UPDATE: 9-13-2018 — This article was updated to clarify the responsibilities of the various parties involved in this funding agreement.
Originally Posted: 9-11-2018
by Adolfo Pesquera
San Antonio (Bexar County) — City Council is scheduled to approve a $2.67 million funding agreement Thursday with the University of Texas at San Antonio for biological studies that examine the health of the Leon Creek watershed, a project that includes construction of a “Living Laboratory.”
The San Antonio River Authority will act as project manager of the water quality projects, and UTSA will manage construction of the laboratory. The funding comes from a sales tax approved by public referendum and is part of a $10 million program for numerous Edwards Aquifer water quality projects, said SARA Project Manager Karen Bishop.
According to the enacting ordinance on Thursday’s agenda, UTSA’s research proposal, “will focus on the low-density and significantly forested Leon Creek Watershed to study the relation between land cover and water quality, with a focus on the replacement of forest cover/Ashe Juniper with impervious cover.”
Bishop told VBX this does not mean there will be any cutting of forest cover with impervious cover.
“The project will not clear-cut forests and cover them with impervious cover. One component of the project, if approved by Council, will collect and analyze water quality samples from four non-developed areas and from four developed areas for purposes of comparison,” Bishop stated by email.
The project will provide three years of data for analysis on Low Impact Development improvements such as bioswales, vegetative filter strips and sand filtration. These LID systems will be incorporated into a parking lot construction project that UTSA will fund separately on their campus.
UTSA’s role includes construction of a 2,000-square-foot “Living Laboratory” building on the UTSA main campus, with specialized landscaping on the surrounding land.
UTSA Living Laboratory. Concept design by Chesney Morales Partners.
This is intended to function as an outdoor classroom. Components are to include a bioswale, rain garden, rooftop rain collection and cistern, tree boxes attached to stormwater boxes, and a green roof, Bishop said.
The project site will be adjacent to an established National Wildlife Federation Certified Pollinator Habitat for Monarch butterflies. Once completed, the UTSA Office of Facilities will operate the laboratory as a permanent Best Management Practices (BMP) demonstration facility that will be available to K-12 and higher education students.
“These BMPs will treat stormwater generated from a 5-acre delineated drainage area that already has approximately 70 percent impervious cover,” Bishop said.
Most of the funding, more than four-fifths, will be used for salaries, stipends, equipment and travel related to non-subcontractable research and construction expenses.
- Assess water quality as a function of land cover at eight sampling sites; analyize of 864 stormwater samples in the Leon Creek Watershed from January 2019 to September 2021; assess the physical stream habitat at the eight locations, and develop report on the above.
- Study of the efficacy of low impact development on water quality; install six sampling sites to allow for comparison of water quality related to BMPs associated with the new separately-funded UTSA-funded parking lot; collect and sample 648 post-construction samples from January 2019 – 2021, and develop report on the above.
- Community outreach through construction and furnishing of the Edwards Aquifer Recharge Living Laboratory; restripe an existing parking lot to add ADA spaces; construct BMPs for the Laboratory facility, the amphitheater, walking trails, and bird-watching screens; assess and report on the implementation cost of the Laboratory’s BMPs, the long-term BMP maintenance, and the energy cost using a green roof. In exchange, at UTSA’s sole cost, UTSA will operate and maintain the Laboratory for a minimum of 25 years.
The agreement has an estimated subcontractable construction value of $551,681, and an assigned subcontracting goal of 29 percent to minority and/or women-owned businesses. UTSA will manage the procurement process.
Bishop said the construction is scheduled to be performed between April-September of 2020.
Chesney Morales Partners Inc. prepared a conceptual site plan in 2017 of a ‘Living Laboratory Pavilion.’ The concept describes a 2,030-square-foot floor plan with enclosed laboratory space, offices, storage and restrooms. Including a three-sided covered porch, the gross footprint is 3,978 square feet.
In front of the entrance, there is also an outdoor mini-amphitheater with rows of semi-circular seating constructed of granite blocks.
Conceptual floor plan for the UTSA Living Laboratory. Courtesy: UTSA