Memorandum to

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Judge John C. Doerfler

Williamson County Commissioner’s Court


Lisa Birkman

Commissioner, Pct. One


July 25, 2006


Williamson County Regional Habitat Conservation Plan; Quarterly Report to Williamson County Commissioners Court

A. Background.

In September 2003, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) awarded the Williamson County Conservation Foundation (Foundation) a $200,000.00 federal grant to develop a draft conceptual Williamson County Regional Habitat Conservation Plan (RHCP), including conducting numerous pre-permit application activities and related items. The conceptual RHCP was completed and delivered to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) and the Foundation in November 2004.

In September 2004, the USFWS awarded an approximately $1,000,000.00 federal grant to complete and process the final RHCP, Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), and section 10(a) permit application in order to effectively and efficiently implement the Foundation’s conservation actions. On November 23, 2004, the Williamson County Commissioners Court approved a Preliminary Work Plan (Work Plan) covering items necessary to complete the RHCP. The Work Plan requires quarterly reports to the Court of progress in developing and completing the RHCP.

On October 14, 2005, the Foundation issued a request for statements of qualifications/interest for purposes of retaining an environmental consultant for the RHCP. On November 9, 2005 the Foundation Board voted to recommend that the Commissioners Court hire SWCA Environmental Consultants (SWCA) to work on the RHCP, including the EIS, and on November 29, 2005 the Commissioner’s Court approved the selection of SWCA. SWCA is preparing a revised RHCP, and proceeding with numerous tasks relative to the development of the RHCP and the EIS.
This quarterly report describes the major tasks completed during the second quarter of 2006. As indicated below, significant progress has been made since the last report. For example, we have received comments on the draft RHCP from the RHCP committees, the USFWS, and consultant team members. A new draft RHCP and financial plan is being prepared and will be available for review and comment in the third quarter 2006.
B. Report.
This section provides an update of tasks that have been performed since the previous quarterly report. Next, this section sets forth a general schedule outlining upcoming tasks to develop the RHCP. All dates in this report refer to year 2006, unless otherwise indicated.

1. Progress Report/Update on Tasks Pursuant to the Work Plan.

(a) RHCP Development.

The consultant team worked intensively during the second quarter of 2006 to address comments on the RHCP and prepare a revised draft RHCP. Significant changes to the revised RHCP include new demographic data, changes to the participation process for karst species and birds, and a new financial plan. SWCA presented a report to the Foundation Board and others present at the June 14 Foundation Board meeting regarding the expected changes in the draft RHCP (February draft to July Draft). The revised draft RHCP will be delivered to the Foundation Board and committees in the third quarter 2006.

(b) Committee Process, Agency Coordination.

Citizen’s Advisory Committee. The CAC did not meet during the second quarter 2006.
Biological Advisory Team. The BAT did not meet during the second quarter 2006. On February 10, 2006, Dr. Schlitter resigned his appointment to the BAT, and on May 25, 2006, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Commission appointed Matt Wagner to serve as Chair of the BAT.

Agency Coordination. The USFWS has participated in the monthly Foundation Board meetings, in addition to their involvement with the CAC and BAT. The consultant team met with the USFWS on April 3 to discuss USFWS comments on the Preliminary Draft RHCP. On June 6, the consultant team held a conference call with USFWS to discuss proposed changes to the RHCP based on input received from the BAT, CAC, Foundation Board, and USFWS.

On May 25, the consultant team met with representatives from the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) to discuss NRCS programs available to landowners in Williamson County and how these programs could complement the RHCP.

(c) Landowner/Public Outreach.

Various items related to RHCP development can be viewed on the RHCP website (, which enables the public to review materials and obtain information to attend meetings pertaining to the RHCP. CAC, BAT, and Foundation meeting notices are also posted in accordance with requirements of the Texas Open Meetings Act so that the public is aware of these efforts and can attend meetings.

The consultant team has prepared a protocol for receiving, responding to, and keeping public comments received regarding the RHCP. This protocol is specific to those comments received outside of the "public meeting” process that will occur pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act, and is separate from comments received by members of the BAT, the CAC, and the Board. On June 1, Ms. Kathryn Heidemann contacted the Foundation requesting a copy of the Biological Opinion for the NRCS Section 7 consultation regarding brush management practices in Texas. On June 6, Commissioner Birkman responded to Ms. Heidemann and provided her a copy of the requested document. In addition to her June 1 request, Ms. Heidemann also attended the Municipal, Utility, and Transportation Providers stakeholder meeting on May 15.

Three stakeholder meetings were held on May 15 at the Williamson County Round Rock Annex. The purpose of the meetings was to provide information relating to the RHCP and to elicit feedback and suggestions from major landowners and developers, school districts, and municipal, utility, and transportation providers. A summary of stakeholder comments was prepared by Prime Strategies and provided to the Foundation Board at the June 14 meeting.

On May 16, the consultant team and members of the Foundation attended the monthly meeting of the Sun City Nature Club to give a brief presentation on the RHCP. The presentation provided an overview of the RHCP and EIS process.

At the request of members of the CAC, the consultant team has prepared a pamphlet targeted to Williamson County landowners, including basic information regarding the ESA, ESA compliance options, and the RHCP. The draft brochure has been provided to the Foundation Board for review and comment.

(d) Economic Analysis/Financing Plan.

Texas Perspectives has revised the population projections for Williamson County over the next 30 years. This information was provided to members of the consultant team for incorporation into the draft RHCP. Prime Strategies is conducting work related to the financing plan of the RHCP. The draft financial plan will be completed in the third quarter 2006.

(e) Prepare Draft EIS.

The consultant team has developed an outline of the draft EIS, and will continue to work to develop and expand this draft. A draft scoping notice has been prepared and submitted to USFWS. The notice is undergoing USFWS review at the local level, and will be submitted to the Regional Office following the local office review. Publication of the scoping notice is projected for third quarter 2006.

2. General Schedule of Major Tasks/Timeline for Continued RHCP Development.

The consultant team is targeting completing a revised draft RHCP in August that will incorporate comments of the various RHCP committees, Foundation Board members, USFWS, and the public. A public scoping meeting, required under the National Environmental Policy Act, will likely be held in late summer. A draft EIS will likely be completed late winter 2006 or first quarter 2007, the Final EIS will likely be issued second quarter 2007, and a Record of Decision will likely be issued in the second quarter 2007.

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