Nonprofit offers $823K grant to change Wimberley wastewater project

A nonprofit organization’s attempt to revive plans for a city-owned wastewater facility in Wimberley could hang on a proposed $823,000 grant. 

Friends of Blue Hole (FoBH), a nonprofit organization created to protect the Blue Hole Regional Park, is offering more than $800,000 to Wimberley city officials in hopes of saving plans for a city-owned plant. FoBH officials hope the proposed donation is enough to persuade city leaders to forgo plans for a wastewater facility operated by Aqua Texas, a third-party provider.

Current plans for the Aqua-Texas owned plant don’t include irrigation to Blue Hole park, which is needed to water the soccer fields and surrounding landscape. The city-owned facility, as outlined in the Blue Hole Master Plan, included the irrigation for the park. That plan, however, was scrapped by city officials in late 2018.

“We had this money saved to plant grass and trees around the park, but without the water to irrigate the park, we couldn’t achieve that goal anyway,” said Andrew Weber, FoBH chairman. “We need that water for Blue Hole, so we are ready to give the city that money if they see the original plan out.”

In April, Texas Water Development Board officials voted to approve the change of scope of the wastewater project with some caveats. This includes a thorough environmental assessment of the connection to Aqua Texas and the implementation of an ad valorem, or property, tax to pay for bonds the agency would give to Wimberley.

For the FoBH, the TWDB’s decision keeps the city-owned project alive for now.

“It isn’t too late, and if we get a new council (in May) the outcome may change,” Weber said. “Maybe it’s an argument only a lawyer can love, but right now, the current status of the city wastewater project is that the original plan is still the plan.”

FoBH’s offer is the latest chapter in the fluctuating flow of funding for Wimberley’s wastewater system upgrades. 

On April 21, Wimberley city leaders voted to return approximately $645,400 of an $822,452 Economic Development Administration (EDA) grant. Wimberley officials plans to keep roughly $177,000 of the EDA grant to pay for the Aqua Texas connection.

Wimberley also lost a $1 million grant from local resident Peter Way when city leaders opted to go with an Aqua Texas owned plant.

If the city opts to bring back plans for a city-owned plant, nearly $2 million in funding could return.

FoBH officials hope their $823,000 gift could be enough to save the city-owned wastewater plant.

The organization has concerns surrounding the Aqua Texas-owned facility, primarily the proposed boring for a wastewater pipe under Cypress Creek.

The pipe would transport raw sewage under the creek to Aqua Texas for treatment. Weber said the proposed pipe under Cypress Creek is “very troubling.”

FoBH worries also extend to the recent de-annexation of Sabino Ranch, which could allow for development in areas near Blue Hole Park.

“The city may not have robust development ordinances like Austin, but it has more authority than the county,” Weber said. “Now we are faced with the fear of development that could change the use and feel of Blue Hole.”

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