Environmental Impact Assessment
SWT Freeman Ranch
Description of Project
The purpose of this project is to determine whether or not the Freeman Ranch should be sold to developers or kept as an educational facility/working ranch. The ranch is prime real estate property and developers would also like to build a potential city loop through the property. This research will determine the environmental impacts of such development and whether it is feasible to leave it as it is today.
Description of Site
Freeman Ranch is a 4200 acre working ranch located approximately five miles west of San Marcos in the city’s extra territorial jurisdiction within Hays County, Texas. Southwest Texas State University holds in trust approximately 3500 acres of Freeman Ranch. The ranch serves as an educational facility for the university as well as an actual working ranch for visitors. The study area for the environmental impact statement is a 315 acre or 128 hectare pasture located approximately ½ mile west of the ranch house. The address is 2100 Freeman Ranch Rd., San Marcos, Texas 78666. The geographic grid location is 29°56’ North Latitude and 98°00’ West Longitude. The UTM location is 597,000 meters East, 3,311,000 meters North, and in UTM zone 14.
The highest elevation in the study site is 850 ft. (260 m), the lowest is 760ft. (230 m), with a relief of 90 ft. (27 m).
The stream that drains the site is Sink Creek. It first enters the San Marcos River at Spring Lake then the San Marcos River enters the Guadalupe River at Gonzales. The Guadalupe River enters the Gulf of Mexico at San Antonio Bay giving a direct distance to the coast of 120 miles (192 km.). The Guadalupe River Basin is the major river basin of the area and the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority is the area’s official river authority. (TWC 1989) (TDWR 1985). The site lies over the Trinity/Edwards (BFZ) Aquifer, thus is in the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation Underground Water District. (TWDB 1997) (TWC 1989). The source of water for the site is the Edwards Aquifer and precipitation. The major water quality problems would be sulfate and there is no waste-water disposal method. (TCEQ 2002).
Geology and Landforms
The geologic mapping code is kED and the mapped unit is Edwards Limestone. The major rock types consist of limestone and dolomite. The area is 100-135 years old leaving it in the Mesozoic Era, Lower Cretaceous Period, and Comanchean Epoch. (University 1974). The geologic hazards consist of sinkholes and flooding and there are no mining activities or resources. The landforms of the area are in the Great Plains Province, Edwards Plateau Section, and the Texas Hill Country District. (Fenneman 1931). The closest major landform feature is the Balcones Escarpment. (Riasz 1957).
The nearest weather station that had a long term record with the San Marcos, Texas weather station. The years of record for climate records were 1931-2001.
|January mean||48.1°F||8.9°C||2.04 in||51.82 mm|
|February||52.1°F||11.2°C||2.27 in||57.66 mm|
|March||60.2°F||15.7°C||1.81 in||45.97 mm|
|April||68.3°F||20.2°C||2.83 in||71.88 mm|
|May||74.7°F||23.7°C||4.98 in||126.49 mm|
|June||80.4°F||26.9°C||4.20 in||106.68 mm|
|July||83.2°F||28.4°C||2.12 in||53.85 mm|
|August||83.4°F||28.6°C||2.30 in||58.42 mm|
|September||78.3°F||25.7°C||3.71 in||94.23 mm|
|October||69.2°F||20.7°C||3.12 in||79.25 mm|
|November||59.4°F||15.2°C||3.09 in||78.49 mm|
|December||51.1°F||10.6°C||2.08 in||52.83 mm|
|Year||67.4°F||19.7°C||34.55 in||877.57 mm|
The record highest temperature was set on September 5, 2000 of 111°F (43.9°C). The coldest temperature on record was –2°F (-18.9°C), which was set on January 31, 1949. The wettest year was in 1998 with 58.51 in. (1486.15 mm) for the entire year. The driest year was in 1954 with only 13.42 in. (340.87 mm) for the year. (NOAA 1999). The 100 year, 24 hour storm is 10 in. (254 mm). (Hershfield 1961).
Using the Thornthwaite method of determining average potential evapotranspiration the average is 3.46 in. (87.9 mm). (Malmstrom 1969). While using the Penman method the average is 98.42 in. (2500 mm). (Texas A&M 1983).
The date of the last frost in Spring is around March 15 and the average date of the first frost in Fall is around November 15. This gives the average length of the growing season to be 246 days. (Baldwin 1973).
The climate type Koppen code is Cfa and the climate name is Humid Subtropical. This describes the area as having hot summers, cool/mild winters, and year-round precipitation. The major climate hazards of the area are fire, lightening, tornadoes, drought, flood, and hail. (Hudson 2000).
The soils of the study area are mainly comprised of RUD, Rumple-Comfort association and CrD, Comfort-Rock outcrop complex.
The Rumple-Comfort association is comprised of
to moderately deep soils. The soils are located on the uplands of
the Edwards Plateau. The areas are irregular in shape and vary
in size. Rumple soils make up about 60 percent of the
while Comfort soils make up about 20 percent. Other soils such as
Tarpley soils make up the remaining 20 percent. The soils are
used for rangeland and for wildlife habitat. The soils are not
suited for cultivating crops. A limited rooting zone caused from
cobbles and stones on or near the surface creates severe limitations
large trees. Other limitations are caused from the shallowness to
bedrock, which limit urban and recreational uses.
The soil taxonomic classification for Rumple Comfort is:
Great Group Argiustolls
Sub-Group Udic Argiustolls
Family Clayey-skeletal, mixed, thermic Udic Argiustolls
Variant 1 to 8 percent
The Comfort-Rock outcrop complex is comprised of
clay soils. Rock outcrops are located on slopes and hilltops
the Edwards Plateau area. Comfort soils make up about 75
Rock outcrops and soils less than four inches deep make up about 15
Rumple, Purves, Eckrant, and Real soils make up the remainder 10
The soils are primarily used for range and pastureland. The soils
also provide for a good wildlife habitat. The shallow soils limit
cultivation as well as residential and commercial development.
soil taxonomic classification is:
Great Group Argiustolls
Sub-Group Udic Argiustolls
Family Clayey-skeletal, mixed, thermic Lithic Argiustolls
The major terrestrial ecosystems are Live Oak-Ashe Juniper Parks and Live Oak-Mesquite-Ashe Juniper Parks. The distribution of these vegetation types is mainly on level to gently rolling uplands and ridge tops in the Edwards Plateau region of Texas. Commonly associated plants include the Texas oak, shin oak, cedar elm, netleaf, hackberry, flameleaf sumac, agarito, Mexican persimmon, Texas pricklypear, kidneywood, saw greenbriar, Texas wintergrass, little bluestem, curly mesquite, Texas grama, Halls panicum, purple three-awn, hairy tridens, cedar sedge, two-leaved senna, mat euporbia, and rabbit tobacco. A nearby terrestrial ecosystem is Edwards Aquifer subterranean ecosystem and the aquatic ecosystem is Central Texas ephemeral stream woodland ecosystem. (McMahan et al. 1984).
Landuse and Natural Environment Inventory
Present Day Landuse
The present day landuse consists of cattle grazing, controlled access recreation for organized trail rides and hiking trails, research studies, and hunting of deer, turkey, and feral hogs. There is no residential, urban, industrial, agricultural, or woodlot/forestry uses. (Davis 2002).
Future Landuse Values in Demand
There are very important future landuse values in demand. Residential because it is a highly desirable real estate property. Recreational access for the hunting, hiking and biking trails. Transportation for the potential city loop through the property. And, continued use as Freeman Ranch, a working Hill Country Ranch. There is no demand for commercial, agricultural, or industry for this land.
The water quality and quantity problems are mainly due to there being mainly ephemeral streams on the site. There currently is minimal pumping of groundwater and there is no significant increase in water demand. The threats to water quality and quantity would be the possibility of contamination of the Edwards Aquifer and decreasing quality and quantity of groundwater due to overuse.
The current air quality problems are ozone and pollen. The cause is due to the site being located in the Austin-San Marcos metro statistical marginal non-attainment area. The air quality problems in demand are clean air and good visibility. Development on this site would cause greater air quality problems with the increased population of people and cars, and the decrease of plant life.
There is a significant amount of threatened and endangered species on the site. From the state list the threatened animal species are the Arctic Peregrine Falcon, the Bald Eagle, and the Texas Horned Lizard. The endangered animal species are the American Peregrine Falcon, the Black-capped Vireo, and the Golden-cheeked Warbler. There are no threatened or endangered plant species listed on the Texas state list. (Texas Biological 2001). Threatened animal species listed on the federal list is the Mountain Plover. Endangered animal species listed on the federal list are the Black-capped Vireo and the Golden-cheeked Warbler. . There are no threatened or endangered plant species listed on the federal list. (U.S. Fish 2002). Current threats to these biota are pollution and people. Future threats to the biota would definitely be the estimated development.
Cultural and Social Inventory
There are no registered historical or archeological sites with the state or nation for this study site. (Texas Historical 2002). The Freeman Ranch as a whole is a significant resource culturally and historically. The ranch began as a recreational site for the prominent San Antonio businessmen, Joe and Harry Freeman. From the beginning the ranch has seen visitors, such as Lyndon B. Johnson and J. Edgar Hoover. The ranch today is in trust with SWT as an educational ranching facility. The ranch serves as an outdoor classroom for SWT students as well as other organizations, such as the Air Force and Army ROTC and Boy Scouts of America. The ranch offers outdoor activities, such as nature hikes, hunting, and other ecological adventures. (Davis 2002). Unfortunately there are current cultural and social values in demand. The ranch itself is extremely valuable. The land would be ideal for private investors, therefore taking it out of the hands of the University.
Other Significant Aspects of the Site
Since 1985, Freeman Ranch has provided the students and faculty of Southwest Texas State University with a unique environment for learning about the ecology and management of a working Hill Country Ranch. In addition to educating students about aspects of their respective subject, Freeman Ranch serves as a laboratory where students can apply what they learn in the classroom to situations in the real world. Many students conduct independent research projects at the facility. Previous departments that have utilized the resources provided by Freeman Ranch include the departments of Agriculture, Wildlife Biology, Ecology, Army ROTC, and Geography and Planning. The opportunity to visit and study at the Freeman Ranch by SWT, as well as by other members of the nearby community, is truly invaluable.
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