SA neighborhood upset about losing heritage trees to new SAWS sewage line

Residents unaware huge trees would be cut; SAWS says plan has been in place

By Courtney Friedman - VJ, Reporter

SAN ANTONIO - The history of an East Side neighborhood is taking a hit so the neighborhood can get a desperately needed sewer system.

The heritage trees, which residents say have been around for centuries, are being chopped down.

Homeowners in the area are furious and said they didn't know the trees would be involved. But San Antonio Water System said this was part of the plan all along.

"Our family's been here for over 160 years," said resident Catherine Ladd.

"I am the sixth generation down here on Salado Creek," said resident Thurman Sargent.

The neighborhood off Holbrook and Rittiman roads is full of history, and it's now having to make way for modern causes.

Because the sewage lines in the area are far too small and often cause big sewage leaks, SAWS has started a project, required by the Environment Protection Agency, to replace them with much bigger sewage lines.

"It's got a fantastic objective. We were never against that, but when they're removing these trees that are hundreds of years old, it gets us. Now we can't stop it. They're coming down now as we speak," Sargent said.

Residents said that, in two meetings about the project, the contractor told them the heritage trees would not be touched.

"You never know which part of the neighborhood you're getting at what meeting. Unfortunately there may have been miscommunication about which trees would be affected," said Anne Hayden with SAWS.

Hayden said the multimillion-dollar plan has been in place for years and part of the cost has gone to maneuvering around and below the heritage trees.

"We're running that really careful balancing point between being as cost-effective as possible for our customers and for the city and trying to be minimally invasive to what's happening around it," Hayden said.

Hayden also said it's inevitable that up to 10 heritage trees will be cut down.

Still, SAWS is pausing the project for now.

"We're touching base with the city to just make sure we're all on the same page," Hayden said.

The new sewer line will run from the far northeast side all the way down the East Side past Fort Sam Houston toward the treatment plant in Dos Rios. It will total 1,000 linear feet of tunnel.

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