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In the News: News from October 2013

Flood threat, CAPCOG training prompt KXAN story

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Austin-area KXAN meteorologist and reporter David Yeomans (left, white shirt), interviews Jim Barho of Burnet County's Office of Emergency Management.

As area and statewide experts convened in Austin for CAPCOG's Oct. 30, 2013, training, Disaster Debris Management 101: Tools for Local and Regional Governments, NBC affiliate KXAN-TV dropped by for a timely story on reducing the impact of floods. 

Meterologists warned of heavy rains and potential flooding in Central Texas - including Austin - on Oct. 30. CAPCOG's training - focused on planning, protecting public health and natural resources and ensuring disaster debris cleanups meet state and federal funding requirements - offered an opportunity for KXAN to get an expert's take on keeping potential flood debris at bay and out of the way. 

Watch the brief story, featuring Burnet County Office of Emergency Management's Jim Barho, at KXAN's website. > Go

New MIT report takes closer look at place-making

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Department of Urban Studies and Planning has released the new research report, "Places in the Making: How Placemaking Builds Places and Communities," now available for free download. 

The 72-page white paper includes a dozen case studies from across the country along with a look at the past, present and future of place-making itself.

> Get the PDF report at MIT's website
> Explore CAPCOG's regional Sustainable Places Project

Bastrop draws firefighters nationwide for training

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Camp Swift National Guard Training Facility in Bastrop is hosting firefighters from around the country for hands-on instruction through Oct. 24.   

The 16th Annual Capital Area Interagency Wildfire & Incident Management Academy, coordinated by the Texas A&M Forest Service in partnership with a consortium of state, federal and nonprofit agencies, offers a two-week opportunity for firefighters of every discipline to take classes ranging from leadership, GPS orientation and equipment operation to fire behavior, tactical maneuvers, water use and more.

“It’s as close to a fire assignment as you can get without actually going to a fire that has the potential to burn houses down,” said public information officer Jan Amen, in an academy news release. “It is set up just like a wildfire incident so you know exactly what it’s like.”

> Learn more about the 16th annual firefighter academy
> Sign up for CAPCOG's Oct. 30 training, Disaster Debris Management 101

CAMPO adds tools to weigh in on 2040 Regional Transportation Plan

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

With development of the next 25-year regional transportation plan revving up, the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization has launched additional ways for the public and community partners to share input and stay informed.

A revamped website for even easier navigation; a new idea-sharing site with maps and other tools for real-time participation; and a Mobile Meetings toolkit with fact sheets, a PowerPoint presentation and other materials all aim to help individuals and communities weigh in as this important plan gets underway.

CAMPO, which serves Bastrop, Burnet, Caldwell, Hays, Travis and Williamson counties, must produce a 25-year regional transportation plan every five years. The agency works with stakeholders including cities, counties, regional and state transportation agencies and the public to plan for the area's current and long-term needs.

In addition to the new tools, other outreach efforts have included opportunities such as a regional survey that concluded in August and public meetings.

The eventual 2040 Regional Transportation Plan will replace the current 2035 version.

> Learn more about CAMPO and the upcoming 2040 Plan

From preparation to recovery: CAPCOG training tackles disaster-debris management

Friday, October 18, 2013

From wildfires and tornadoes to chemical spills and flooding, learn about preparation, response and recovery with “Disaster Debris Management 101: Tools for Local and Regional Governments,” presented by the Capital Area Council of Governments, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013, at CAPCOG’s Pecan Room, 6800 Burleson Road, Building 310, Suite 165, Austin, TX 78744. 

Doors open at 8:30 a.m. for check-in and refreshments.

The full-day training, featuring government and industry experts such as Mike Fisher, Bastrop County’s emergency management coordinator, will provide candid tips and case studies on planning, protecting public health and natural resources and ensuring disaster debris cleanups meet state and federal funding requirements. 

Experts in the field will address debris management plans, debris recycling, contractor monitoring and more. Discussion also will include successes and lessons in managing debris after the Bastrop County Complex Fire of 2011. 

Participation is open to the public, with emphasis on emergency planners and response staff, industry contractors, local government planners, elected officials and neighborhood leaders. 

The $35 admission includes refreshments, lunch and – for eligible participants – Texas Municipal League continuing education credits.

> Register by Oct. 28, 2013
> Download the training flier and agenda

Clean Air Coalition seeks local emission reduction commitments

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Central Texas Clean Air Coalition (CAC), a regional collaboration of city and county governments in Bastrop, Caldwell, Hays, Travis and Williamson counties, is seeking commitments from local governments and other organizations in the region to implement local, voluntary measures to reduce ozone.

Remaining in compliance with federal ozone standards continues to be a high priority for this region, both to protect public health and to avoid the costly impacts of a “nonattainment” designation.

> Discover the Clean Air Coalition

Ozone Advance is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s latest effort to promote voluntary adoption and implementation of measures in areas close to violating the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for ozone. The region’s Ozone Advance Program Action Plan will be the Austin-Round Rock metropolitan statistical area’s fourth voluntary air quality plan, replacing the  8-O3 Flex Plan when it expires Dec. 31, 2013.

Reducing ozone levels provides health benefits for children, seniors, and people with chronic respiratory problems such as asthma and bronchitis. If an area is designated “nonattainment” for ozone, consequences could prove serious for the regional economy, including new constraints on transportation planning, strict limits on industrial growth and a host of costly pollution regulations. It also would result in the loss of local control of air quality planning and would impose new costs on the state in preparing implementation plans for the region. 

> Learn more about Ozone Advance

In 2012, the region was only 2 parts per billion away from being out of compliance with the three-year average the EPA uses to determine if areas are in attainment, also called the “design value.” With the EPA now considering tightening the standard to a range of 60 to 70 ppb, additional efforts will be needed to ensure the region’s continued compliance. Previous local air quality plans have been a critical component of the success the region has enjoyed in twice avoiding nonattainment designations for stricter ozone standards – years 2004 and 2012 – and the 17 percent reduction in the region’s design value from 89 ppb in 1999 to 74 ppb in 2012. 

The CAC will collect commitments for the action plan through Nov. 15 and, during its Dec. 11 meeting, will consider the plan’s adoption and submission to the EPA. Over the next month, jurisdictions currently participating in the CAC are scheduling time on their agendas to consider which measures to implement for the new plan. The City of Cedar Park on Oct. 3 was the first CAC member to pass a resolution with commitments for the plan. 

> Explore CAPCOG's Air Quality Program

Priority measures the CAC has identified include reducing emissions from fleet vehicles and equipment; implementing commuter trip reduction programs; improving enforcement of existing regulations; planning for transportation emission reduction measures; implementing Ozone Action Day programs; and annually tracking and reporting electricity, gas and fuel consumption. Any measures local jurisdictions or other organizations are willing to commit to will be included in the region’s new action plan. 

Area businesses, organizations and jurisdictions that aren't CAC members but want to add their own pollution-reduction commitments to the plan can send them to Andrew Hoekzema, CAPCOG air quality program manager, by Oct. 31. > Go

> Get the CAC Advisory Committee's list of Ozone Advance recommendations

Mess with Central Texas? Not on RETF’s watch

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Tattered couches, chairs and mattresses thrown down a ravine? Old tires sitting in a waterway? Toxic chemicals and piles of garbage stashed just off a park trail? No, thank you!

Incidents of illegal dumping are a nightmare for neighborhoods — including people, pets, wildlife and the environment — but the Capital Area Regional Environmental Task Force is helping communities fight back.

The multijurisdictional collaboration of 12 government agencies in Central Texas was initiated in May 1996 through a memorandum of agreement. It provides education opportunities, an illegal dumping reporting hotline, environmental sampling and environmental enforcement support to member governments and the State of Texas.

Considered the state's premier formal environmental task force created to address issues regionally, the RETF includes both law and code enforcement officers who share tools and leverage resources to tackle illegal dumping and other environmental crimes. It's primarily funded by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality through the Regional Solid Waste Grants Program and has annually received grant funding from the CAPCOG Solid Waste Advisory Committee.

RETFIllegalDumpingSign&CutlineIn addition to assisting one another on investigations and pending casework, RETF members meet quarterly to discuss trends, target areas for outreach and education and learn about new and pending legislation. The task force may also hear expert testimony while sharing insight and experiences.

The RETF provides training courses for continuing education credits, conducting two basic and one intermediate environmental law training class per year. Since 2008, more than 550 officers from more than 50 different Texas governmental entities have received training through these important sessions.

The task force also has posted more than 500 no-dumping signs in the CAPCOG region, displaying a toll-free number to report illegal dumping. The hotline receives an average of 120 calls per year. Callers may remain anonymous, and each call is investigated by a licensed law enforcement officer who may collect environmental samples, facilitate site cleanup, pursue enforcement against violators and seek restitution for environmental damages.

Depending on the type of misdemeanor or felony violation, punishment can include costly fines and significant jail time.

Help stop illegal dumping by getting involved. Call the illegal dumping hotline at 1-877-NO-DUMPS to report violations, and save the date - more details to come - for the RETF’s Dec. 12 Basic Environmental Law training.

> Learn more about the RETF 
> Report illegal dumping using the online form

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