House Representative

Dale, Tony

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 07/12/2013

Rep.Tony Dale Asks for Reconsideration of Designation of Critical Habitat Units in Williamson County

AUSTIN -- State Representative Tony Dale (Cedar Park) wrote to Dan Ashe, the Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) requesting the Williamson County portion of the range of the Jolleyville Plateau Salamander (JPS) be removed from consideration for listing and or critical habitat designation.

The letter argues, “the circumstances and trends for these salamanders is significantly different than those in Travis County on which your staff based its listing analysis. These differences include different geomorphology in the Northern Edwards Aquifer that all but eliminates concerns regarding maintenance of water quantity; the layers of existing water quality protections in Williamson County; and issues of your staff related to trends toward significantly increasing spring site disturbances.”

Six of the thirty-two proposed critical habitat units for the JPS are located in Williamson County. The letter goes on to describe and discuss each of the proposed critical habitat units and address the trends of the three purported threats- water quality, quantity and disturbance within each unit.

The listing of the Jolleyville Plateau Salamander and critical habitat designation could hinder job growth and economic development in Williamson County. Representative Dale has been working with the Williamson County Conservation Foundation on this issue and has been involved with them since 2005. The full text of the letter is included on the next page.

Dale was elected to the Texas House in November 2012. He is a small business owner and veteran of the U.S. Army who previously served on the Cedar Park City Council. He represents western Williamson County, including the communities of Cedar Park, Leander and Brushy Creek, as well as parts of north Austin.



July 9, 2013

The Honorable Dan Ashe
Director, U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Main Interior
1849C Street NW, Room 3331
Washington, DC 20240-0001


Dear Director Ashe:

Thank you for your personal attention to the issue of the four neotenic salamanders that your agency is considering for listing in central Texas, and for your willingness to meet with Williamson County and representatives of our communities on May 16th. The area under consideration includes my District as a member of the Texas Legislature. I represent Williamson County in the Texas House of Representatives.

I understand that in the several hours you spent here with Dr. Benjamin Tuggle, you received explanations from experienced local experts, perhaps for the first time, as to why the circumstances and trends for these salamanders is significantly different than those in Travis County on which your staff based its listing analysis. These differences include different geomorphology in the Northern Edwards Aquifer that all but eliminates concerns regarding maintenance of water quantity; the layers of existing water quality protections in Williamson County; and issues of your staff related to trends toward significantly increasing spring site disturbances. Those points were summarized briefly in the May 24, 2013 letter to you from our Williamson County Conservation Foundation.

I agree in general with the information our local folks provided to you, and the purpose of my letter is to ask your consideration on those three issues specifically for the Jolleyville Plateau Salamander (JPS) in Williamson county, and I hope that in so doing, you will see that the analyses of USFWS staff are flawed in concluding that trends seen for water quality, quantity, and future disturbance of spring locations in Travis County will replicate for the Williamson County range and will therefore endanger that animal in our portion of its local range.

There is no new information in my letter and in fact most all of what is included is information from the Federal Register (V77, No. 163 pp 50838 – 50843) listing proposal and the Critical Habitat Analysis; or was in comments to one or the other of those documents, but was mis-interpreted or misrepresented in those Service documents and as a result has led to a proposal whose need is not supported by best available commercial science and not demonstrated in our portion of the JPS range.

In the Federal Register/Vol. 77, No. 163, August 22, 2012, at 50838 the Service showed thirty-two (32) proposed critical habitat units (CHU) for the JPS. There are only six of those located in Williamson County for the JPS and it is the specific circumstances of these six that were pointed out to the Service in prior comment periods that I wish to draw your attention to in this letter. Understanding the relationships and specifics of each CHU were important in determining best management practices to address the trends of the three purported ‘threats’ – water quality, quantity and disturbance.

Let me walk you through these six again, as my staff has done for me to refresh your memory.

CHU 1 is known locally as Kreinke or Tonkawa Springs (Figure 2) and it is located in a neighborhood that was fully built out about four decades ago. Earliest museum specimens (1950’s) of JPS in our area were collected in this spring, discharging from a bluff on top of which sits a home, in creek impoundments with native, predatory fish. Reported destroyed by quarrying in the 1980’s (which erroneous destruction was cited in USFWS documents). No new water quality, water quantity, or disturbance regulations can be retroactively applied to this existing community. These salamanders have coexisted in their present circumstanced for more than perhaps six decades. Given these circumstances, no protection will be gained by the species by declaring this a CHU unit, or by declaring these JPS salamanders endangered in Williamson County.

CHU 2 is known as the Brushy Creek Spring (Figure 3). Similarly, CHU 2 is located off the main channel of Brushy Creek, in the backyard of a home in a neighborhood that is similarly fully built out with homes, highways, apartments, shopping centers already within the CHU surface and subsurface boundaries. No new water quality, water quantity, or disturbance regulations can be retroactively applied to this existing community. Given these circumstances, no protection will be gained by the species by declaring this a CHU unit, or by declaring these JPS salamanders endangered in Williamson County.

CHU 3 is located outside of Williamson County but is already located in a BCCP Sec. 10a karst faunal preserve – Testudo Tube Preserve.

CHU 4 and 5 are known, respectively, as the Buttercup Creek Cave and Treehouse Cave units (Figure 4). CHU 4 is shown with four surface CHUs designated, and one irregular sub-surface containing them all. The four surface CHUs are entirely contained within the boundaries of an existing (since 1997) Section 10a karst faunal preserve. The irregular sub-surface CHU is located solely under acreage that is fully developed and built-out beginning in 1997, including higher intensity residential, drainage infrastructure, streets, utilities and school land uses. The same situation exists for CHU 5. Both of these CHUs are situated atop a shallow perched aquifer with an impervious layer below it and separating their recharge hydrology from the waters of the Northern Edwards aquifer. Surface water flows into these locations from fully developed areas. Groundwater flows into the perched aquifer from the northeast, from under fully developed areas. This is fully documented in a very comprehensive study of the area hydromorphology complete with dye tracing studies and completed prior to the issuance of the Buttercup Creek Sec 10a permit – a permit and HCP cited for its excellence in your own Quarterly Endangered Species Digest. The local USFWS office has a copy of it in their administrative records but apparently noone referred to it in assembling the Service listing proposal. No new water quality, water quantity, or disturbance regulations can be retroactively applied to this existing community. Given these circumstances, no protection will be gained by the species by declaring this a CHU unit, or by declaring these JPS salamanders endangered in Williamson County.

CHU 6 is known locally as Avery Deer Spring (Figure 5). Three surface CHUs proposed. One encompassing sub-surface CHU. Similarly, CHU 6 is made up of three spring locations, located off the main channels of three ephemeral Brushy Creek tributaries, off the backyard of homes, in preserved drainage easements already dedicated to the City of Cedar Park in perpetuity, in a golf course and neighborhood that is similarly fully built out with drainage infrastructure, homes, roads, golf course, already within the CHU surface and subsurface boundaries. No new water quality, water quantity, or disturbance regulations can be retroactively applied to this existing community. Given these circumstances, no protection will be gained by the species by declaring this a CHU unit, or by declaring these JPS salamanders endangered in Williamson County.

CHU 7 is known locally as Interstate Highway 45 (Figure 6). You saw the photos of this amazing ‘critical area’ on May 16. The JPS salamanders here existed and have been studied since the early 90’s and before, and were ‘disturbed’ by the construction, right over the top of them, of a nine lane, interstate highway with three feeder lanes on each side of it including drainage headwalls, ditches, culverts and massive amounts of earthwork. Not only are the salamanders there, they have thrived since, perhaps because of, construction. Pointedly, the Edwards Aquifer Rules that your staff has said to be inadequate to protect these animals applied to, and were incorporated into, this highway department construction project. The proposed surface CHU is entirely underneath the highway main lane overpasses. No new water quality, water quantity, or disturbance regulations can be retroactively applied to this existing community. Given these circumstances, no protection will be gained by the species by declaring this a CHU unit, or by declaring these JPS salamanders endangered in Williamson County.

That is the entirety of the locations of the JPS salamander in Williamson County, all six of them. My point here, Director Ashe, is that the six locations above are not in pristine, possibly vulnerable, undisturbed, largely un-impacted areas of the County threatened with imminent development. And, I have heard that Service personnel have repeatedly stated that they do not know what may, or may not, impact these animals, but despite that, they still plow ahead on assumptions alone.

In the specific case of these JPS sites in Williamson County, 100% of them are either already in Sec 10a preserved areas, already in dedicated and preserved drainage easement areas, in the private yards of existing homeowners, or already under an interstate highway. Already in areas where the water quality rules are in place. They are in areas that are either already protected or already fully developed, or already in the regulatory hands of a subdivision of the State – in this case the City of Cedar Park - to look after them.

The Endangered Species Act, as you of course are aware, provides that the Service may list a species as endangered or threatened ‘…in all or a portion of its range.’ I ask you to consider carefully the specifics for the portion of the range of JPS that is in Williamson County, and consider what the animals in these six specific fully-developed circumstances will gain by listing them as endangered or threatened or by declaring these six specific areas in this county as ‘critical habitat.’

Please consider deleting the Williamson County portion of the range of the Jolleyville Plateau Salamander from consideration for listing and or critical habitat designation. The ramifications are decidedly adverse to the County and its citizens in exchange for nothing beneficial to the salamanders at these six specific locations.

Thank you again for your attention to this very important issue for my District, and for your time.

Sincerely,




Tony Dale
State Representative
House District 136