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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.

History:

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 Texas special legislative session has ended, and a bill regarding a state wide standard for tree removal has been signed into law by Governor Greg Abbott.  Prior tree removal standards have been administered by municipalities, such as Austin’s Protected Tree Ordinance and Heritage Tree Ordinance, to determine protection and mitigation measures for trees on private property.  These standards resulted in a variety of size limits and mitigation fees for tree removal from city to city, whereas the new law will set a requirement  of trees with a trunk diameter of 10 inches or greater to pay a removal mitigation fee which can be offset with the on-site planting of new trees.  Fees can only be offset with on-site plantings by 40% on commercial properties, and by 50% for residential developers.  Residential homeowners can completely eliminate tree removal fees by planting trees on-site.

Governor Abbott had vetoed a similar tree removal bill that addressed mitigation measures to offset municipal fees associated with tree removals during the regular session because he did not believe it went far enough to protect private property rights.  He encouraged lawmakers to draft a bill that gave property owners more flexibility to remove trees and streamline the tree removal process statewide during the special session.  The Texas House and Senate made efforts to advance multiple bills before compromising on House Bill 7 that was signed into law on August 16, 2017.

The more than 90 tree removal municipal ordinances throughout the state will be replaced by the new statewide law on December 1, 2017, until then current municipal standards will stay in place.  While tree removal and mitigation vary throughout the state, most require that a tree survey be conducted by a Certified Arborist to determine the size and type of trees on a property.  aci performs tree surveys and can assist with tree assessments and permitting procedures throughout Texas under current and upcoming standards.

Read House Bill 7

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-

Background:
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