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Posted by: In: EPA 25 Jul 2018 0 comments

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has declared Bexar County as a “marginal nonattainment” area. This designation is the lowest level of nonattainment classification possible. San Antonio was previously deemed in attainment. Seven other neighboring counties including Atascosa, Bandera, Comal, Guadalupe, Kendall, Medina, and Wilson are still classified as attainment/unclassifiable.

Nonattainment status is determined by the EPA according to the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) of the Clean Air Act. In 2015, the standards were lowered by the Obama administration from 75 parts-per-billion (ppb) to 70 ppb. San Antonio currently measures at 73 ppb.

Andrew Wheeler, Acting EPA Administrator, said in a statement, “Information provided by the state indicates that the San Antonio area is on the path toward attainment, and we expect Bexar County will be able to demonstrate that it meets the standard well in advance of the attainment date in 2021.”

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) will be responsible for performing Point Source Emissions Inventories. New businesses or expansions that will increase emissions by more than 100 tons per year will be required to complete a TCEQ permitting process called a New Source Review.

The Alamo Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (AAMPO) will be responsible for ensuring planned projects do not worsen the air quality levels.

If you have questions or would like to discuss how this change may affect your actions in the San Antonio region, please contact aci here.

Read the Federal Register Notice

See the current National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) here.


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced today that the Texas Hornshell (Popenaias popeii) will be added to the list of Endangered Species on March 12, 2018. Comments will be accepted until the date of listing.

The freshwater mussel species can be found in parts of Texas, New Mexico, and Mexico. The species has been considered threatened by the State of Texas since 2009.

New Mexico has an existing Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances (CCAA) with the USFWS which pertains to lessees and grantees of state trust lands.


August 10, 2016 – Proposed Listing

May 30, 2017 – Reopening of Comment Period

August 10, 2017 – 6 Month Delay of Decision

February 8, 2018 – Final Rule (Open Comment Period)


Location Map from USFWS:

Source: (USFWS)U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 2016. Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Endangered Species Status for Texas Hornshell. Federal Register, vol. 81,p. 52796

Posted by: In: Uncategorized 15 Dec 2017 0 comments

Posted by: In: Drones 08 Nov 2017 0 comments

Kevin Ramberg, Principal Ecologist with aci consulting, recently presented at the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) National Conference in Orlando, Florida about the integration of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), also known as drones, into environmental compliance and monitoring.

The number of FAA-registered drone operators is quickly approaching 800,000. In recent years, scientists, surveyors, engineers, and contractors have created innovative approaches and solutions with this relatively new technology.

A/E/C applications for drone use include topography, site reconnaissance, quantity estimates, inspections, and high resolution up-to-the-minute aerial photography.

Drones have proven to be useful when regulatory authorities or multiple stakeholders need to have input on various aspects of the project. Mitigation site selection can be identified, and plant health can be assessed remotely. Vantage points that are unreachable on foot can be easily viewed using this technology.  For high profile projects, compliance commitments can be demonstrated through high resolution aerial photo documentation.

Other tools in the toolbox include: 3-D visualizations, habitat modeling and monitoring, rapid preliminary reconnaissance, and preconstruction condition assessment. Virtual site visits save project time and cost.

aci consulting recently used this technology to conduct a virtual site visit in central Texas and to perform a migratory bird nest survey to avoid potential impacts to Colorado raptors.

With Part 107 certified UAS pilots on staff, aci consulting is ready to support our clients’ needs with this cutting edge technology. Do you have a project that could benefit from using drone technology? Let us help!

Draft 2 of CodeNEXT is open for public comment until October 31st. This updated version of the City of Austin’s Land Development Code simplifies the many zone categories after feedback from Draft 1.

Other Updates include:

  • more allowances for residential development
  • removal of “transect” and “non-transect” corridors
  • simplified site plan requirements to help move along permitting for projects that are smaller, such as 3-9 unit residential developments

Since the new code aims to increase the total number of housing units, residents are concerned about the influx of traffic in areas likely to be redeveloped into higher-occupancy units. The City hopes to add 135,000 new housing units by 2025 with 65,000 of those for families earning less than the median family income.

The Austin City Council kicked off their Open House series last Wednesday at City Hall. Representatives from CodeNEXT were on hand to answer questions.


What’s Next:

Fall 2017 – Open Houses

November 2017 – Draft 3 (Final) to be released

January 2018 – Deadline for Zoning and Platting Commission to make their recommendation to City Council

April 2018 – City Council to approve final version


To review Draft 2 and make public comments, visit the City of Austin website.

Handouts from the Event: Building Height & Compatibility Triggers | Impervious Cover & Building Cover | Spectrum of Zones

Posted by: In: Events 06 Sep 2017 0 comments

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announced a 6-month extension on their decision whether or not to add the Texas Hornshell (Popenaias popeii) to the List of Endangered and Threatened Species. The decision comes after disagreement on the status of the species in Mexico.

The comment period has reopened and will remain open until September 11, 2017.

The Service will make a final determination on or before February 10, 2018.

-Read the Federal Register Announcement-

The Texas Hornshell has been on and off the candidate species lists for more than 25 years, and in 2001 the Service entered into two settlement agreements regarding the species.

Efforts are being made in Texas and New Mexico to preserve the species. In Texas, the Nature Conservancy and state wildlife regulators are managing their lands in the Devils River watershed to reduce sediment and contaminant runoff.

The New Mexico State Land Office (NMSLO) is entering into a Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances (CCAA) with the Service. If the Service ultimately adds the species to the List, NMSLO grantees and lessees will have 30 days to enroll in the CCAA if they want to be considered for participation in that program.

aci consulting performs surveys and relocation of this species and other State-listed species.

08/10/2016 Proposed Rule to List
05/30/2017 Comment Period Reopened

On June 5, 2017, The Texas General Land Office (TXGLO), represented by lawyers from the Texas Public Policy Foundation, sued the U.S. Department of the Interior and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) regarding the status of the golden-cheeked warbler (Warbler) as an endangered species. The lawsuit states:

  • The Service has failed to designate critical habitat since the warbler’s listing more than 25 years ago,
  • The Service did not follow its own rules in the 90-Day Finding for the 2015 Petition to Delist, and
  • The Service has failed to look at the best scientific data available.

The lawsuit requests relief in the form of:

  1. The court declaring the final rule listing violated the Service’s nondiscretionary duty because they failed to designate critical habitat and that the final rule is unlawful,
  2. The court declaring the 90-Day Finding on the Petition to Delist violated the law by failing to consider the best scientific data available, and
  3. The Court declaring the final rule listing unlawful, and that the refusal to delist the warbler is unlawful because Defendants failed to comply with NEPA.

The TXGLO claims that the warbler’s listing significantly impacts the market value of certain TXGLO lands diminishing their ability to receive revenue from Texas public lands for the benefit of Texas schoolchildren.


2015 Petition to Delist

90-Day Finding

2017 Lawsuit


Posted by: In: Karst 02 Jun 2017 0 comments

In limestone terrains, karst is expressed by variably developed cavernous porosity and the manifestations of sinkholes, voids, and erratic surface drainage.  Karst landscapes are typical of the Edwards Limestone, occurring across a vast region of Central Texas, west of the Balcones Escarpment, and these processes are critical to understanding the Edwards aquifer within its various segments.  The features produced by karst processes (voids, holes, and solution layers) eventually provide conduits for surface water runoff and “point recharge” for the Edwards aquifer.

The identification and protection of these features in established recharge areas is critical to maintaining groundwater quality and species habitat.  The TCEQ, as well as local governing bodies, require protective strategies within these areas to maintain quantity and quality of recharge prior to, during, and upon completion of construction activities. More broadly, the understanding of karst environments is key, as karst landscape covers as much as 10% of the Earth’s surface, and supplies water to as much as a quarter of the world’s population (USGS). aci consulting works with private and public clients on a range of projects necessary for the protection of the karst environment around Central Texas, from TCEQ Geologic Assessments, Karst Surveys for Regional Habitat Conservation Plan Applications, City and Local Environmental Assessments, USFWS karst species cave maintenance and management, and the management of voids encountered during construction.

As illustrated below, caves (features with natural openings that are enterable by a human) and voids (spaces encountered during construction or other activities) form by the dissolution of limestone, and the re-precipitation of calcium carbonate.

The volume of void space is determined by the placement and movement through time of the water table, and interconnected caves or voids can allow for the transfer of air, water, and even species, like the various Central Texas salamander species, and the karst bugs that are unique to Williamson County. Additionally, the study of cave formations (stalactites and stalagmites) can help scientists determine how long ago caves formed, and what local and regional climate conditions were like (namely temperature and precipitation). In 2016, aci consulting worked to connect clients who had encountered voids on their projects with scientists from Dr. Jay Banner’s group at The University of Texas at Austin Jackson School of Geosciences and Environmental Science Institute. Dr. Banner’s students worked with aci consulting staff to extract stalagmite and stalactite samples (called speleothems more generally) from several voids north of Austin. Graduate students are currently working on dating these samples and utilizing them for paleoclimate studies. Additionally, some materials have been incorporated into an exhibit in the Jackson School of Geosciences building on UT’s campus. This exhibit will aid UT in spreading knowledge about the importance of karst environments to UT students, campus visitors, and K-12 participants in the Environmental Science Institute’s outreach programs.


UT Environmental Science Institute (ESI) “What is Karst”

US Geological Survey (USGS) “Karst Topography—Teacher’s Guide and Paper Model”

The Bone Cave harvestman, a blind, cave-dwelling spider found in Travis and Williamson Counties, Texas has been at the center of a heated debate since its listing in 1988.
On June 2, 2014, The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) was petitioned to delist the species. An original 90-day finding was published on June 1, 2015 that the petition did not present substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that the petitioned action was warranted. On December 15, 2015, the petitioners challenged the decision in Federal District Court. Subsequent information was submitted in October 2016 by the petitioners and the petition was re-evaluated.
On May 4, 2017, the Service announced its second 90-day finding that the petition still does not present substantial scientific or commercial information indicating the delisting may be warranted.
This decision ends the Service’s formal consideration of the petition, but the Service is currently conducting a five-year review of the Bone Cave harvestman as required by section 4(c)(2)(A) of the Endangered Species Act.
The Service is encouraging the public to submit any new information that becomes available concerning the status of, or threats to, the Bone Cave harvestman or its habitat for their consideration.