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First meeting of Biological Advisory Team for Habitat Conservation Plan Meets
By Monika Maeckle on June 12, 2015
The first meeting of the Biological Advisory Team, a group of five biologists invited to assist CPS Energy and its Citizen’s Advisory Committee on the utility’s Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) met this week. The meeting entailed an overview of the process that will create a plan to accommodate endangered species while also meeting the community’s growing demand for power over the next 30 years.
CPS Energy is developing the plan because after substantial delays on a previous project, the utility determined the most efficient and responsible approach to growth while respecting the environment and endangered species would be to develop a habitat conservation plan. In February, the first meeting of the Habitat Conservation Plan Citizen’s Advisory Committee (HCPCAC) met; that group, along with CPS Energy and Texas Parks and Wildlife, appointed the five-person Biological Advisory Team (BAT).
The newly appointed BAT gathered at the San Antonio offices of SWCA Environmental Consultants with a group of CPS Energy staff and SWCA staff.
“Nothing is etched in stone,” said Amanda Aurora, an endangered species expert and one of several representatives of SWCA Environmental Consultants, a 30-year-old Phoenix-based consulting firm thatspecializes in such issues and has offices in San Antonio and Austin. SWCA has been contracted to oversee development of the complex, multi-year project.
The committee heard about the basics of open meetings act requirements and guidelines, then received an Endangered Species 101 tutorial from Aurora. The agenda also included discussion of the committee’s charge which is to advise CPS Energy in developing mitigation and management practices for the HCP. No actions were taken.
The five-member BAT includes;
Mike Duran, State Vertebrate Biologist for the Nature Conservancy of Texas (specializing in faunal inventory and monitoring, species conservation status assessments, GIS-based habitat modeling, and the spot-tailed earless lizard)
Ben Hutchins, Invertebrate Biologist for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (specializing in karst invertebrates and karst ecosystems)
Dr. Richard Kostecke, Associate Director of Conservation for the Nature Conservancy of Texas (specializing in conservation planning and avian biology)
Meredith Longoria, Conservation Initiatives Specialist for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (specializing in coordinating, planning, and managing conservation agreements)
Dr. Kelly Lyons, Associate Professor of Biology at Trinity University (specializing in plant physiology and ecology)
The meeting is the first of at least four for the BAT, which will take place as CPS Energy develops the HCP and accepts input from the community.
Together, the CACHCP, the BAT, the consulting team and CPS Energy staff will assemble a draft of a plan that will propose ways the utility can accommodate endangered species in the service territory while providing electricity and gas service to San Antonio’s growing community. A first draft of the plan is expected to be ready later this summer.
“We look forward to hearing from the CAC and the biological team to develop an appropriate plan that works well for endangered species, the environment and the community,” said Kim Stoker, CPS Energy Director of Environmental & Sustainability.Another meeting of the BAT will take place following the development of the first draft of the plan later this year.