The Mirasol Springs resort development faces opposition from landowners and environmental activists

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Mirasol Springs, a proposed luxury eco-resort on 1,400 acres straddling Hays and Travis counties in a relatively undeveloped area off Hamilton Bull Road, has been the subject of controversy between environmentalists and neighboring landowners.

Central Texas environmental groups and concerned citizens say a Dripping Springs hotel development marketed as an eco-lodge could threaten the local ecosystem. The hotel’s developers argue that Mirasol could set a precedent for sustainable growth in the Hill Country, having set aside nearly 1,000 acres in conservation easements, as well as entering into a partnership with the University of Texas.

The project is located uphill from the 500-foot-wide Roy Creek Canyon and its springs that flow into the adjacent Pedernales River. Jason Singhurst, a botanist with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, previously said the canyon may be one of the last untouched canyons in Texas.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality will hold a hearing at 7 p.m. Monday at Dripping Springs Ranch Park for Mirasol’s Texas land application permit, which will allow subsurface irrigation. 39,000 gallons per day of treated wastewater On a 16-acre field uphill from the river and valley.

The university will operate a field station on the property, with support from A A donation of $50 million. The field station will contain research and educational laboratories dedicated to the study of biodiversity in the Hill Country. The field station will help landowners and policymakers raise awareness about how climate, species and development affect land, water and other natural resources, UT said in its announcement. Opponents of Mirasol said it was just greenwashing.

Lou Adams, who owns land in Roy Creek Canyon near Dripping Springs, is concerned about Mirasol Springs, a planned development nearby.

Lou Adams, who owns land in Roy Creek Canyon near Dripping Springs, is concerned about Mirasol Springs, a planned development nearby.

The finer details of the permits specifying the use of surface and groundwater and the construction of a wastewater field have been the subject of more than two years of talks, compromises and disputes between a group of neighbors, environmental advocates, and Mirasol’s powerful team of scientists, lawyers and experts. Public relations specialists, run by Mirasol owner Steve Wynn, the Dallas-based billionaire and founder of RealPage, a real estate and property management software company.

Opponents of the development say the proposed wastewater treatment plan could threaten the river and valley, through arteries in deep cavernous springs seeping into the Trinity Aquifer. The limestone surface in the area has a Swiss cheese-like structure whose openings allow fluids to seep into groundwater.

Mirasol will actively monitor stream, groundwater and spring flows, said Scott Dunaway, a spokesman for Mirasol, who noted that project planning was driven by the principles of prevention, detection and mitigation. Furthermore, he said the Mirasol team decided there was enough soil to absorb the wastewater contents and that the meadow would be planted with absorbent grasses to absorb any fluids.

The environmentalist, owner of the Roy Creek Canyon land, shares concerns about development

Lou Adams, owner of half of Roy Creek Canyon, a property more than 40 miles long that is bordered by Mirasol on three sides, is among the region’s most vocal landowners. He worries that phosphorus, a byproduct of wastewater treatment, could mix with runoff and seep into the valley’s turquoise springs. The resulting algae blooms can suffocate wildlife, including the rare yellow-bellied salamander that calls the springs home. The TCEQ did not include any phosphorus emission limits in the permit.

Adams fears that the area will become uninhabitable for species that have evolved and existed there for thousands of years. Texas Parks and Wildlife Indicates the destruction or degradation of habitat As the primary cause of decline or extinction of local species. Adams is also concerned that extraction of surface water and groundwater could threaten the already water-sensitive area.

The Pedernales River flows near Roy Creek Canyon and the area planned for the Mirasol Springs development.  Opponents of the project say the proposed sewage treatment plan could threaten the river.

The Pedernales River flows near Roy Creek Canyon and the area planned for the Mirasol Springs development. Opponents of the project say the proposed sewage treatment plan could threaten the river.

“What are we going to do with this place? If the creek runs dry? What’s the value then? All the cypress trees will start to diminish; this whole deciduous forest that depends on (the springs) could be in danger.” Adams said.

There are also concerns that despite mitigation attempts to reduce runoff by planting sucker weeds, the field could become saturated with waste, said Brian Zabcik, advocacy director for the Save Barton Creek Association. Zabczyk noted that there would be less concern about contaminants if the sewage field was far from bodies of water.

“The location of the field is an issue…if the (Texas land application permit) facility was farther away from Pedernales and Hamilton Pool (and Roy Creek Canyon), there would be less concern,” he said.

Robert Mace, a hydrogeologist at Texas State University, who is not affiliated with either party but familiar with the controversy, said it is difficult to prevent sewage contamination from reaching limestone, and that contamination is inherent in the developments.

“This is innovative — for a developer,” Mays said, “but concept and reality are two different things, especially in the Hill Country, with limestone.”

Mirasol describes water use plans

The Mirasol team said most of its water, about 35 million gallons a year, will come from a surface water contract issued by the Lower Colorado River Authority. Mirasol expects to extract groundwater in only a quarter of the time.

Water flows into Roy Creek Canyon near Dripping Springs.  Environmentalists and area residents fear the Mirasol Springs development project's wastewater treatment could impact water quality and wildlife in the area.

Water flows into Roy Creek Canyon near Dripping Springs. Environmentalists and area residents fear the Mirasol Springs development project’s wastewater treatment could impact water quality and wildlife in the area.

However, a clause in the drafted groundwater permit stipulates that Mirasol must commit to drought mitigation. currently, more than 88% Hays County is experiencing moderate to severe drought.

Groundwater permits require the use of approx 18.4 million gallons of groundwater Annually from the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District and 9.2 million gallons annually From the Southwest Travis County Groundwater Conservation District.

According to Charlie Flaten, general manager of the Hays-Trinity Groundwater Conservation District, the volume of groundwater required by the district would make the permit among the largest issued in Hays County, rivaled only by housing projects. Flatten said his district faced a different bid, reduced by 20% to 14.6 million gallons per year. Flaten was unable to comment on whether the recommendation would be a successful compromise between all parties involved.

If a compromise is not reached by March 7, the permit will be sent to the extrajudicial panel of the state Office of Administrative Hearings.

This article originally appeared on the Austin American-Statesman website: Landowners and activists oppose development of Mirasol Springs Resort

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