GUADALUPE COUNTY, Texas – Construction of the Vista Ridge pipeline, a pipeline that will bring water to San Antonio from Burleson County, has been underway for nearly a year.
The ambitious project, which spans 142 miles, is past its toughest stretch, with all rights of way secured. More than 500 tracts of land were secured to create the pipeline’s path.
With so much land to cover, most of the negotiations, according to those with the project, have gone remarkably smooth.
But one group of residents in Guadalupe County has taken issue with the pipeline’s impact.
"It was just devastating to see it,” explained Teri Bolin, a Guadalupe County landowner. "With the wildlife that we have out here … I mean, the deer were out here roaming around. They were even shocked."
Bolin had never heard of the Vista Ridge pipeline before heavy machinery showed up in front of her home a few weeks ago. Trees, some a century old, according to Bolin, were removed.
"My first thought, actually, was of shock. I looked at (the construction worker) and go, ‘Were you going to tell us this was happening?'" Bolin said.
Land of disruption
The land in front of Bolin’s home is an easement belonging to another landowner, who sold to the Vista Ridge project. Bolin’s land also backs up to the Guadalupe River. She owns a cabin that is used as a seasonal rental. Recent patrons had to be warned of construction noise and loss of scenery.
"We advertise as this peaceful, serene property where they can come back," Bolin said.
"It’s shutting us down for a month and a half at least,” Shane Carter, Bolin’s neighbor, said.
Carter’s situation is similar, as he rents out his location and has a recreational area by the river. The pipeline will wrap around his property and travel under the Guadalupe River nearby.
A large crane can be seen across the river and according to Carter. It has been operating almost nonstop.
Carter, however, said he can overlook the financial impact. It is the loss of habitat that is his biggest concern.
"There were some big pecans that were back here, probably a hundred years-plus,” said Carter. “You couldn't fit your arms around half of them."
Giving landowners their say
For Vista Ridge’s part, the project’s overall environmental plan mitigates loss of habitat and avoiding many of the trees was the original plan, organizers say.
"Our proposed route took very few trees and didn't affect the neighbors like it has in the end, but that's not where the neighbor wanted to line," Mark Rose, of the Central Texas Regional Water Supply Company, who is overseeing the project, said.
Rose said it is necessary to give the landowners, who sold to the project, the final say.
In other words, for Bolin and Carter, it was their neighbor who preferred that pipeline run close to their properties and through an area of trees.
So while the trees have come down, Rose said they have tried to schedule construction around Bolin and Carter’s rental business, a gesture both have acknowledged.
Also of importance: Due to the unusual layout of the properties, access is being ensured for all the property owners along that stretch of the river.
Still frustrations continue to run high, as Bolin and Carter feel they are seeing the side effects of a pipeline that will not even benefit them.
But that frustration may now lie with the neighbor instead of those working on the project. Rose said grass will top the pipeline once it is complete.
Trees, however, will not be replanted.
The Vista Ridge pipeline is set to deliver water to San Antonio in 2020.