Appropriations Bill Includes Federal Funding For Baylor Projects

Dec. 15, 2004

by Lori Scott Fogleman

The $388.4 billion Appropriations Bill signed Dec. 8 by President Bush includes more than $1 million for Baylor University projects supported by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), Rep. Joe Barton (R-6th District), Rep. Chet Edwards (D-11th District) and Rep. Kay Granger (R-12th District).

The project funding includes $400,000 for an assessment of Lake Whitney as a potential drinking water source, $200,000 for Baylor's Mayborn Museum Complex and its mammoth exhibit and $500,000 for the GEAR UP Waco college preparation program for at-risk students.

"We are profoundly grateful to Sen. Hutchison, Rep. Barton, Rep. Edwards and Rep. Granger for supporting Baylor's request for federal funding to support these important programs," said Baylor President Robert B. Sloan Jr. "These grants will allow us to initiate and continue research and public service programs that not only benefit Baylor faculty, staff and students, but the Central Texas community as well."

The $400,000 water research funding will finance the initial phase of an assessment of Lake Whitney, located in Bosque and Hill counties, as a potential water source, greatly needed due to rapid population growth in north and central Texas. Currently, Whitney and rural areas in Bosque, Hill, McLennan and Burleson counties use the Trinity sands aquifer for water, but growth in these counties and demand from the Dallas Fort-Worth Metroplex and Central Texas are depleting the aquifer. Development of the Whitney reservoir could provide a partial solution to these water issues.

"These funds will allow Baylor University to study Lake Whitney as a possible source of water for residents of Central Texas. The rapid growth rate of the Lone Star State has made our water needs more acute than ever. Baylor University is recognized as a leading research institution and I will continue to support important projects like these," said Hutchison, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Dr. Truell Hyde, vice provost for research, said the funding will directly impact an important water supply problem for central Texas.

"It is the primary reason the proposal garnered the strong support of both state and federal representatives," Hyde said. "Basically, this is just one more example of how collaborative partnerships between Baylor research faculty and the local community benefits everyone involved. We're looking forward to a long and productive relationship."

Although Whitney is one of the largest lakes in the region, with a surface area of more than 23,000 acres, its potentially high salinity levels have kept it from being considered as a water source for public consumption in the past. Whitney's salinity levels are the result of the geology of the Salt Fork of the Brazos River, which makes its way into the lake.

The project will include a feasibility study, including a physical, chemical and biological assessment of the lake and its watershed, an ecological study of the lake to determine the major factors relating to making the water safe for drinking and computer modeling of how the water moves in the lake to determine if the water is more usable during certain times of the year or if the water stratification is less saline on certain levels. An educational outreach aspect also is included in the study.

The $200,000 designated to the Mayborn Museum Complex has been earmarked for various components of the Waco Mammoth Site. The site was discovered in 1978 by Paul Barron and Eddie Bufkin, who brought it to the attention of Baylor's Strecker Museum. To date 24 mammoths and one camel have been excavated in the upper section of the site, making it the largest concentration in the world of extinct proboscideans dying from the same event.

"This funding preserves all scientific data gathered, creates an educational video and expands the mammoth exhibit currently planned for the permanent exhibit gallery," Edwards said.

With these appropriation funds, the museum will hire a project archivist who will organize and process an estimated 250 linear feet of scientific papers, photographs, field notes, publications, reports and correspondence related to the mammoth site since its discovery.

The museum also will produce a video on the mammoth site that will be shown in the 185-seat SBC Discovery Theater at the Harry and Anna Jeanes Discovery Center. The video will be designed to engage the attention of viewers by giving an overview of the discoveries and the scientific significance of the site.

Lastly, the funds will enable the museum to continue to enhance the mammoth exhibit, by far the Mayborn's most popular exhibit, in the Discovery Center's permanent exhibit gallery.

"The significance of the Waco Mammoth Site is twofold," said Dr. Ellie Caston, director of the Mayborn Museum Complex and chair of the department of the museum studies. "First, it is an internationally recognized scientific site, and secondly, it has vast public appeal. Everyone wants the site to open to the public, and we hope these components will generate interest and more funding."

The Appropriations bill also added language requested by Edwards to direct the Department of the Interior to move ahead with its study of whether the Waco mammoth site should be made a part of the National Park Service.

"Without the directive language in this bill, the Waco mammoth study might not have begun for three to five years, because of the backlog of park studies," Edwards said. "The language I added makes it clear that Congress wants the Waco mammoth park study to commence this year. This site is unique in the world and should be preserved for future generations as part of the national park system."

The Appropriations bill also included $500,000 in additional funding for GEAR UP Waco, a comprehensive, collaborative initiative focused on preparing at-risk students academically and socially for college.

"Encouraging students to complete high school and to attend college is vital for them to be able to obtain good jobs and support their families in an increasingly competitive world market," Edwards said.

GEAR UP Waco is funded by a $6 million federal grant from the Department of Education and includes such partners as Baylor, Texas State Technical College, McLennan Community College, Communities in Schools/McLennan County Youth Collaboration, Waco I.S.D., Waco Foundation and the City of Waco.

"This funding is directly tied to the outstanding efforts and effectiveness of our GEAR UP Waco partnership and the unwavering support of Congressman Edwards," said Matt Williams, project director for GEAR UP Waco. "GEAR UP Waco and all of our partners associated with the project are proud of our accomplishments as we focus in on a new grant proposal and possible expansion of our project in the coming year."

Williams said the additional funding will allow GEAR UP Waco to increase math, science and parental involvement programming throughout Waco ISD secondary schools. The funding also will allow GEAR UP Waco to capitalize on local successes and expand further into the Central Texas community.

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