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GBRA directors updated on water issues
by Tim Delaney
Sep 26, 2013 | 13 views | 0 0 comments | 20 20 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority board of directors chairman Oscar Fogle, left, praises Roger Welder for his work as the executive director of the GBRA Trust at the GBRA directors meeting in Victoria on Wednesday, Sept. 18.
Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority board of directors chairman Oscar Fogle, left, praises Roger Welder for his work as the executive director of the GBRA Trust at the GBRA directors meeting in Victoria on Wednesday, Sept. 18.
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VICTORIA – Rivers in the basins of the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority and other basins are dangerously low, and that could affect business, drinking water and the environment.

That was the overall message at a GBRA monthly directors meeting held in Victoria on Wednesday, Sept. 18.

The meeting was held in Victoria so lower basin constituents could have a chance to hear the latest on water issues and GBRA activities. Normally, the directors’ meeting is held in Seguin.

To illustrate the severity of the river issue, GBRA general manager Bill West played a video interview he did with The Texas Tribune newspaper.

In it, he said tubing on the part of the Guadalupe River where it is spring fed has altered because the flow of the spring has slowed.

“...What normally a float trip would require a six-pack now requires a case,” West said in the interview.

That’s a not-so-subtle hint at low rivers causing a hit to tourism, as well as drinking water and other uses the water provides, such as keeping grass green.

Dan Alonso, executive director of the San Antonio Bay Foundation – a non-profit organization affiliated with the GBRA – accentuated West’s message by providing salinity information at the lower basin of the Guadalupe River.

Alonso checks salinity in the water around Hines Bay – at Austwell, and Hoppers Landing – San Antonio Bay, Mission Lake and Seadrift.

The amount of salinity can effect change in organisms living in the water, as well as plant life. Too much salinity causes negative results.

During the hardest part of the drought, salinity in back bays and in the estuary reached up to 70 parts per thousand. He added that nothing can grow in such conditions.

Normal sea water is around 30 to 35 ppt. But after the rains, readings at the end of August ranged from 23.3 ppt at Austwell, 27.4 ppt at Hoppers Landing and 7.9 ppt at Mission Bay’s mouth (in estuary).

One of the goals of the San Antonio Bay Foundation is to restore as much fresh water to the bays as possible. This means controlling invasive weeds that consume significant fresh water, removing log jams and keeping consistent monitoring to help find problems, according to Alonso.

He said he is developing a working group to better manage whooping cranes holistically while getting the community involved.

“The estuary is looking pretty good,” Alonso said.

But Alonso said with recent rain came a lot of trash and debris in the estuary.

He noted that National Estuary Day was Saturday, and volunteers would be working out of Fulton Harbor to clean up the debris.

However, he also said with recent rains, the salinity has decreased, and fall vegetation has thrived.

Among that vegetation are wolfberries, a staple whooping cranes depend on. The whoopers are expected to arrive in mid-October.

Also, Tommy Hill, GBRA chief engineer, said despite the rains, the Guadalupe River has not recovered.

He said in January the river was flowing at a rate of 1,000 cfs (cubic feet for second). And as of Tuesday, Sept. 17, the river was flowing at a rate of 400 cfs.

Concern about the whooping crane comes from the drought of 2008, one of the driest years ever in Texas, when more than 20 whooping cranes starved to death because their staples of blue crab and wolfberries were practically gone.

The death of the whoopers caused a lawsuit a year later against the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality – the agency controlling water rights – by a group called the Aransas Project, claiming not enough fresh water was released into the cranes’ habitat.

The suit is in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, awaiting a possible settlement.

In the meantime, the GBRA is exploring numerous ways to conserve water, including the reuse of water by means of a desalination plant.

The GBRA directors entered into a closed session to hear the latest news on the federal law suit. No action was taken after the board of directors reconvened in open session.

In other business, GBRA Trust executive director Roger Welder was recognized for his service as he stepped down to make way for the next executive director Jeff Crosby.

Welder was given a standing ovation for his tenure.

The Trust is a non-profit with goal to sustain and conserve the land and water of the Guadalupe River watershed for its natural, recreational, scenic, historic and productive value.

GBRA Middle School Program

GBRA directors heard a presentation by Debbie Magin on an educational program the GBRA worked with Hamline University in St. Paul, Minn. to develop.

The “Waters to the Sea – Guadalupe River Project” is designed to be part of middle school curriculum and involves science and the importance of conservation.

“It launches in schools this fall,” Magin said.

She said the teaching module is available online, is very interactive with short videos embedded, as well as educational games.

The program is narrated by three historical re-enactors: Buffalo Hump for the upper Guadalupe Basin, Ferdinand Lineheimer for the middle Guadalupe Basin and Patricia De Leon for the lower Guadalupe Basin.

The educational tool also has a lab in which students can learn how to identify water quality.

A section on the river’s eco-systems, explanations of water sheds and cycles and more also are within the program.

Buffalo Hump’s basin lessons includes the journey of a raindrop, wastewater treatment, drinking water; Ferdinand Lineheimer’s lessons include water game, Edwards Aquifer, streets to stream, and a water reuse Purple Pipes game; Patricia DeLeon’s lesson includes estuaries and balance, water wisdom, and on the farm.

And each segment includes the history of the characters.

Magin said she has visited with five school districts over the summer.

School districts that are interested should contact her at the GBRA office in Seguin – 830-379-5822, Ext. 259.

Interested school districts and the public can view “Waters to the Sea” at www.cgee.hamline.edu/WTTS-Guadalupe – anytime.
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