Volente e-News

July 01, 2009

Update: Strickland Family Fights Travis County, Austin Over Pond

Update on Strickland Family's Fight to Keep Pond on BH Creek

 A television news feature on this story we first ran June 24th is scheduled to be on "Seven on Your Side" Channel 7 TV (Fox) News tonight,  July 1 at 9 pm. 
After that article ran in the e-News, we received several emails and phone calls in support of the Strickland family's fight to keep their pond on Bullick Hollow Creek.
Supporters of the Strickland's fight to keep the City from forcing the destruction of their pond should email or mail their messages of support to John Strickland's lawyer: Ronnie Jones.

Ronnie's website is www.ronniejoneslaw.com
Supporters can email Ronnie through the website by going to the "Contact Us" link or Ronnie can be emailed directly at rjones@ronniejoneslaw.com
The title of supporters' emails should read something like "Strickland Litigation Support Letter".

Ronnie says that letters sent through the mail would have even greater impact. His physical address is:

Ronnie Jones: Attorney and Counselor at Law
7000 N. Mopac Expressway, Suite 200
Austin, TX  78731

Article from 6/24/09: Stricklands of Bullick Hollow in Fight with County, City

2008 National Night Out Logo

Attempting to Destroy Wildlife Habitat, City of Austin and Travis County Served for Damages by Championed Protectors of Lake Travis
In the case of Strickland Plaintiffs Versus City of Austin Texas and Travis County Texas, Defendants, the City of Austin and Travis County have been served for a notice of claim for damages for the unauthorized taking and damaging of property without compensation. 
John, Peter and Edwin Strickland, 33 year residents of western Travis County, living outside the city limits, built a small dam and pond on their property in Bullick Hollow to provide a refuge and permanent drinking water supply for local wildlife, by using their own labor and a few thousand dollars of materials as resource.  The small dam and pond with its tranquil existence, currently attracts and supports a vast variety of wildlife.  Permanent residents of this habitat include several kinds of turtles, fish, frogs, toads, and dragonflies.  Wood ducks, great blue herons, coyotes, red tailed hawks, rock squirrels, deer and raccoons also repeatedly visit the site.  Trees and plants occurring nowhere else along the creek due to the permanent water include bald cypress, black willows, yellow flag iris, Equisetum (Horsetail) and lotus.
During a normal summer and drought, the entire Bullick Hollow Valley is often without any surface water except for the Strickland's pond.  As the creeks and old tanks in the area dry up, water may flow for a while beneath the gravel and rocks in the creek beds and become virtually inaccessible to the resident wildlife, but with infrequent rains in the summer, the creeks usually dry up totally, leaving local wildlife no choice but to flee to Lake Travis for water, over a mile away and crossing one or more roads. 
Officials supervising Travis County's new wildlife refuge, immediately downstream from the Strickland property, have reviewed the dam's location and its existence.  During their review, as the creek stopped flowing much earlier than normal due to the exceptional drought, officials assumed the Strickland's were somehow using up the water.  Officials sent a complaint to the City of Austin via email, and both City and County soon issued a "stop work" order even though all work had been long completed and the small disturbed area re-vegetated.  The Strickland's were then cited rules prohibiting "obstruction of waterways" without a permit and site plan.  The family was ordered to hire an engineer to perform a series of needed studies for the small dam.  Cost for the studies requested by the City was an estimated $60,000 to the family.   Furthermore, officials told the engineer they were against granting a permit or variance to the landowners, no matter what the engineering and environmental studies showed from the series of studies.
Both the City and County continue to take action to destroy the dam and pond located on the Strickland's property.   The last order issued stated "the dam was to be destroyed by June 18, 2009, or the Strickland's would be fined up to $2,000 a day for each day the dam and pond were not destroyed."  Having no time to remove the small dam before the deadline, and willing to fight for what they built to protect local wildlife, the Strickland's filed suit against the City and County to stop them from forcing the destruction of the small dam and pond.  Ronnie Jones, Attorney at Law and Counsel for the Strickland's stated, "This case is about a private landowner's right to use his property in a manner authorized by state law.  We contend the actions by our clients are in compliance with state law and are not in regulatory authority of the city or county."
The Strickland's consider themselves to be very poorly treated by local officials.  The family has contributed many years of volunteer services to Austin and the Lake Travis Area by preventing sewage discharge into the very same creek and Lake Travis and other local lakes and streams providing drinking water, as a result of their founding and their continuing work with the Protect Lake Travis Association.