San Antonio: Environment Assessment Comments Due October 7 on Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery Expansion
Feature Photo: Fort Sam National Cemetery. Image: Google Streets.
by Adolfo Pesquera
San Antonio (Bexar County) — The public comment period for the Draft Environmental Assessment of the planned Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery Phase 3 expansion ends on October 7.
Anderson Engineering of Minnesota LLC prepared the EA for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Construction & Facilities Management. Comments by email are preferred and go to Fernando.Fernandez@va.gov.
The proposed expansion affects 43 acres within the boundary of the national cemetery and is needed to provide services for the next 15 years. The project includes 42,516 grave sites, including casket and cremation sites in new burial sites and the conversion of traditional burial areas to pre-placed crypt full casket sites.
Other improvements include repairs to an existing columbaria, the correction of infrastructure deficiencies, an extension of the irrigation system, construction of three buildings that total 4,312 gross square feet, the renovation of two buildings, site furnishing replacements or additions, construction of access roads and parking space.
The new grave site areas are to be located in the eastern sector of the national cemetery, and they approach the Salado Creek which is the cemetery’s easternmost and southernmost boundary.
The Draft Environmental Assessment states that “approximately 32 acres are currently unimproved, wooded areas that are generally adjacent to Salado Creek … the remaining approximately 18 acres are currently cleared and maintained on the periphery of the extant cemetery.”
To accommodate stormwater management issues, Veterans Affairs plans to design and construct a stormwater system as part of the design. Grassed swales, filter strips, ponding areas, etc. will be utilized as post-construction best management practices (BMPs) to reduce peak flow, increase total suspended solids (TSS) removals, and reduce run-off volumes.
The City of San Antonio Transportation and Capital Improvements Storm Water Design Criteria Manual will be followed to the maximum extent practical. A storm water pollution prevention plan (SWPPP) will be prepared for the proposed project.
Utility requirements will include electric upgrades to existing buildings and complex on site, as well as to a new 1,238-square-foot Honor Guard Building. During an earlier expansion phase, the administration building was to be demolished and an honor guard building was to be constructed.
“As of the writing of this EA, the administration building has been demolished and phase three expansion, as proposed, seeks to complete the new Honor Guard building as laid out in the 2014 MOA and 2017 amendment,” the Anderson Engineering report states.
Phase 3 is not entirely confined to the east area of the cemetery. The new Honor Guard building, for instance, will be located in the historic west area. Other west area tasks (see map) include rehab of existing roads, repair/replacement of stone perimeter wall, interior remodel of the Public Information Center, expansion by 14 stalls of the PIC parking area, and repair of the Rostrum and concrete walk.
The VA completed a Cultural Resource Assessment in October 2019. Archaeological investigations specific to development of the cemetery were undertaken in 1977 and 2017. Related surveys were done in 2000, 2014, and 2018 in support of road infrastructure and development of the Salado Creek trail system.
VA outreach included notifying the Texas Historical Commission, Texas Parks and Wildlife, and all indigenous tribes in Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico that were known to have occupied the area in historic times.
Fort Sam Houston was created by the U.S. Army in 1921. It was designated a National Cemetery in 1931 and would eventually encompass 75 acres.
In 2001, the VA completed an EA for land acquisition of approximately 150 acres. In 2009, a programmatic agreement was completed between the VA, the Texas State Historical Preservation Office, and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation for the development of 40 acres east of Nursery Road–land that was part of the 2001 acquisition.
The programmatic agreement split the work, with the eastward expansion of the cemetery being phase one, and improvements to the existing historic sections being phase two.
Adolfo Pesquera (Reporter/Editor) is a veteran news journalist. He has worked for Hearst Corp., American Lawyer Media, News Corp and Freedom Communications. His work has been published in newspapers and magazines across the USA. He is a journalism graduate of UT-RGV. He writes, edits and creates digital pages for VBX.