Friday, June 6, 2014

The north Clear Lake wetlands

Last August when I was researching for this post which describes the HEB (originally postulated as a Central Market) to be built in north Clear Lake, I noticed something mighty peculiar.
August 2013 screengrab from Googlemaps, which I retained because I knew I'd need it one day:  Someone had drawn a very large line in the not-so-sandy sand:  Six wetland areas defined on Googlemaps.  Named.  Designated.  And with obvious intelligence, foresight, and purpose - someone knew what they were doing here.  
Googlemaps is participatory - anyone can upload any tagging information that they want, and unless it is inappropriate or challenged by others, it seems to persist.  But that fact alone doesn't necessarily make it easy to track the backstory or the instigators in a case like this, so I just left this issue alone figuring that the makers would make themselves apparent sooner or later.
I figured it might be someone connected to the existing developments, because additional wetland set-asides are evident within the older neighborhoods just south of the undeveloped area shown above.

Screengrabbed from Googlemaps.  
June 6 2014 screengrab from Googlemaps:  Hmmmm, isn't that curious??  Compare with the first screengrab shown above, the one I retained from August 2013.  Someone appears to have gone into Google and deleted the labels for the Northfork Wetlands, Clear Lake City Wetlands, and Middlebrook Wetlands.  
And so it has come to pass that the group with particular focus in this area has manifested.   Galveston County Daily News (paywalled) reports that the local special interest group Galveston Baykeeper has sued Trendmaker Homes in federal court to challenge wetlands designations in the area, with the apparent goal of restricting development (or perhaps compelling mitigation... I haven't read the full GCDN article yet because my subscription discontinued due to an online glitch).
You'll notice that they use the phrase "significant nexus" in that last line.  Ordinarily that might mean pretty much everything from a regulatory standpoint, but we are not currently living in strictly ordinary times as the following Wikipedia grab suggests.

Screengrabbed from the Galveston Baykeeper website.  
A discussion of the particulars is way, waaay beyond the scope of this blog (some would argue that it's so complicated that it's beyond the scope of any blog).  Suffice it to say that both the regulatory and the biological issues are not clear and not necessarily as settled as some might claim or hope.

Screengrabbed from Wikipedia.  
It turns out that FOX Houston had covered the beginnings of this story back in January of this year, but I don't read every single news outlet every day, and so it's easy to miss stuff like that.  As I have complained bitterly before, the League City - Friendswood - Clear Lake area with its combined population of about a quarter of a million people doesn't have its own newspaper.  At this point, we don't even have a viable blogosphere.  Mostly what we've got is a hodge-podge of about a half dozen unrelated regional commercial news outlets, none of which are particularly invested in Clear Lake (or if they are, they're not well-funded), and which may or may not cover any given issue in a systematic or predictable manner.  For crying out loud, murders happen in Clear Lake and don't even get reported because of the abysmal news coverage that characterizes our area.  

I'm digressing obviously, but the current bottom line on this court case is that it will be interesting to watch what happens here.  I myself wouldn't count any given outcome as a done deal just yet.

In this September 2013 post, I joked about owning a piece of "the original" Space Center Blvd. extension above CLC Blvd.  A $2 million grade-related construction mistake forced the developers to rip out a large section of the original paving because it was built at too low an elevation.  Many of us who lived in north Clear Lake at the time took full recreational advantage of the fact that the right of way lay abandoned for months and months, making it wonderful for biking, hiking, sports, etc.  I remember quite clearly the construction area being peppered with wetland delineation signs on either side of the faulty right-of-way.  Those signs suggested that at least some of the wetlands in that area are, in fact, jurisdictional, but I don't have any information on the extent of it.

DISCLAIMER:  As usual, this blog presents personal observations and editorializing only.  I have no personal or professional connections to either of the parties named in the litigation referenced above.  Neither am I a wetlands expert - and I wouldn't want to be, because that area of regulatory administration is too complicated, too mercurial, and too intensely politicized for my taste.  I just know from casual reading that it is unsettled and constantly evolving. 

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