August 11, 2010

It’s Official – Trans-Texas Corridor 35 is Dead!

American Stewards

100811_CW_TTCDead_MainThe first leg of the NAFTA Superhighway is DEAD, according to the Federal Highway Administration’s Record of Decision (ROD) on the environmental study for the Trans-Texas Corridor - 35.

In June, the Eastern Central Texas Sub-Regional Planning Commission formed by five towns, their school districts and a local businessman in Central Texas, sent a petition to the Council of Environmental Quality (Council) concerned that a critical loophole was still open that would allow the Trans-Texas Corridor – 35 to be revived. They asked the Council to step in and require the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) to withdraw the study in its entirety.

Instead of withdrawing the study, the FHA stated eight different times in what otherwise should have been a typical ROD that the TTC 35 project had ended. They even went so far as to state that the environmental study could not be used as a basis for any further study.

Fred Kelly Grant, President of American Stewards who wrote the Petition stated:

“The Federal Highway Administration has pounded the final nail in the coffin of the Trans-Texas Corridor-35. The Agency’s final Record of Decision, issued on July 20, 2010 selected the No Action Alternative, but went further in ordering that “a study area for the TTC-35 Project will not be chosen and the TTC-35 Project is concluded.” Twice, the ROD states that the “project is concluded,” and six times it states that “the project ends.”

“If TXDOT attempted to revive the 35 Corridor project and use the same EIS, this ROD would provide the base for issuance by a United States District Judge of a Declaratory Judgment prohibiting the action,” Grant concluded.

This is an unprecedented action. The $80 billion international superhighway project is dead.

The corridor concept was unveiled by Governor Rick Perry in 2003 as the way to build infrastructure in America. His plan would have confiscated 586,000 private acres in Texas alone and displace over one million people and their families.

The superhighway was to contain four passenger lanes, two truck lanes, high speed rail and freight rail, all charging a hefty toll for the next 50 years that would go to the international contractor Cintra-Zachry. But that’s not all. The right of way was to be a quarter-of-a-mile wide so that land within the corridor could be leased to restaurants, hotels and gas stations. Perry’s plan would take land from Texans and generate revenue for foreign companies.

As grand as Perry’s plan was, it was only the first part of a much larger scheme – the NAFTA Superhighway – an international highway that was to efficiently connect the Chinese-owned ports in Mexico to the Canadian markets, by way of America’s heartland.

The first major security check for cargo coming into America was a “Smart Port” in Kansas City where trucks could drive through without stopping.

Texan’s were outraged, but no one listened until the five towns of Holland, Bartlett, Little River-Academy, Rogers and Buckholts (total population of about 6,500) decided to take matters into their own hands and invoke coordination. Dan Byfield (ASL CEO) and Margaret Byfield (ASL ED) lived less than an hour away and were able to attend every meeting and guide the commission through the process. President Fred Grant attended all the coordination meetings with the agencies and wrote the hard-hitting Petitions filed by the Commission.

The TTC battle is the first time the coordination process was invoked for an issue that didn’t involve federal lands. Texas is 97% privately owned. Still, the coordination requirement in the National Environmental Policy Act and a unique Texas state law brought both federal and state agencies to Holland, Texas to resolve the inconsistencies between the TTC and local policies.

October 2009, the Texas Department of Transportation announced they would be recommending the “no build” alternative. Eastern Central, while happy with the decision, also recognized that there was a serious loophole still open. If the study was approved with the “no build” alternative, the agency could change its mind later and select a new alternative without going through the level of analysis Eastern Central was requiring. (See TTC Petition Filed with CEQ).

In an unprecedented move, they petitioned the CEQ to right the wrong and require that the study be withdrawn so that it could never be used in the future. FHA didn’t withdraw the study, but did one better. They marked it for dead. Never to be revived, referred to, or relied upon again.

There are still three Perry-driven Trans-Texas Corridor plans in the works: I-69, La Entrada, and Ports-to-Plains. Lincoln, Colorado sits in the path of Ports-to-Plains and has taken the lead of the Eastern Central planning commission by beginning the coordination process with the Colorado Department of Transportation on related issues.

Planning Commissions exist on the other two routes in Texas as well. People along these routes throughout the U.S. should take a closer look at the impressive path blazed by Eastern Central. They made coordination work and achieved our greatest victory to date.

The Trans Texas Corridor Stopped Here!
Eastern Central Texas Sub-Regional Planning Commission

Mae Smith,
Mayor of Holland
Billy Crow,
Vice President
Mayor of Rogers
Arthur White,
Mayor of Bartlett
Ronnie White,
Mayor of Little River-Academy
Hal Senkel
Mayor of Buckholtz
Ralph Snyder
Holland Businessman
Harold Kurtz
President, Holland ISD
Kerry Owen
Academy ISD
Gary Ktrola
Rogers ISD
Bartlett ISD
Buckhotz ISD
Joan Kurtz, Recording Secretary
Marcia Snyder
Cindy Ross

© 2010 American Stewards:

July 25, 2010

We’re not going to take it anymore

Brent Hinckley
Taylor Daily Press

I remember school yard bullies back in the third grade, and I thought the education system has pretty well eliminated them. Now that I am much older and working to serve my community as mayor, I have discovered that in Austin there are still bullies that hide behind big bureaucracy and work in governmental agencies.

I’m mad, the citizens of Mason, Texas are mad, the Hill Country landowners are mad and we are tired of being pushed around by bullies. Until very recently I honestly thought the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) would listen to our concerns and do what was right for Mason County and even the entire Hill Country. But, today, I am tired of listening to the bullies and I am convinced that the big bureaucracy has not and will not be influenced by the practical concerns of a small rural community.

I’m talking about the CREZ electric transmission lines that the Public Utility Commission (PUC) ordered constructed throughout the entire state to connect the West Texas wind turbines, one of the most inconsistent producers of electricity, with the people in the big cities.

What nobody wants to admit is how their great project is going to literally destroy our beautiful Hill Country with power lines, lattice towers and two hundred foot-wide right-of-ways that are going to decimate the heart of our beautiful land by condemning thousands of private acres and destroying our local environment and economies. The electric transmission planners have played the game their way for so long and now that Mason County and the City of Mason have stood up and formed a local Planning Commission to coordinate with them, they have shown their true colors.

Just ten months, ago we were assured that this transmission line would not affect our community in any way, and then some strings were pulled and suddenly Mason County and other parts of the Hill Country are involved in a problem we neither created nor will benefit from in any conceivable way.

For the past nine months, our elected officials and many concerned citizens have struggled to understand the issues and process involved and to very actively work informing the decision makers of our unwavering opposition to this route through Mason.

Citizens throughout the Hill Country have used their individual influence and the letters and resolutions from our communities continue to pour into the files of the decision makers; I can only hope that they will take the time to read and appreciate the vast concern our local population has for this project. I have participated in numerous meetings and spent many hours with a wide variety of experts and governmental officials as well as many representatives of LCRA, and after all of this I do not see any value to our community in having this blight in our county in order to satisfy a few bureaucrats in a distant city.

Right here in Mason, we had to quickly organize to defend ourselves when LCRA and the PUC decided to stall the process and include our county as an alternative to one of their CREZ lines.

In addition to forming the Texas Hill Country Heritage Association, our two local units of government – our city and county – formed a legal unit of government under Section 391 of the Texas Local Government Code that requires LCRA, the PUC and, by Federal statute, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, to “coordinate” their plans and policies with ours. In fact, federal law requires them to make their plans and policies “consistent” with ours, but do you think they even want to acknowledge that fact? Of course not. It isn’t the way they’ve always done business, and why start now?

On the back of every LCRA business card, from the CEO down, is their mission statement claiming “to provide reliable, low-cost utility and public services in partnership with our customers and communities and to use our leadership role and environmental authority to ensure the protection and constructive use of the area’s natural resources.”

The City of Mason is a customer of LCRA, but do I feel that they have been in “partnership” with our community in considering this CREZ transmission route? NO!

Is LCRA transparently using their leadership to protect the natural resources of the Hill Country? Not that I can see!

I am in doubt of any environmental authority they might exhibit having any positive impact on our scenic, rural part of Texas. All I have seen is the possible negative impacts on the cultural and environmental heritage we have, with absolutely no positive benefit to our community or the Hill Country.

LCRA has tried to convince my city and our county along with most of the Hill Country, to intervene in the administrative process in Austin. There is a place and a reason for individuals to do just that because, unfortunately, they have to protect their private interests, but we are not willing to “play” their game.

In a public meeting before our Mason Sub-Regional Planning Commission, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said they were performing a “full and rigorous Environmental Impact Statement” (EIS). LCRA representative sat in front of us and denied there was any activity in this process that required an EIS, although now they tell us they are working with consultants to assist in preparing an EIS.

To date, we can’t get a copy of anything either one of them claim they are working on, even though we have repeatedly asked. We’ve told them several times in writing how they all are violating the Federal environmental laws, but they do not seem to care, or ever admit that to us.

It seems that everyone is pointing the finger at everyone else — a typical bureaucratic response — and we’ve decided that the only way we’re going to ever be able to protect ourselves and our citizens is take them to court.

We are not blindly going into the administrative morass and get caught in their web of agency rules and administrative brow-beating. In that process, our Hill Country citizens have to spend their own money to hire lawyers to intervene in the State’s administrative hearings that are so rigged it becomes each individual against everybody else and the administrative judge gets to decide who wins and who loses.

On the other hand, we’re planning to take them to Federal court over their failure to follow Federal environmental laws that include the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.

And here’s the outrage. We have to spend OUR citizen’s personal dollars to defend OUR citizen’s private property and OUR community from OUR government.

This is the Legislature’s doing and it’s theirs to solve.

The CREZ project was started when Senator Troy Fraser introduced the bill that created this whole mess. By now, he has received thousands of dollars from wind energy lobbyists. But, he’s not the only one who benefitted from this boondoggle. Many of our state elected officials, from the highest office on down, have monetarily gained from this horrible idea and now we have to step up as individual citizens and use our hard earned money to defend our rights, our land, our community, our environment and our values.

There’s justice for you!

In Mason County, our landowners are raising money to hire a lawyer to represent them in Austin. This is a total outrage and someone somewhere needs to do something about this. There will be some who will win in that process, but most will lose, and local landowners will lose again when their land is taken through eminent domain to carve a path of destruction through our beautiful Hill Country. Unfortunately, they all have to spend their own money to hire lawyers to defend their rights because our Legislators created a monster that no one will own up to or help us to resolve in a reasonable way.

As citizens and public servants, we’ve had enough and we will not be bullied any more. In Mason our 391 Commission, the Texas Hill Country Heritage Association and American Stewards of Liberty have already begun discussing the development of a Hill Country wide federal lawsuit to stop the LCRA transmission line, period.

We’ve begun discussions with impacted landowners across the Hill Country that are willing to join us. This isn’t just about protecting Mason anymore; it is about righting an injustice that impacts the entire Hill Country.

A line has been drawn in the sand and I pledge that we in the Hill Country will continue to do all we can to protect our cultural and economic treasure of a clean and unlittered landscape so that we can hand to our children and grandchildren the beauty and peacefulness that our parents and grandparents protected for us.

The City of Mason is no doubt one of the very best hometowns in Texas and we will continue to fight to preserve all that we treasure and the community we hold dear. Join us as we take a stand, and together we can stop this and put it all back where it belongs – in the hands of our legislators and the PUC who started this in the first place. This is their fault and they must be held accountable. If they won’t do it, then let’s take them to court and have a federal judge tell them how they must run our state’s business and obey ALL the laws.

To contact Mayor Hinckley, email (For more information go to the Texas Hill Country Heritage Association website at or the American Stewards of Liberty at )

© 2010 Taylor Daily Press:

March 25, 2010

Group demands complete withdrawal of Corridor DEIS

Susan Rigdway Garry
Anti-Corridor/Rail Expansion (ACRE)

The Eastern Central Texas Sub-Regional Planning Commission (ECTSRPC), which was instrumental in bringing the Trans-Texas Corridor in Central Texas (TTC-35) environmental process to a halt, has taken another step to completely kill the Corridor through Central Texas.

The five mayors whose cities and respective school districts form the ECTSRPC have filed a petition with the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) demanding that the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) that was filed by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) be withdrawn.

In the fall of 2009, TxDOT asked the FHA to issue a “no action” or “no build” decision on the DEIS. Holland Mayor Mae Smith, who is also president of the ECTSRPC, explains, “If the FHA issues a ‘no action’ record of decision on the environmental study as requested by TxDOT, the study remains available to use in the future should the governor change his mind and decide to build the TTC.”

According to information released by the ECTSRPC, “Technically, an environmental study can be reused unless it is completely withdrawn from consideration and discarded by the lead agency, which is the Federal Highway Administration.” The Texas Legislature has turned against the Corridor and did not reauthorize the method of financing it, but TxDOT’s power to create the Corridor is still in statute. Bills to remove the Corridor from statute did not make it through the last session of the Legislature.

To see the “Petition to Withdraw the DEIS,” go to

© 2010 ACRE:

March 22, 2010


Mayors Demand Trans Texas Corridor DEIS be Withdrawn

CONTACT: Mae Smith, President 254-657-2460

Holland, Texas ---Five mayors in Central Texas have filed a petition with Federal Highway Administration demanding that the Draft Environmental Impact Statement filed by the Texas Department of Transportation on the I-35 and I-69 Trans-Texas Corridors be withdrawn.

“We know that the governor and TxDOT are playing a political shell game by asking for a “No Action” option on the Trans-Texas Corridor,” explained Mayor Mae Smith, president of the Eastern Central Texas Sub-Regional Planning Commission. “If the FHA issues a ‘no action’ record of decision on the environmental study as requested by TxDOT, the study remains available to use in the future should the governor change his mind and decide to build the TTC,” Smith added.

For two and a half years, five mayors and their respective school districts fought against the governor and his transportation department through their ECTSRPC to prevent them from building a 1,200 foot-wide toll road through their commission’s jurisdiction in Eastern Bell and Western Milam counties.

This is our third petition with the Federal Highway Administration showing all the flaws of TxDOT’s environmental study,” stated Ralph Snyder, a Holland businessman and member of the planning commission. “Since TxDOT announced they have formally withdrawn the TTC from consideration, there is no viable project legally before the FHA and they simply must withdraw it from consideration,” Snyder said.

Technically, an environmental study can be reused unless it is completely withdrawn from consideration and discarded by the lead agency, which is the Federal highway Administration. In 2009, the Texas legislature rejected the governor’s and TxDOT’s plans to fund the TTC and before the primary elections, TxDOT announced the TTC was “dead.”

However, on February 1, 2010, during a joint hearing of the Senate and house Transportation Committees, Amadeo Saenz, executive director of TxDOT, was asked by Senator John Carona “If TxDOT changed its mind tomorrow and decided to build the Trans-Texas Corridor, does it have the statutory authority to do so?” Saenz answered “Yes.”

“As much work we’ve put in on this issue, we do not want to leave any stone unturned,” said Mayor Ronnie White of Little River-Academy, who also serves as a board member of the ECTSRPC.

The ECTSRPC was formed under Section 391 of the Local Government Code that forced TxDOT to coordinate their plans with the five cities that all said “no Trans-Texas Corridor shall be built through our jurisdiction.” A copy of the “Petition to Withdraw the DEIS can be obtained at

© 2010 ECTSRPC:

January 6, 2010

Hill Country Cattlewomen January Meeting

Mason County News
Copyright 2009

Hill Country Cattlewomen will begin the new year with their January legislative meeting to be held on Tuesday, January 19th at the Inn of the Hills, 1001 Junction Highway, Kerrville. The public is invited to join members and guests to hear our guest speaker, Margaret Hage Byfield who serves as executive director of American Stewards of Liberty, the newly merged association of Stewards of the Range and the American Land Foundation.

She will be discussing the "coordination" strategy American Stewards has been teaching across the nation to help local leaders protect their economy and way of life. American Stewards helped form the first 391 Commission in Texas, which allowed five towns and their school districts in Eastern Bell County to require the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT) to "coordinate" the Trans Texas Corridor (TTC) with their communities.

This resulted in the Commission convincing the Federal Highway Administration that the environmental study could not be approved, forcing TXDOT to recommend the "no-build" option for the TTC-I-35 Corridor. American Stewards has since helped form 14 similar commissions across Texas to fight several issues including the CREZ transmission lines proposed through the Hill Country.

Margaret is the wife of Dan Byfield and daughter of Wayne and Jean Hage who filed the landmark property rights case Hage vs United States in the US Court of Federal Claims in 1991. She will also be bringing us a report on the latest decision in this case. Coffee and social begins at 10:00 a.m., with the meeting starting at 10:30 a.m. Mrs Byfield will speak at 11:00 a.m. and lunch will follow.

Reservations for the luncheon will be necessary at the cost of $16.00. Members please call your area reservation chairman, non-menbers please contact Marsha Kothmann at 325-347-5511 or by email at no later than January 12th.

© 2009 Mason County News: