TxDOT’s rigged environmental study on 281 failed to include aquifer authority

Link to article here.
Did aquifer authority weigh in on toll-road study?
By Pat Driscoll
August 14, 2008

One bone of contention with the U.S. 281 tollway’s environmental study has to do with whether officials “involved” and worked in “consultation” with an aquifer authority, as required by regulations.

Illustration of U.S. 281 tollway from Alamo Regional Mobility Authority slide show.

Critics filed a federal lawsuit in February to challenge the thoroughness of the study, which says doubling U.S. 281’s width for eight miles would not cause significant impacts.

The study’s conclusion is ridiculous, they say, especially since the highway traverses Edwards Aquifer recharge and contributory zones.

Toll advocates say the lawsuit is frivolous and will just delay a long-needed project.

Here’s some stuff plaintiff attorneys dug up:

These pages from the study say the Texas Department of Transportation sent letters to stakeholder agencies, including the Edwards Aquifer Authority, in February 2006 to solicit input:

Download file

The Edwards Aquifer Authority, responding to an open records request, said two months ago it has no record of the TxDOT letter or any other written request since December 2005 concerning U.S. 281 and Loop 1604 widening projects:

Download file

But there’s this record of a 25-minute telephone conversation between a TxDOT consultant and the authority:

Download file

“It’s ridiculous, in our opinion, to say that that’s agency coordination,” plaintiff attorney Andrew Hawkins said in an e-mail. “It’s not a meeting, it’s not a request for EAA to participate and give input on the project — it’s a consultant yanking info out of EAA staff to plug into the consultant’s report.”

More on the lawsuit:

Lawsuit uncovers holes in U.S. 281 tollway study
State responds to U.S. 281 tollway lawsuit
Toll agency will try to step around lawsuit
For your eyes — U.S. 281 tollway lawsuit
Lawsuit eyed to stop U.S. 281 tollway