federal government and the Lower Colorado River Authority to abide by the law and perform what the FWS told our Mason Sub-Regional Planning Commission (MSRPC) during their first coordination meeting last month. They told MSRPC that a "rigorous and complete" Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) must be performed before anything can be built in Mason County.
To perform such an EIS would take anywhere from 12 to 18 months, but the PUC has ordered LCRA to begin construction this year. Clearly, for them to be able to begin construction they will have to intentionally violate federal law – something we’re ready to take them to court over.
On behalf of the Texas Hill Country Heritage Association (THCHA) and the Mason Sub-Regional Planning Commission (MSRPC), we would like to thank all of the public that participated in the Scoping meeting. We particularly want to thank our Mayor and County Judge for their public stance and effort on this issue. We are privileged to have such leadership in our county.
Briefly, last Thursday, about 20 Mason County citizens arrived at the Stevenson Center at 5:30 PM in an effort to become the first registrants to give oral testimony. The building was open, but no effort had been made to arrange the building for a public meeting. One person, Luela Roberts, representing FWS was on the premises along with Bill Neiman of Clear View Alliance, who was setting up his scaled-down model of the 180 foot towers purposed by LCRA.
The Mason group set up a few chairs and tables and placed a visual display at the front entrance for public viewing. (Note: We wish to thank Patti Myrick for her effort in putting this display together. It can be viewed at the Mason County Courthouse over the next few weeks.) At approximately 6:00 PM, five or six LCRA employees arrived with a series of flip charts and informational material in an attempt to explain the Scoping and NEPA processes.
LCRA employees registered the public and speaker’s cards were completed by those who were planning on giving oral comments. The Mason folks signed up in order beginning with Mayor Brent Hinckley and ending with Judge Jerry Bearden. In between, we had over a dozen citizens present testimony that specifically addressed the federal statutes requiring FWS and LCRA to perform a complete EIS and we made sure we were all in order without any interruptions.
Oral comments were presented to a transcriptionist in the back corner of the building. Mrs. Roberts was the only person present representing the FWS. She briefly interrupted the oral comments during the meeting for a slide presentation intended to address the scoping process and what the agencies responsibilities were under the law.
Attendance for the Scoping meeting may have reached 100 people with Mason County citizens representing over half of the crowd and nearly 99 percent of the oral comments. It should be very evident to the FWS and LCRA that Mason County is well organized and knows the law. All of you should be proud of your on-going involvement in the process and your support of the efforts of THCHA and MSRPC.
It should be noted that written comments to FWS can still be submitted until the close of business on June 17, 2010. Send written comments to Field Supervisor, Austin Ecological Services Field Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 10711 Burnet Road, Suite 200 Austin, Texas 78758-4460; or fax (512) 490-0974; or email Luela_Roberts@fws.gov. Note, your comments concern the LCRA TSC draft EIS.