Tue October 18, 2011
Tonight: How Austin Will Protect Barton Springs Salamander
You like Barton Springs Pool? So does a small, endangered amphibian. But unlike you, the Barton Springs Salamander is legally protected by the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife. If the city wants to keep operating the pool, it needs to renew a permit with the federal government that explains how Austin will protect the slithery little creature.
The current permit was issued in 1998 and based on this Habitat Conservation Plan. That permit expires in October 2013. But the review process takes a long time, so the city wants to submit its application soon to stave off closing Barton Springs Pool, even temporarily.
The city says the new plan won’t be hugely different than the old one, and most visitors to Barton Springs Pool won’t notice big differences. The new plan will include the Austin Blind Salamander, an animal that lives in the underground waters of the Edwards Aquifer and could soon be labeled endangered.
The measures being considered include maintaining a more natural flow of water to the Barton Springs Pool and using more gentle cleaning techniques like cleaning the shallow end of the pool without fully drawing down the water. Another possibility in that plan includes devoting a city biologist plus at least $28,000 a year to breed the Barton Springs Salamander in captivity in case the species is wiped out by “catastrophic events.”