Hello to all our readers and supporters of the San Antonio River Authority (River Authority) blog. The blog that was scheduled for today is going to run next week. It’s a great piece about some of our environmental monitoring taking place along the Mission Reach of the San Antonio River Walk – I encourage you to check it out next week. We’re pushing that blog into next week because I have the pleasure of providing you some exciting news related to the Westside Creeks Ecosystem Restoration Project (Westside Creeks).
Yesterday, the River Authority announced to the local media that the Westside Creeks has received the full federal share of the project funding through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act Work Plan (Work Plan). The $75 million allocated in the USACE Work Plan will fund the federal share of the remaining design and the subsequent construction of the project. This follows the June 2021 announcement where the President’s Budget included the initial tranche of Preconstruction Engineering Design funding. The USACE Work Plan, which was released January 19th, alerted the River Authority that the maximum allocation was awarded to the project. Bexar County is the local funding partner while the River Authority is the local project sponsor with the USACE. The Westside Creeks is one of six Texas projects to receive funding in the USACE Work Plan.
The Westside Creeks Project includes Alazán, Apache, Martinez, and San Pedro creeks.
I would like to thank the Fort Worth District and the Southwest Division of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for their efforts to move the Westside Creeks forward. As local project sponsor, the River Authority will continue our close work with the USACE to jointly lead the Westside Creeks through design and construction. The River Authority’s past successful collaborations with the Corps of Engineers will help ensure that the Westside Creeks will be a project, like the Mission Reach, that the entire community will be proud of, and other cities from around the nation and world will learn from as they seek to restore their urban ecosystems.
Jim Campbell, Chair of the River Authority Board of Directors said, “The River Authority has been working diligently since 2008 with our partners at Bexar County, City of San Antonio, Bexar County federal delegation, Corps of Engineers, and citizens who serve on the Westside Creeks Restoration Oversight Committee. “This is a tremendous win for the Westside Creeks, and we must thank the Administration and our federal delegation for their support which has helped secure this funding.”
The Westside Creeks will transform 11 miles of Alazán, Apache, Martinez, and San Pedro creeks by restoring the aquatic ecosystems with native grasses, wildflowers, and trees. The project will also reconstruct the creeks into more natural channels, while also maintaining the present level of flood mitigation protection. Using ecosystem restoration and recreation benefits as a foundation, the project will provide significant environmental justice and community benefits, such as improving environmental and water quality conditions in a densely populated urban area; promoting comprehensive watershed management; advancing neighborhood transportation safety; providing access to outdoor recreation activities in the Westside core; and reconnecting residents to urban creekway systems through an outdoor living classroom for students of all ages to explore and learn about a restored urban ecosystem.
The Westside Creeks Project will restore the habitat along the creeks to be more native and natural while maintaining the flood conveyance capacity of the channels.
Bexar County has been a strong local advocate for the Westside Creeks having made it their number one federal appropriations request and included the local funding match requirement in their 10-year capital improvement program. County Judge Nelson Wolff and Precinct 2 Commissioner Justin Rodriguez had numerous conversations with the Bexar County federal delegation asking for their support for project funding.
County Judge Wolff said, “The fantastic success of the Mission Reach Project showed the nation how transformational urban ecosystem restoration projects can benefit a region. With the Westside Creeks Ecosystem Restoration Project, we’re moving those environmental and recreational opportunities into the heart of the westside.”
Precinct 2 Bexar County Commissioner Justin Rodriguez added, “The Westside Creeks Ecosystem Restoration Project has been a vision of the community since 2008, and with this federal funding announcement, we now know it will undoubtedly be constructed. The historic Westside Creeks, Alazán, Apache, Martinez, and San Pedro, were the heart of the westside prior to their channelization, and now with their restoration, the community will once again have the opportunity to reconnect, recreate, and enjoy their beauty. The restoration project will serve as a catalyst for other improvements throughout the westside.”
Precinct 1 Bexar County Commissioner Rebeca Clay-Flores said, “This is much needed infrastructure that will benefit our community for generations to come. The restoration of the Westside Creeks supports and protects our prior investment in the Mission Trails as the ecosystems and recreational opportunities connect our communities.”
Trails, like this one along Apache Creek, have already been constructed and will be incorporated into the ecosystem restoration project.
The City of San Antonio has already invested in hike and bike trails along the Westside Creeks which will be incorporated into the design of the ecosystem restoration project to provide area residents a healthy habitat to enjoy while recreating on the existing trails. Mayor Nirenberg recently joined County Judge Nelson Wolff in signing a joint letter of support for the Westside Creeks as the USACE Work Plan was being developed.
Mayor Nirenberg stated, “The announcement of full federal funding for the Westside Creeks Ecosystem Restoration Project is wonderful news. Kudos to Bexar County’s federal lawmakers for their collaborative and unified support of the project. The City is committed to working with Bexar County, the San Antonio River Authority, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to complete this important ecosystem restoration project which will help advance environmental equity and justice.”
Concurring, Councilwoman Teri Castillo, District 5, added, “I am thrilled to see that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has prioritized the restoration of our Westside Creeks for Infrastructure Act funding following through on President Biden's initial budget investment for the project. As we aim to right the wrongs of the past, environmental justice must play a core role in these efforts. Our community deserves safe and healthy waterways and ecosystems, and this funding will go a long way toward this effort. Thank you so much to our Bexar County officials, the San Antonio River Authority, and our federal representatives who worked hard to make this possible.”
Councilwoman Phyllis Viagran, District 3, expressed her support by saying “I am excited to hear the USACE announcement of full federal funding for the Westside Creeks Ecosystem Restoration Project. This project will help bring balance between our environment and our San Antonio residents similar to the Mission Reach where the creeks flow into the southside. The federal delegation has been continuous advocates for this restoration, and I thank them for their diligent efforts in assisting to restore the environmental conditions in the western and southern sector of the city."
The Westside Creeks Project intended to restore the native ecosystem similar to the successful restoration work completed along the Mission Reach (as pictured here).
The Bexar County federal delegation has strongly advocated for the project given four Congressional districts will benefit from the Westside Creeks Project. As a senior member of the Committee on Appropriations, Congressman Henry Cuellar (TX-28) has been utilizing his position to help secure the funding. The other Congressmen who have been leading the charge to support the Westside Creeks include Lloyd Doggett (TX-35), the project is currently within his district, as well as Joaquin Castro (TX-20) and Tony Gonzales (TX-23), whose districts are immediately adjacent to the project area.
Congressman Doggett said, “Federal dollars for Westside Creeks Ecosystem Restoration Project mean more opportunities for Westside neighbors – trails and green spaces for exercise and family picnics, tourist dollars coming to local small businesses. These funds mean less flooding and more fun, while preserving the cultural and historic roots of the Westside.”
Congressman Castro supported the announcement by saying, "I welcome this significant federal investment in the West Side of San Antonio, a comprehensive flood control, ecosystem restoration, and recreation project – made possible by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The Westside Creeks Restoration Project will boost the quality of life for our community by transforming these historic creeks – Alazán, Apache, Martinez, and San Pedro – into recreational treasures that Westside residents deserve. I remain committed to working alongside Bexar County, the City of San Antonio, and local organizations to ensure federal resources continue to make their way to our community.”
Congressman Gonzales added his support for the USACE Work Plan by stating, “The Westside Creeks Ecosystem Restoration Project has been a long-awaited project for the city of San Antonio, with far reaching community and environmental benefits for the historic West side. For many folks in the area, this project revives the area’s storied past and deep roots. A significant investment from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will fast-track the final installments of the much-anticipated restoration.”
The native environment was removed when the creeks were channelized decades ago for flood control. The Westside Creeks Project will restore the ecosystem while maintaining important flood protections.
The Westside Creeks project is a community-based creek restoration effort started in 2008 by the River Authority. The project’s focus is to restore the creekways that were channelized as part of a 1954 federal flood control project known as the San Antonio Channel Improvement Project. To advance the project over the years since its inception, the River Authority has worked closely with Bexar County, the USACE, the City of San Antonio, and the two co-chairs, Robert Ramirez and Skye Curd, and representatives of 20 local community organizations that comprise the Westside Creeks Restoration Oversight Committee.
As a community-based project, the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, along with the other local Chambers, have been strong advocates for the project. President and CEO of the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, Richard Perez, said, “The announcement of complete funding for our Westside Creeks Ecosystem Restoration Project is wonderful news for our community. Over the past 128 years, the Chamber has facilitated public-private partnerships to ensure the strength and stability of our City’s economic success. This project has featured prominently in our SA to DC fly-ins for the last couple of trips proving that persistence and advocating directly with our federal representatives reaps real benefits for our community. Congratulations are in order for our SA to DC participants who have advocated for this project, the San Antonio River Authority, the County, the City, and all the other players who have come together with a clear voice for our region.”
There will be public meetings scheduled in the future where the community will be invited to participate in the design process of the Westside Creeks.
The next step in the process to move the Westside Creeks forward will be for the River Authority, as local sponsor of the project, to come to a contractual agreement with the USACE. It will likely take several months for the project contract to be agreed upon and signed. The design and construction timelines will be developed after the contracting work is completed. The River Authority will assist the USACE in the design and construction of the project together with local partners Bexar County and the City of San Antonio. This effort will also include the River Authority leading a series of public meetings, in collaboration with the USACE, local partners, and the Westside Creeks Oversight Committee, to engage the community in the design and construction of the project.
Stay tuned for more information by subscribing to our blog and following the River Authority on social media. We will provide new details with the public as this process unfolds in the coming months.