By: Christy Esmahan, Travis Audubon Board Member
Recently, the Board of Trustees of Travis Audubon signed a resolution to join the Wimberly Valley Watershed Association and dozens of other local organizations in protesting the proposed route of the Kinder Morgan (KM) Permian Basin Pipeline Highway through the Hill Country between Austin and San Antonio. In our press release we cited the threat that this route would pose to the fragile and unique habitat where the endangered Golden-cheeked Warbler (GCWA) breeds, an area already confined to a small region on our planet, as well as to the other birds that live and breed there. This route would also expose the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer to danger of contamination were there to be an accidental leak or explosion. Hays and Gillespie Counties, and the cities of San Marcos, Fredericksburg and others joined the resolution as well.
This week we took our actions one step further and joined a growing coalition of organizations supporting the Move the Pipeline Save the Water (MTPSTW) campaign to stop KM from building the Permian Basin Highway Pipeline through the karst aquifers of the Texas Hill Country.
To be clear, the resolution does not oppose the pipeline, but rather the route that KM has chosen. Not only are drilling businesses providing livelihoods to fellow Texans, losing millions of dollars every day that their product cannot be moved from West Texas to port, but methane and other gasses are being either leaked or flared, both of which pose a danger and a hazard to our environment.
There are, however, other pipeline highways already in existence, to which this new pipeline could be added. Some of the other routes are not very different (as little as 30 miles longer) and those pipeline highways avoid the porous limestone and aquifers of Central Texas. Furthermore, those other pipeline highways do not cut through habitat used by the GCWA and many of our local birds and other wildlife.
There is little time to act. KM has been granted eminent domain and construction is due to begin soon, reaching completion in 2020. The clear-cutting that will take place will potentially spread oak wilt, which would further damage GCWA habitat, and the 24/7 lighting and jet-engine noise of the compressors will harm both wildlife and landowners along the path. This is only one pipeline of several that could be placed along the “highway,” and these could contain other kinds of petroleum-derived products.
However, Margaret Mead’s words are still true: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” In that spirit, we encourage all of our members, fellow birders, and indeed, citizens of the Texas Hill Country, to sign the petition to protect Texas’ water and help spread the word.