The San Marcos River Foundation (SMRF) is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation founded in 1985 during the Sesquicentennial celebration for the community by a small group of San Marcos citizens with a mission to preserve and protect the flow, natural beauty and purity of the San Marcos River.

 



SAN MARCOS RIVER FOUNDATION NEWSLETTER VOL. 11, NO. 2
Printed Quarterly -- May 30, 2001

RIVER & WATERSHED PROTECTION POSSIBLE
IF PROPOSITION 2 BONDS PASS IN JUNE 2 ELECTION


This probably falls in the category of preaching to the choir, but those who care about rivers and streams in our area can certainly help preserve some important land for greenspace and parks, protecting the San Marcos and Blanco watersheds, by voting in the June 2 election, this Saturday in Hays County. If the bond issue is approved by voters, the $ 3.5 million in parks/greenspace bonds will be sold gradually over coming years, to purchase land by matching the many grants being written by the very successful County Grants Coordinator for this purpose, without raising taxes. The County Auditor and Commissioners have stated that this is possible because they will be able to rearrange some current debt, and leverage the parks bonds with the grants. The goal is to multiply the bond money several times with the grant money, in the hope of at least tripling it. Since Central Texas is growing so rapidly, there is no time like the present to buy land before it gets even more expensive, or gets covered with concrete.

Please don't forget to vote, since the turnout will be light, making each and every vote more important than ever. For more information on the bond proposal, call Chris North of the San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance, who also serves on the County's Parks Board, as does Joe Cox, a San Marcos City Councilman, and Pat Kirwin of the City's Parks Board. SMRF's rep on the County Parks Board is Eileen Trainor. All of these folks are knowledgeable and informed, and in the phone book. Please don't skip voting on this issue. Polls open at 7 a.m. in case you're leaving town, and they are open till 7 p.m. Take friends and family members along, too. You could be the deciding factor, if you help get out the vote.

PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE ABOUT AN IMPORTANT NEW PROJECT TO PROTECT INSTREAM FLOWS

SMRF announced a bold new project at the annual membership meeting, but many members who were not able to attend have not yet heard about it. The SMRF board has been waiting until the paperwork is complete to publicly announce the effort, but didn't want to wait too long to inform members, since the rest of the world will be hearing about it soon. The project is the application for an instream water right that will help keep the San Marcos River flowing, all the way to the coast. This is unprecedented in Texas, and could truly be the most important work SMRF has ever done to defend the river. The application was filed almost a year ago, and was declared "administratively complete" last December 2000 by TNRCC, which means that the water right priority date is 12/21/00. Other water rights applied for in the future by others will have later priority dates, and will have to get in line behind SMRF's, if SMRF's is granted. This means those later date rights will not be able to pump if the River drops very low, saving the River in dry spells. This permit process will take a long time, probably years, but SMRF has shown persistence and patience before, and will again in this very important water rights case. It is a unique new way to try to save this River from disappearing, by working within the State's system.

Under Texas law, people can pump a river dry. For the last five years of Bed & Banks hearings, as SMRF successfully urged the TNRCC, and vainly begged the City of San Marcos to consider environmental needs when pumping from the River, it became more and more obvious that no one but SMRF was defending the River. So many small water rights are continually being granted by TNRCC that SMRF was wasting effort fighting each one separately, losing at least some of the flow each time. As SMRF learned more about the State's water rights process, and the plight of the downstream areas during dry spells, it became sadly obvious that too many water rights were already allotted. Not all of them can be pumped out consistently while expecting to see any water left in the rivers. The coastal bay and estuary system that the San Marcos River feeds via the Guadalupe River is especially vulnerable, since freshwater is so vital to its health and survival.

In fact, 12% of the whooping crane flock died last year, at the mouth of the Guadalupe River in the Aransas Wildlife Refuge, where they are the only breeding colony of whoopers left in the world. They died because not enough fresh water is reaching the San Antonio Bay anymore. (Our San Marcos and Comal Rivers in Central Texas are 90% or more of the flow of fresh water that the bay gets during dry periods, according to many studies.) The lack of fresh water to drink, causing the cranes to fly for miles for a drink every day, and the lack of foods like crabs because the very ecosystem started falling apart from the lack of fresh water, weakened the cranes terribly before they left the coast in March '01 for their annual migration to Canada. More will probably die on the way up there, and reproduction will be poor for the second year in a row in Canada, mainly because of this lack of fresh water in Texas. And these were not even long or serious droughts, neither the '99-'00 dry spell or the '95-'96 one which caused similar difficulties along the River. Alternative sources of water will have to be found for the rapid growth in central Texas to continue. The rivers are already strained past the breaking point, and Texas is close to irreparably damaging or wiping out the Guadalupe estuary.

The whoopers are just a very large white "canary in a coal mine" since the fishing and tourism economies of the coastal regions also depend on the fresh water, and the health of the bays. In fact, every town and inhabitant along the River depends on the flow, and good water quality which suffers as the River gets pumped lower and lower. TNRCC professes to protect bay and estuary flow, but has ignored the '96 Texas Parks & Wildlife study, which found that 1.15 million acre/feet per year of fresh water is needed for the survival and health of the bay and estuary system at the mouth of the Guadalupe. In fact the TNRCC Water Availability computer model shows that there is not even enough water left to permit the request from SMRF for this 1.15 million a/f of instream flow water rights. SMRF has begun a grant-writing effort to cover expensive TNRCC fees and legal fees, and is talking with the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department and the GBRA, the Guadalupe Blanco River Authority, to see how they would like to be involved in this protection of the instream flows. There will be many who attempt to hold up this water rights permit, but the cold hard facts about what is happening to this river system will be hard to ignore, especially by TNRCC Commissioners, who have for many years repeatedly and publicly stated their goal of protecting the bays and estuaries. It will be an interesting and exciting year ahead, and SMRF hopes that all members will be proud to be a part of this vitally important project, protecting the River all the way down to the Gulf.

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WELCOME TO NEW BOARD MEMBERS AND 2001 OFFICERS FOR SMRF

The two new board members elected for 2001 were Jon Cradit and John Hohn. The two board members elected for second terms were Dr. Al Groeger and Dianne Wassenich. The new officers for SMRF and their phone numbers are listed next to the membership form on page 3 of this newsletter, along with all the other names of the board members. If members wish to ask questions or discuss river issues, they are encouraged to call the officers of the board at any time, or attend the monthly meetings at 6 pm. at the Old Fish Hatchery Bldg. on C. M Allen behind the Chamber of Commerce, on the third Thursday of each month.

SUPERFUND SITE ON THE SAN MARCOS RIVER?

Yes, lots has happened since the last newsletter. A spring site at IH 35 and Hwy 123, on Willow Creek, has been found to have dry cleaning solvent and gas additives in levels high enough to warrant being declared a state Superfund site, which is not as bad as a federal Superfund site, but still of concern. The main concern is that this has gone on for many years without public notification. So far, there is no evidence that the chemicals are causing a problem in the river, but more testing is scheduled for coming months. One public meeting was held, and another will be held soon to announce test results and let citizens comment on eventual land use designations, which will affect what level of cleanup occurs. Watch the Daily Record for announcements of this meeting, or sign up for the SMRF weekly email list for regular information updates on all river issues. (request signup to wassenich@sanmarcos.net)

BUDA SEWAGE SPILLS CONTAMINATE CREEK AND LAKE

Rapid growth in Buda has overwhelmed its sewer plant, and untreated sewage has overflowed into the intermittent creek that receives its wastewater. This creek flows to the Bollinger Lake on private property, that is now terribly contaminated, and eventually to Plum Creek which flows into the San Marcos River further downstream, near Luling. SMRF has helped those creek and lake-side landowners in their effort to contact TNRCC for help, starting in April. TNRCC has been very slow in moving, but finally Memorial Day weekend ordered Buda to hire a Class A wastewater plant operator, immediately. Buda's permit only had a Class C operator required.

At a Buda City Council workshop in late May, SMRF asked that Buda stop all new connections until the addition to their plant is finished, scheduled to be in 60 days or so. And SMRF also suggested that Buda put out notices in its utility bills to citizens to please stop using garbage disposals, try to flush less often, and request that industries do all they can to cut down their waste loads, until this addition is finished. Though Buda has industrial pretreatment ordinances, no testing or monitoring of the many industries using Buda wastewater lines has been done. The resulting disaster has been well documented by many TV stations and newspapers. The color photos of the mess, especially the large clumps of wiggling red blood worms in the creek, have been particularly disgusting. GBRA, the Guadalupe Blanco River Authority, has stepped in to offer a Class A plant operator's services, and has done some testing showing the creek to have a 38,000 fecal coliform count on May 2, which is quite alarming. Thus far, the very poor minority community east of the IH 35 access road near the creek has no idea what is occurring, since no signage has gone up warning of the contamination of the creek. Buda's Mayor and City Manager have been "not sure Buda is responsible", so have been reluctant to take charge. The whole situation has illustrated once again that citizens are the ones who have to enforce the laws protecting rivers and streams.

MORE PATRON MEMBERS AND SEVERAL GRANTS

Since the last newsletter, several patron members who were missing from the list printed have been pointed out. So add Denny Thomas and John Hohn as lifetime/patron members. And the Lion's Club came through again this year with a $1000 donation, as they have for many years in the past, to support SMRF's preservation work. Also, the Magnolia Trust has given SMRF a $2500 grant to help with the water right for instream flows project, and the Texas Center for Policy Studies has committed $5000 for the technical studies SMRF will need to do to defend the water right permit in hearings. Thanks to all these individuals and groups for their generosity and confidence in SMRF to follow through and accomplish great things in the protection of the San Marcos River.

FLOWS STILL PRETTY HIGH, NOT THAT WATER SAFARI PADDLERS ARE COMPLAINING

The San Marcos River in town at University Bridge is still flowing at 220 cubic feet per second at the end of May, pretty amazing news for those accustomed to the past few dry years. And river clarity has returned, after a silty murky spring rainy season, to the great relief of downstream river users. The Water Safari should be exciting June 9th, the paddlers will have a rather rapid trip.

MEMORIALS FOR NORVELL GRUMBLES

Shorty Grumbles of Staples and his large family were most thoughtful in naming SMRF as the memorial recipient when Shorty's wife Norvell passed away in April. Sincere thanks to this family, and their many friends, who have mailed in donations in Norvell's memory. SMRF will work harder than ever, to make sure the River continues to be clean and flowing, a source of pleasure for all her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, as it was for her during her long and happy life at the Staples Dam on the San Marcos River. The Purgatory Creek Chili Pod will dedicate its benefit chili cookoff on Saturday, July 21, to Norvell's memorials. Watch the paper for details. Everyone is welcome to attend this fun event on the river at the Staples dam, so mark your calendar right now.

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PHONE NUMBER FOR THE RIVER RANGERS

The San Marcos River Rangers Volunteer Coordinator Mary Rocamora wanted to remind SMRF members of their phone number, a San Marcos cell phone number: 557-7571. Those who wish to go through the training to learn how to do accurate and detailed water quality testing can call her to see when the next training sessions are scheduled. These volunteers test regularly and provide a steady "eye on the river" all the way to Prairie Lea and are reaching even further for future volunteer testers. By the way, a national magazine, the Volunteer Monitor, is coming out in June with an article about SMRF and the River Rangers, and the ways that volunteer testing data helped clean up the San Marcos River in wastewater permit hearings for the past ten years.

SIGN UP FOR SMRF'S EMAIL LIST TO GET WEEKLY UPDATES

If a SMRF newsletter four times a year is just not enough river news for you, email wassenich@sanmarcos.net to sign up for SMRF's weekly updates of events and issues that affect the San Marcos River. About 125 are currently on the email list, making it possible to let a large group know quickly if volunteers are needed, or if an issue requires the presence of the group at important meetings, or if just a phone call will help get something done. Much more information than just a newsletter could ever print, much more timely. All the inside info. Email today!

BURLESON'S DAM REPAIRS ON SPRING LAKE NOW HAPPENING, KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE AREA

SMRF members have been stopping by frequently, checking on the progress of the dam repairs. So far, only the road has been built to get to the repair area just below the restaurant's deck. Hope for small rainfall events while this repair is going on, nothing big enough to cause flooding, since much bare dirt is exposed. Fortunately, few trees were cut, mostly just underbrush. If you see a serious problem call SWT and ask for Allen Goldapp, the SWT liason for SMRF. Or email wassenich@sanmarcos.net

SMRF Board Secretary Therese Kosary-Whalen visited children from Bonham Early Childhood Center, who are coloring their San Marcos River ABC's Coloring Book. Their teacher Jeanne McCaffrey received SMRF's mini- grant for her class's studies of the San Marcos River, a field trip, glass bottom boat rides, and the printing of their coloring books designed by Jeanne and featuring things found in the River.

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