By KIM ESTES, Four Points News
The Four Points Traffic Committee continues to work toward building a “Road to Vandegrift” and negotiations continue on the matter between Leander ISD and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services regarding mitigation for endangered species.
Pam Waggoner, Four Points Traffic Committee founder and LISD board of trustee president, said LISD will notify community residents when the public comment period opens regarding construction of a second road to Vandegrift High School and Four Points Middle School.
As for a timetable, “the best I got was this year,” Waggoner said. “Public interest will be absolutely necessary to progress the plan.”
The traffic committee and LISD are working together to seek an additional roadway to VHS and FPMS, as there is now only one access road to and from the campuses. The proposed road would be built along an existing infrastructure corridor that borders the Canyonlands and it would sit on a portion of the Balcones Canyonlands Conservation Plan.
USFWS is involved because the vicinity is occupied by certain species listed as threatened or endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act, according to Alan Glen, an environmental law attorney retained by LISD.
As reported last fall, pursuant to the road construction project, LISD filed a draft Habitat Conservation Plan with USFWS as the first step in a lengthy process towards obtaining an Endangered Species Act permit. The plan proposed to provide mitigation for potential impacts to endangered species.
Waggoner reported that initial feedback from USFWS was received on January 7. She said, “Some of the questions are for clarification only and some deal with our plan for mitigation for endangered species that have been added to the list since the initial mitigation years ago.”
Of the plan’s current status, Waggoner said, “We’re talking back and forth. It’s a negotiation of who is responsible for what. Other than that, I don’t really have anything to report.”
Glen said, “We are still at an early stage of the process.”
If and when LISD and USFWS agree on a plan, the next step is to file for an Incidental Take Permit, which will trigger a public notice to allow for a 60 to 90-day public comment period. It is predicted that will happen in the spring.
Glen previously said, “I know everybody wants a solution but it does take time and it is complicated.”
In the meantime, Waggoner continues to further the cause. She had an opportunity to speak with the new Austin mayor, Stephen Adler, in late February.
“He is aware of our request to “Build the Road” and says this conversation is going to happen soon. Having a conversation is always a good way to promote the true facts and ideas from the people involved and to understand any and all objections,” Waggoner said. “I welcome the progress.”