Center for Biological Diversity

Protecting endangered species and wild places through
science, policy, education, and environmental law.

NEWS RELEASE: for immediate release Monday, November 17, 2003

Bush Administration Sued to Protect Critical Habitat for Texas Cave & Spring Species
Unique species indicators of quality-of-life, threatened by harmful impacts to Edwards Aquifer

Contact: Daniel R. Patterson, Ecologist 520.623.5252 x 306 or 520.906.2159

WASHINGTON DC -- A lawsuit was filed today against the Bush administration seeking designation of critical habitat for the recovery of three endangered aquatic invertebrate species known to live only in Comal and Hays counties, Texas: the Comal Springs riffle beetle (Heterelmis comalensis), Peck’s cave amphipod (Stygobromus pecki), and Comal Springs dryopid beetle (Stygoparnus comalensis). The Comal Springs riffle beetle is known from Comal Springs and San Marcos Springs (Hays County). The Comal Springs dryopid beetle is known from Comal Springs and Fern Bank Springs (Hays County). The water flowing out of each of these springs comes from the Edwards Aquifer (Balcones Fault Zone-San Antonio Region), which extends from Hays County west to Kinney County.

The primary threat to these species is a decrease in water quantity and quality as a result of overdraft and other human activities throughout the San Antonio segment of the Edwards Aquifer (USFWS, 1997).

Like these unique cave animals, humans depend on clean water in sufficient quantity, therefore protecting water resources is vital to protecting human health. Protecting these species’ critical habitat will have a positive effect to humans in that it will ensure quality water for future generations and will maintain a healthy ecosystem. Also, continuing spring flow is economically important both in the vicinity of the springs for water recreation and downstream as far as the Gulf of Mexico, where fresh water inflow to bays and estuaries is essential to recreational and commercial fisheries.

“Research using U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service data shows that species with critical habitat are less likely to decline and twice as likely to be recovering as those without,” said Daniel R. Patterson, an ecologist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “As urban sprawl and groundwater overdraft grow, the Bush administration is ignoring its legal duty to protect habitat for these unique animals of Texas’ natural heritage.”

Other threats to habitat include the potential for groundwater contamination. Pollutants of concern include, but are not limited to, those associated with human sewage (particularly septic tanks), leaking underground storage tanks, animal/feedlot waste, agricultural chemicals (especially insecticides, herbicides, and fertilizers) and urban runoff (including pesticides, fertilizers, and detergents) (USFWS, 1997).

Pipeline, highway, and railway transportation of hydrocarbons and other potentially harmful materials in the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone and its watershed, with the attendant possibility of accidents, present a particular risk to water quality in Comal and San Marcos Springs. Comal and San Marcos Springs are both located in urbanized areas. Hueco Springs is located alongside River Road, which is heavily traveled for recreation on the Guadalupe River, and may be susceptible to road runoff and spills related to traffic. Fern Bank Springs is in a relatively remote, rural location and its principal vulnerability is probably to contaminants associated with leaking septic tanks, animal/feedlot wastes, and agricultural chemicals (USFWS, 1997).

Of the counties containing portions of the San Antonio segment of the Edwards Aquifer, the potential for acute, catastrophic contamination of the aquifer is greatest in Bexar, Hays, and Comal counties because of the greater level of urbanization compared to the western counties (USFWS, 1997).

Peck’s cave amphipod is a subterranean, aquatic crustacean in the family Crangonyctidae. The Comal Springs riffle beetle is an aquatic, surface-dwelling species in the family Elmidae. The Comal Springs dryopid beetle is the only known subterranean member of the beetle family Dryopidae. Elmid and dryopid beetles live primarily in flowing, uncontaminated waters.

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