Austin-Bastrop River Corridor Partnership

Austin-Bastrop River Corridor Partnership (ABRCP) was recently awarded the Community Stewardship Award for Raising Public Awareness by Envision Central Texas.


The Partnership recently released the award-wining vision plan for the lower Colorado River which flows from west Texas, through the Hill Country and Austin Texas before becoming free-flowing as it flows through Bastrop County on its way to Matagorda Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.

The “Vision Report” represents the desired future for the Austin-Bastrop river corridor as developed by the Austin-Bastrop River Corridor Partnership (ABRCP). The ABRCP offers its vision of a healthy riparian ecosystem along the Colorado River, complete with sustainable development in support of its mission: To support sustainable development and a healthy riparian ecosystem along the Austin to Bastrop River Corridor.

The “Vision Report” is intended to promote conversations at the local level in order to facilitate sustainable development and river corridor protection in communities along the river. The information provided in the document is not intended as a replacement for the policies and practices of local jurisdictions, but rather offers opportunities for inter-jurisdictional cooperation and collaboration.

The report provides A Vision for the River around the following topics:

A. LAND DEVELOPMENT AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
B. WATER QUALITY AND QUANTITY
C. SAND AND GRAVEL MINING & RECLAMATION OPPORTUNITIES
D. PUBLIC ACCESS AND RECREATION
E. NATURAL AND CULTURAL RESOURCE PROTECTION
F. PUBLIC AWARENESS AND EDUCATION

A Vision for the River … All citizens in the river corridor – of all ages and backgrounds – will know the name and location of the Colorado River, and will understand their connection and interdependence with other people along the river and with the river itself.

Open PDF of Discover the Colorado (PDF 8027KB)

Austin Bastrop River Corridor Partnership (ABRCP)

An open conversation about sustainable development and the health of the riparian ecosystem along the Austin to Bastrop River Corridor.

An informal partnership of nonprofit organizations, governmental agencies, businesses and local citizens concerned with the future development of the Colorado River corridor from Austin to Bastrop begun in February 2003. In 2006 the Partnership extended its coverage to include Smithville, Texas (84 river miles).
The Austin-Bastrop River Corridor Partnership is an effort to gather stakeholders together for a sustained conversation about the future of this river corridor. It is not a non-profit organization, but rather a partnership of agencies, organizations, and individuals committed to advancing this conversation and articulating a shared vision for the river corridor. It has grown out of a common commitment to seeking positive, cooperative opportunities to promote a healthy river corridor ecosystem and to enhance public awareness of the Colorado River as a unique natural, recreational, and economic resource for the Austin-Bastrop area.

Goals

  • Public Awareness Goal: To raise community awareness about issues affecting the future of the river corridor over the next twenty years of rapid development.
  • Sustainability Goal: To promote economic and recreational use of the river corridor that supports long-term ecological health and social equity.
  • Riparian Management Goal: To promote actions that conserve and maintain a healthy riparian system along the Austin-Bastrop Colorado River Corridor.
  • Restoration Goal: To assist with restoration of riparian habitats along the river corridor.

Discovering the Colorado: A Vision for the Austing-Bastrop River Corridor

The “Vision Report” represents the desired future for the Austin-Bastrop river corridor as developed by the Austin-Bastrop River Corridor Partnership (ABRCP). The ABRCP offers its vision of a healthy riparian ecosystem along the Colorado River, complete with sustainable development in support of its mission: To support sustainable development and a healthy riparian ecosystem along the Austin to Bastrop River Corridor.

The following is a brief summary of the ABRCP “Vision Report” which is intended to promote conversations at the local level in order to facilitate sustainable development and river corridor protection in communities along the river. The information provided in this document is not intended as a replacement for the policies and practices of local jurisdictions, but rather offers opportunities for inter-jurisdictional cooperation and collaboration.

PROJECT BACKGROUND: In 2003 a group of concerned individuals began a process to develop a “vision” which is laid out in the Vision Report. The process grew to include a diversity of individuals, agencies, businesses, and organizations, all united around a common vision for the Colorado River corridor between Austin and Bastrop. Studies suggest that the pattern of unprecedented growth of the region over the past ten years will continue, and likely accelerate for the next twenty years and into the foreseeable future. Highway construction, sand and gravel mining, and large development projects will dramatically change the landscape of the river corridor.

We are in a critical time if we are to recognize the value of the Colorado River and work cooperatively to protect and enhance those aspects we most value. By working together to articulate a vision for the river corridor from Austin to Bastrop, project supporters hope to promote development that is sensitive to the importance of the river, conservation of the delicate natural resources, river-based recreational opportunities, river interpretive and education programs for all ages and interests, and a necklace of protected natural areas that can comfortably support all of the above uses.

WORKSHOP RESULTS: During workshops held in 2004, the following issues were identified by the 128 participants. Participants at the first workshop listed 111 issues. A Partnership committee synthesized the input from all the groups, resulting in the following six top issues. Participants in the second workshop created a statement to reflect their desired state of the river in twenty years (below) and a action plans to address the issues and accomplish the desired future (see “Vision Report”). The ABRCP promotes these recommendations to the communities along the river as means to protect and improve the natural, cultural and economic resources of the river corridor.

A. LAND DEVELOPMENT AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
THE ISSUE: Concerns were raised about how increased development accompanying major transportation highways and growth from Austin and Bastrop (residential, airport-related, and urbanization in general) might affect water quality, riparian habitats, and the loss of rural character. Participants questioned whether protective regulations are adequate and consistent among jurisdictions, and whether voluntary measures are sufficient to address issues. As a result of growth and development, issues such as flood damage, possible river channelization, and downstream impacts are concerns.

A Vision for the River … Development along the river corridor will be planned to provide innovative, sustainable, ecologically sensitive, and community-minded development. This, in turn, will promote positive economic impacts. Cities, counties and state jurisdictions will cooperatively plan and share responsibilities related to development, infrastructure, public transportation, and river crossings. A healthy river ecosystem will exist with clean water, preserved wildlands, forested river sides, and well-designed public access.

B. WATER QUALITY AND QUANTITY
THE ISSUE: Concerns about water in the Colorado River include: non-point source pollution; the relationship between groundwater and surface water; concern over sufficient water supply for future human demands (residential, industrial, and agricultural) and ecological functions; maintaining water quality and quantity; wastewater management; fluctuations of daily flow; trash in river; impervious cover impacts such as erosion and sedimentation; and a lack of a centralized source of information gathering on water issues.

A Vision for the River … All interests along the Austin-Bastrop River Corridor will cooperate to preserve, protect, and restore biological diversity in aquatic habitats. Standards for water quality and quantity will be established to conserve and sustain human and environmental needs.

C. SAND AND GRAVEL MINING & RECLAMATION OPPORTUNITIES
THE ISSUE: There is recognition that all types of building (homes, roads, businesses, etc.) depend on the need for these mineral resources, but mining near the river raises concerns of the effects on water quality. Mine restoration, however, can create opportunities for new wetland and pond resources when mineral resource removal is complete. There is a need to balance the sand and gravel industry’s needs with the public’s and the river’s needs.

A Vision for the River … A cooperative relationship will exist between the sand and gravel industry and the public in approaches to reclamation of mined sites. Reclamation planning will be the industry’s standard practice, and reclamation of mining pits in the river corridor will include environmental uses. Public and private needs for the Colorado River’s resources will be balanced through planning. Extracted materials, previously used, will be preserved and recycled, reducing the need for newly mined materials. Environmental regulations will be enforced uniformly.

D. PUBLIC ACCESS AND RECREATION
THE ISSUE: Participants felt there are insufficient ingress and egress points to make river floating practical. Access needs raise questions about who will fund and manage access points. There is a concern about assuring that access does not negatively impact habitat or biological functions. Related issues include trespassing and monitoring for criminal activity. There is also concern for a loss of traditional uses of rivers and banks, but at the same time, there is demand for more parks on the river, as well as land trails linking public lands.

A Vision for the River … The natural character of the river’s landscape and habitat will be preserved, providing a scenic, clean, and quiet resource. Additional public and private parkland will be available for active and passive recreation. Public access to the river will be in place every five miles. The public will be aware of these access points and knowledgeable about which lands along the river are public.

E. NATURAL AND CULTURAL RESOURCE PROTECTION
THE ISSUE: This topic involves concerns about conserving aquatic and terrestrial habitat, maintaining and restoring a vegetated riparian buffer, and identifying and conserving cultural resources. Other issues include loss of open space and wildlife corridors and the need for tributary and watershed protection.

A Vision for the River … The community will see the river as a shared resource with natural, historic and cultural value and will protect it as such. A protected riparian buffer with minimum mandatory setbacks from the river’s edge will extend the length of the river corridor. Previously impacted areas within the setback zone will be restored to a natural state. Minimum-impact public access will be available for river education and enjoyment. Natural and cultural resources will be identified, protected, and available for appreciation through experience.

F. PUBLIC AWARENESS AND EDUCATION
THE ISSUE: This issue is based on a concern that the public in general is relatively unaware of the valuable qualities of the Colorado River. Despite the close proximity to a metropolitan population, exposure to the river is believed to be limited. Some perceptions that were identified include: an image of the river as a dumping ground, a lack of understanding of human impacts on the river, and environmental justice issues east of IH 35.

A Vision for the River … All citizens – of all ages and backgrounds – will know the name and location of the Colorado River, and will understand their connection and interdependence with other people along the river and with the river itself. There will be an expansion of volunteer corps along each segment of the river and its tributaries. The Partnership will acknowledge the importance of social equity in everything it does. Communities up and down the river will host “river fests” to celebrate and promote the Colorado River.

Education & Outreach Committee

The Education and Outreach Committee is coordinating efforts to promote the Vision Plan to government officials and citizens throughout Travis and Bastrop Counties. For more information contact Elisabeth Welsh – Travis County.

Meetings

The Partnership meet on the 4th Wednesday of each month 10:00 am – Noon at Hornsby Bend in the Center for Envirornmental Research (or an alternate location when appropriate). Contact Kevin Anderson for more information.

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