New stadium will not disrupt bird habitat

By Linda Wilkins

Assistant City Editor

Contrary to other published reports, Baylor is not purchasing credits from a mitigation bank because of a bird habitat that would be displaced by the new stadium construction.

Rather, Baylor will purchase credits from the mitigation bank, which is a preserved area of land approved by the Army Core of Engineers that cannot be developed, because of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers statutory authorities that regulate navigable waters and protect water environments.

The stadium’s construction will touch the Brazos River, which is considered navigable water, by way of five piers that will hold up the bridge to the stadium. In addition, part of the stadium will be constructed over a lagoon that must be partially filled.

The purchase follows Baylor’s receival of a permit from the Corps that allows the Baylor Stadium project to progress on schedule.

The permit was necessary because water from both bodies would be displaced, and the Corps regulates these areas. In total, 2.98 acres of water would be displaced by the stadium project.

The permit, which was approved Nov. 7 by the Fort Worth district of the Corps, allows Baylor to build the stadium on the planned 93-acre site, said Brian Nicholson, associate vice president for facilities planning and construction at Baylor.

Nicholson confirmed there are no migratory bird habitats being disrupted by construction.

As a part of regulating navigable waters and protecting the water environment, the Corps of Engineers requires that any displaced water body be replaced with a mitigation bank or credits toward a mitigation bank.

Nicholson said the lagoon on the east side of the project will need to be partially filled.

The five piers supporting the bridge will also displace water, adding to the total. The bridge will begin on the east side of the Baylor Law School and extend to the opposite bank, where condos were once located.

Fred Land, a regulatory project manager with the Corps said the U.S. Army Corps had a pre-application meeting with Baylor to discuss the duties and responsibilities of the Corps and so Baylor could receive feedback on construction plans.

Land said the meeting is usually held to help applicants understand their job in evaluating their role to help minimize the impact on navigable waters.

Jennifer Walker, the permits chief of the regulatory program, said Baylor must comply with the conditions specified in the permit.

“They need to stick to the project as they proposed it and as they portrayed it to us, in both words and plans,” Walker said. “That’s what we’ve given them permission for.”

Walker said the Corps is not a proponent or opponent of any construction project.

It is meant to evaluate each applicant based on the Corps statutory authority over the laws protecting the water environment and navigable water laws.

The permit application was received by the Corps on July 2. Nicholson said Baylor had originally expected approval in January 2013, but the process went faster than expected.

Walker said permits can take anywhere from three months to 10 years to approve.

She said the process moves more quickly if the applicant takes all of the steps necessary to minimize the impact of construction.

“It’s a pleasant surprise,” Nicholson said. “It’s strictly a result of communicating with the Corps of Engineers as we put together the permit application.”

He said construction was planned to begin on the west side of the stadium in early December and the construction on the 35-foot-wide bridge will begin in June.

With the permit, however, Nicholson said construction on these portions of the project could begin at any time.