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.
  Instream Flow Water Right Project




 

SMRF Files for Rehearing in Court of Appeals, September 5, 2008

SMRF wins in District Court! February 7, 2006

Background:


The major project of SMRF in recent years is the Water Right Project, which started in 2000 when SMRF realized that all efforts to protect water quality really depend on water quantity. SMRF was appalled to learn that Texas did not have a plan to leave enough water in rivers to keep them healthy, nor for the bays that need fresh water to keep salinity suitable for the reproduction of almost all living things in the Gulf of Mexico.

Many birds like the whooping cranes which migrate across North America to reach the Gulf Coast each winter, depend on a reliable source of food and fresh water in the bays, which is only possible if Texas rivers have an adequate amount of flow. The residents of communities along rivers and bays also depend on adequate clean water, and healthy wildlife and fish to support tourism industries and both commercial and recreational fishing.

SMRF filed a water right application for instream flow in July 2000 to leave the exact amount of water in the San Marcos and Guadalupe rivers that the state's own studies of the past thirty years have found to be necessary. The application pledged all of that water to the Texas Water Trust, an entity set up by the Legislature in recent years to accept donations of water rights, in order to keep streams flowing in the future. Thirty groups with over 150,000 Texan members supported SMRF in its application for the water right for instream flow.

SMRF borrowed $25,000 against its endowment fund to pay the application fee, and many groups and foundations assisted SMRF with legal fees, technical studies and other expenses. Meadows Foundation repaid the $25,000 loan for the application fee with a grant. Houston Endowment, Trull Foundation, Vaughan Foundation, Magnolia Trust, Hershey Foundation, Hobby Foundation, Union Pacific Foundation, and Patagonia paid for technical studies and other expenses. Groups like Texas River Protection Association were major donors, along with Houston Canoe Club, Austin Paddlers, Guadalupe River Trout Unlimited, Calhoun County Shrimpers and many other generous groups and individuals.

In 2003, SMRF requested that the unusually long review of the application by Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, (TCEQ, the state agency that grants water rights) be finished up. SMRF filed suit to get the application process moving along. TCEQ staff then recommended that their three Commissioners, which make the final decisions at TCEQ, send the application to an administrative hearing, as SMRF had also requested repeatedly, to weigh the evidence for and against this amount of water being granted to SMRF for instream flow. Lt. Gov. Dewhurst wrote a letter to the TCEQ Commissioners asking that they not grant SMRF's application---because the legislature wanted to address the concept of protecting instream flow, and freshwater inflows to bays.

In March 2003, TCEQ Commissioners ignored their own staff's technical and legal recommendations, and denied SMRF's application, saying that TCEQ did not have the authority to grant it. But SMRF knew that many such "instream" permits had been granted in the past.

SMRF filed suit against TCEQ the same month in Travis County District Court, to point out that TCEQ did not treat the SMRF application fairly according to its own rules and precedents. The other groups that had filed instream flow water right applications like SMRF's to protect Galveston Bay, Caddo Lake, Matagorda Bay and other rivers, also filed suit in the same court. The lawyers for these groups and SMRF have filed motions for summary judgement, to establish the facts in the case about the way the applications have been improperly handled by TCEQ. The motions for summary judgment will be heard by the judge on January 30, 2006. For more information on the water right project, read the newsletters posted on this website, covering the years since SMRF applied for the water right, or contact SMRF.

Volunteers can help with this project by joining SMRF, sponsoring small benefits anywhere in Texas, helping with the annual silent auction or other events, and fundraising in general to help SMRF pay legal fees associated with this project. It will take many years, but SMRF plans to persevere, because the project is so important to the San Marcos River and all Texas rivers. Spread the word about this important project, to make sure all Texans understand the reality of the danger to Texas rivers and bays, if water is not set aside as protected instream flows for the health of wildlife and humans all the way to the coast.