Council Cleans the Pool Day 2011

Council Cleans the Pool Day 2011 was a huge success thanks to all of our volunteers, the E corp from American Youthworks, our sponsors, city staff and city councilmembers!  We had over 90 volunteers sign in for a total of over 300 hours of pool cleaning bliss.  Many, many volunteers stayed for 4, 6 and even 8 hour shifts!  Fully motivated with lots of coffee and breakfast tacos, it was definitely the most successful morning we have every seen on the Zen-pushbrooming conga line.  We swept through six full passes before noon and the pool shallow end was so clean, I was worried we might not have anything left for all the afternoon volunteers to do!  Few from the morning crew wanted to return to their real jobs as they were so impressed with the immediate sparkling impact they could see from the work they had already done in the morning.

Alas, a slight breeze picked up around lunchtime, breaking away masses of algae from other areas of the pool and threatened to spoil the fruits of our morning’s labours.  And then the afternoon algae calvary arrived, fueled by pizza, lots and lots of pizza.  The algae, of course, didn’t stand a chance.
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President’s Report

Council reaffirms Master Plan

by Robin Cravey

Master Plan session, 2007

The City Council reaffirmed it support of the Barton Springs Master Plan at their August 25th meeting.  The vote was unanimous.  And Mayor Lee Leffingwell made a strong statement that the short-term projects in the plan should move forward without further delay.  Right on!

I mean really, what is a plan for?  Some people think a plan is a substitute for actually working, a way to keep people talking until they run out of energy.  Some think it is a beautiful work of art that should be given a prominent place on a coffee table or a line in a resumé.  I don’t.  I think a plan is blueprint for action.

When the board members of Friends of Barton Springs Pool made the rounds of council offices in 2006, we wanted something done.  We were asking the council to end the long-shameful neglect of the pool, take care of the long-deferred maintenance, and perform the upgrades that the pool so clearly needed to meet the ever-increasing demand on facilities.

We had a list of projects that we considered important.  We came up with this list of projects by talking with a lot of swimmers and staffers.  We didn’t expect to get all of these projects done immediately, but we wanted some done in short order.
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City of Austin Seeks New Permit for Salamanders at Barton Springs Pool

The City of Austin must have an approved permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) in order to operate and use Barton Springs Pool. The permit was first issued in 1998 for a fifteen year term, after the FWS listed the Barton Springs Salamander as an endangered species. The permit allows for the “incidental take” of salamanders, meaning some minor or incidental harassment, threat, or loss to these spring dwelling amphibians can occur. The permit specifies allowable pool operations, maintenance, cleaning, and water management – ensuring all practices can minimize or eliminate threats.

The permit expires in 2013 and the city is seeking a replacement permit of twenty years duration that will also addresses the likely listing of the Austin Blind Salamander. In the permitting process, the City seeks input from the public on any permit changes, concerns, or other issues that are important and germane. Already, the Friends of Barton Springs Pool have offered testimony at briefings discussed before the Austin Environmental Board and Parks/Recreation Board. The city expects to have a public input meeting and open house at the pool in October, 2011.

The special conditions and requirements and prohibitions in the permit are very significant, in that the permit controls and restricts pool cleaning and maintenance techniques that are allowable in or near salamander habitat. In addition to day-to-day routines, short and long term projects for repair and restoration near salamander habitat are identified in the Barton Springs Pool Master Plan. The Friends are discussing these issues with the City staff, seeking a future permit that offers the flexibility to allow for effective pool cleaning and to avoid conflicts with the upcoming Master Plan projects. For example, the plan identifies restoration activities for Eliza Springs, Sunken Gardens, and their spring outlets flowing into Barton Creek. The Friends trust that the City and FWS can establish conditions and procedures that protect and enhance the salamander habitat, promote their populations, and yet still allow for continued use of the pool by the recreating public.

Please join us to participate in this comment period. Provide your thoughts. Attend the open house. Read more information that the Watershed Protection Department has posted at the following link:

www.cityofaustin.org/watershed/salamander_guidelines

By Tom Weber
Advocacy Director, FBSP