Federal funds to help SAWS further develop South Side bird-watching site

October 29, 2018
In The News

A former sewage treatment facility repurposed as a bird-watching destination is poised to become bigger with $1.5 million in federal funds awarded to help add wetlands to the property.

U.S. Reps. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, and Will Hurd, R-Helotes, helped secured the funding to pay for a study Mitchell Lake's water quality and add wetlands to a 1,200-acre property off Pleasanton Road.

Owned by the San Antonio Water System, the lake was the first centralized sewage treatment plant for the Alamo City in the early 20th century. Closed in 1987, the city-owned utility company now rents the property to the Mitchell Lake Audubon Society for $1 a year. SAWS' board approved $1.3 million for its share of the water quality and wetlands study in March. The project is expected to go out for bid in November with any needed construction starting in 2019.

SAWS President and CEO Robert Puente gave Cuellar, Hurd and San Antonio District 3 City Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran awards for their work as advocates for the site.

A popular destination for bird watchers, 343 species of birds have been documented on the Mitchell Lake property between the historic Spanish-era missions, Brooks, Texas A&M University-San Antonio and Toyota Motor Manufacturing Texas Inc.'s plant.

Puente wants a project to further develop the Mitchell Lake as a recreational asset to be added to the city's 2022 bond package. He is already finding some support.

"I'll tell you the one thing that you need to know about Mitchell Lake," Hurd said. "If you come to Mitchell Lake, you will become a birder, period, end of story. You can come to the south side of San Antonio to see hundreds of white pelicans in the middle of the year."