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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Ballot Items for Aquifer Conservation, Linear Park Funding Approved

Posted By on Thu, Jan 29, 2015 at 12:13 PM

click image The Edwards Aquifer feeds the gorgeous Comal springs. - "COMAL SPRINGS 2007" BY LARRY D. MOORE - © 2007 LARRY D. MOORE. LICENSED UNDER CC BY-SA 3.0 VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
  • "Comal springs 2007" by Larry D. Moore - © 2007 Larry D. Moore. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
  • The Edwards Aquifer feeds the gorgeous Comal springs.

Despite some uncertainty about whether City Council would approve placing funding mechanisms for the Edwards Aquifer Protection Program and the Linear Creekway Parks Development Program on the May ballot, council members on Thursday unanimously approved the move.

In addition to placing the items on the ballot, funding for the two programs would increase under the proposal, expanding the sales tax collection cap for the Linear Creekway project to $80 million and increasing the Edwards Aquifer Protection Program cap to $100 million. In 2010, voters approved $45 million for linear parks and $90 million for the Edwards Aquifer program. Those monies, which are collected through a one-eighth cent sales tax, were set to run dry in April of 2016.

“The Edwards Aquifer Protection Program and the Linear Creekway Parks Development Program (Howard W. Peak Greenway Trails System) are two of the most important and popular initiatives the city has ever undertaken," District 8 Councilman Ron Nirenberg said. "Council's vote today reaffirms these critical values and recognizes the strong public mandate we have to protect our drinking water and green spaces for us and future generations of San Antonians.”

The significant expansion in the Linear Creekway Parks Development Program will include funding for watershed protection in urban areas that fall under the aquifer recharge zone, according to information provided by Mayor Ivy Taylor's office.

District 9 Councilman Joe Krier, who has questioned whether the programs, which have received this funding for 15 years, are being measured accurately for success voted for renewal. Krier has previously called the funding a "temporary tax" and questioned whether City officials know what the ultimate goals for the programs are so once those are reached, the programs can be discontinued.

"Using revenue from an eighth-cent sales tax for these programs would also allow the City's Greenway Trail System Linear Parks to be further developed. These parklands have been described as a pearl necklace around San Antonio," Krier said in a statement. "As our City continues to grow, it's important that we do everything we can to protect the quality of water in the Edwards Aquifer."

Taylor said she's excited voters have the opportunity to decide whether to extend funding for both programs, as they have done three times since 2000.

“Securing our water supply, environmental protection and improving our park and trail systems are mutually reinforcing goals that we can meet through voting ‘yes’ on these propositions,” Taylor said in a press release.

The Edwards Aquifer Protection Program has been used to purchase 130,000 conservation acres over the aquifer's recharge and contributing zone, which according to the City translates to 36 billion gallons on water saved annually. The Linear Creekway Development Program has conserved 1,200 acres of green space in Bexar County and includes 46 miles of trails with another 40 under construction.

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