Edwards Aquifer Habitat Conservation Plan (EAHCP)
What is the EAHCP?
The Edwards Aquifer Habitat Conservation Plan (EAHCP) is a cooperative effort to protect groundwater resources of the southern portion of the Edwards Aquifer both for people in the region and the endangered species that inhabit the aquifer. This effort began when regional stakeholders and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) initiated the Edwards Aquifer Recovery Implementation Plan (EARIP) in 2006. The Texas Legislature mandated participation in the process by the Edwards Aquifer Authority, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Texas Department of Agriculture, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, and Texas Water Development Board. The EARIP process led to the creation of the planning group known as the Edwards Aquifer Recovery Implementation Program Habitat Conservation Plan, which has now transitioned to the implementation group known as the Edwards Aquifer Habitat Conservation Plan, or EAHCP. The EAHCP was completed in November 2012 and led to the approval of an Incidental Take Permit (ITP) under the Endangered Species Act issued by the USFWS in February March 2013.
The Permittees under the EAHCP are the City of New Braunfels, the City of San Antonio (acting by and through the San Antonio Water System), the City of San Marcos, Edwards Aquifer Authority, and Texas State University. Issuance of the ITP was a significant milestone to balance both the human and species needs of the Edwards Aquifer.
EAHCP in New Braunfels
The Comal Springs are the largest springs in the southwestern United States and are fed by groundwater issuing from the Edwards Aquifer. The Comal ecosystem is home to rare and endangered aquatic species found nowhere else on Earth. These species include the Fountain Darter (Etheostoma fonticola), Comal Springs Dryopid Beetle (Stygoparnus comalensis), Comal Springs Riffle Beetle (Heterelmis comalensis), and Peck's Cave Amphipod (Stygobromus pecki). The EAHCP includes specific projects to be implemented in New Braunfels to protect these endangered aquatic species that live in the Comal River system. General information regarding the EAHCP can be found at the Edwards Aquifer Authority website. Annual reports for the EAHCP can be accessed via the Edwards Aquifer Authority document archive. The 2019 EAHCP Annual Report also has an Interactive Story Map that can visually guide you through different aspects of the EAHCP program. Individual EACHP projects occurring in New Braunfels are listed below.
Old Channel Restoration
The Old Channel Restoration project involved the restoration of portions of the Old Channel of the Comal River to expand and optimize available habitat for the endangered fountain darter. Restoration efforts in the Old Channel included the removal of a large sediment island, removal of non-native, invasive aquatic plant species, and planting of native aquatic plants preferred by the fountain darter.
Flow Split Management
The goal of the Flow-Split Management project is to control water flow from Landa Lake into the Old Channel of the Comal River
to prevent channel scouring associated with high-flow events. The project is also intended to allow additional flow to the Old
Channel during drought conditions. A flow control gate was installed in 2014 allowing City staff to manipulate flow into the Old
Aquatic Vegetation Restoration
Restoration of native aquatic vegetation within the Comal River system has been occurring since 2013. Restoration efforts involve removal of invasive vegetation and replacement with native vegetation, such as Ludwigia and Cabomba, desired by the endangered fountain darter. Aquatic vegetation restoration activities are being conducted in select locations of the Comal River system which include Landa Lake and the Old Channel of the Comal River.
Native Riparian Habitat Restoration
The EAHCP includes measures to improve the riparian zone along the Old Channel of the Comal River, Golf Course, and in the vicinity of Clemens Dam. In 2016, the City completed a project to stabilize a large, eroding cut-bank along the Old Channel of the Comal River near the Landa Park Golf Course Pro Shop. Stream zone plant restoration efforts will be continued through 2027.
Non-Native Animal Species Control
The City of New Braunfels has implemented a program to reduce the density of non-native animal species to minimize their impact to the Comal River ecosystem. The program targets non-native species which include the vermiculated sailfin armored catfish (Pterygoplichthys disjunctivus), species within the Loricariidae family, tilapia (Oreochromis aureus), and nutria (Myocastor coypus). These non-native species are believed to compete for resources (e.g., habitat and food) with the endangered species living in the Comal River ecosystem.
Follow this link for information on how you can help to control the release of non-native, invasive species into our waterways.
Armored Catfish, Photo Courtesy of TPWD, 2005 Tilapia, Photo Courtesy of USGS (Jelks, 2013) Photo Courtesy TPWD, 2005
Decaying Vegetation Removal & Dissolved Oxygen Management
The EACHP includes a program to monitor dissolved oxygen (DO) and other water quality parameters in Landa Lake on a near-continuous basis. Artificial aerators where installed in Landa Lake in 2013 to supplement DO in Landa Lake when levels fall below certain minimum thresholds required to support endangered species. Additional DO research is also occurring in Landa Lake to determine trends and optimal concentration required to support endangered species.
Riparian Zone Restoration for Riffle Beetles
The City of New Braunfels implements a program to restore and improve riparian areas along Spring Run 3 and the western shoreline of Landa Lake to ultimately benefit the Comal Springs Riffle Beetle. Restoration efforts include establishing native riparian plant species that minimize erosion, prevent sedimentation, and establish root systems that stabilize the streambank and maximize Riffle Beetle habitat.
Gill Parasite Control
The City of New Braunfels oversees efforts to monitor and reduce an Asian trematode, Centrocestus formosanus, and its intermediate host Meladoides tuberculatus, which is a non-native snail found in the Comal River system. Centrocestus formosanus is a parasite that attaches to the gills of the endangered Fountain Darter.
Household Hazardous Waste Program
The EACHP provides funding to support the Household Hazardous Waste program implemented by the City of New Braunfels' Solid Waste division. Visit the Solid Waste and Recycling Division website for information about the next Household Hazardous Waste Drop-off event.
Litter Control and Floating Vegetation Management
The EAHCP supports a program to remove litter and dislodge floating vegetation mats from Landa Lake and portions of the Comal River where covered endangered species habitat is present. Litter collection efforts have occurred since 2013 and consist of litter removal from the surface of Landa Lake and the Spring Runs. Litter collection efforts also include removal of litter from the bottom of Landa Lake and portions of the Comal River utilizing SCUBA.
Golf Course Management Planning
The City of New Braunfels implements a Golf Course Management Plan that includes an Integrated Pest Management Plan (IPMP) designed to target techniques used to protect water quality and minimize potential negative effects to endangered species.
Low Impact Development/ Water Quality Protection
Water pollution associated with stormwater runoff has the potential to negatively effect the endangered species in the Comal River ecosystem, especially during periods of low-flow. The City will working to develop programs to incentivize the installation of low impact development (LID) best management practices (BMPs) that will maintain good water quality in the Comal River system. LID measures include reduction of impervious cover, installation of rainwater harvesting systems, and installation of other BMPs designed to control stormwater runoff and pollutants.
Daily Springflow & Aquifer Conditions