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The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

Hill County Studios brings environmental impacts

Kobe Arriaga
Entrance to the La Coma neighborhood, where construction for Hill Country Studios will take place, Sunday, Feb. 4, 2024.

As Hill Country Studios nears breaking ground on two sound stages and an office building, the environmental impacts the studio will have on San Marcos has been studied.

Hill Country Studios continues to talk with the city of San Marcos regarding construction development on the Edwards Aquifer, according to Chief Marketing Officer of Hill Country Studios Jacob Cowan.

“We’re committed to working with our neighbors in the greater city of San Marcos, Edwards Aquifer and the recharge zone – that has been a priority since day one,” Cowan said.

During the early development stages of Hill Country Studios, the company considered areas like Austin and San Antonio for studio development ground. The green space location in La Cima, helped the company decide San Marcos as the ideal destination.

“We took a trip out here, we fell in love with the area and the people,” Cowan said. “It’s in the heart of the innovation corridor along I-35, where all the creativity meets innovation and technology. It’s growing like wildfire.”

La Cima is a 2,400-acre housing community in San Marcos with 800 acres of open space. Hill Country Studios will reside on about 200 acres in the area.

La Cima is also part of the Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone, a 1,250 square-mile permeable area of where water infiltrates into the aquifer.

Construction on the recharge zone can have possible negative impacts on the Edwards Aquifer. According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), building on the recharge zone can possibly increase pollutants in the aquifer.

“Ongoing residential and commercial development… on the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone has the potential to increase the variety and concentration in stormwater runoff and thereby in water recharging the Edwards Aquifer,” an August 2020 USGS study said.

Building on the recharge zone can also possibly increase the potential of severe flooding in San Marcos according to Brittiny Moore, an environmental educator and hydrogeologist in a September 2023 University Star article.

“The more recharge zone that we destroy, the more severe flooding we’re going to see,” Moore said in the article. “When water doesn’t have enough space to get underground or soak into the soil, then it has to stay at the surface and it’s going to rush off into downstream neighborhoods causing massive flooding events.”

While there are negative potential environmental impacts, Hill Country Studios will possibly bring some positive changes.

Meagan Walters

Juliette Barrilleaux, conservationist with the Edwards Aquifer Habitat Conservation Plan (EAHCP), said the area of Hill Country Studios was always slated to be commercial property, meaning the recharge zone would have most likely been built on anyway.

“In 2013, that area of land of La Cima had been zoned as commercial property. The owner of the property had plans to sell it regardless of who they’re selling it to,” Barrilleaux said. “The question isn’t who is developing on this land. It is what is the best business, company, etc. for San Marcos and that specific ecological environment?”

According to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), for companies to build on the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone, they must submit an Edwards Aquifer Protection Plan. Barrilleaux said Hill Country Studios is building on 50% of their land and is using more permeable materials.

“If you’re familiar with the term ‘impervious coverage,’ that is the amount of concrete covering the ground. The water can’t get through in the recharge zone which is where the concern upon locals came from,” Barrilleaux said. “Instead of pavemented driveways on studio grounds, it’s going to be made of rocks. So you’re looking at less than 50% of what’s allowed.”

According to Barrilleaux, La Cima will work with Hill Country Studios to preserve the recharge zone by managing rainfall on the property. In addition, wildlife may be preserved by La Cima through providing plants and animals with food and water.

“Overall, I’ve been really pleased to hear the ways that they care for the recharge zone, ” Barrilleaux said.

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