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HomeNL-2013-05 San Marcos River Politics

San Marcos River Politics
April 21, 2013
by Tom Goynes

Hi guys,

This year, a group of folks here on the San Marcos River have been working on legislation to establish of a Water Orientated Recreation District here, similar to the one on the Guadalupe River above and below Canyon Lake.  The idea is that we need to tax river users so we can generate money to hire police officers and clean up after the toobers.  A few of us, including Duane TeGrotenhuis and I had some real reservations about the San Marcos WORD right from the start.  We pointed out that it was the disposable container ban that was instigated by the City of New Braunfels that has saved the Guadalupe and the Comal Rivers (within the city limits) and that the WORD, aside from raising and spending money (and hiring a few policemen on weekends) has had much less success in reducing the number of drunks (and the problems that they cause) on the Guadalupe River.

I was willing to allow the establishment of a WORD if there was a chance that such a district could write a similar ordinance to the disposable container ban in New Braunfels.  I was assured, by the folks pushing the legislation that such a thing could happen.  However, while I was driving back from the Devils River Working Group meeting back in March, there was a State Senate committee hearing on the SM WORD (none of my buddies notified me, and I can't help but wonder if the timing of the hearing was set to coincide with me being tied up) and a committee substitute was presented.  The most egregious change is Section 324A.066 (b) "The board (that is the WORD board) may not prohibit the possession of 12-ounce aluminum cans."

So, with one small sentence, any hope of this bill ever helping alleviate the problems on this river was ended.  While the bill (SB 280) has passed the senate (with no opposition) a group of us met with Representative Tim Kleinschmidt's aides on Thursday, April 18th and talked about our concerns about the current legislation (Kleinschmidt is the Rep for this area that will be presenting the bill to the house).

You can read the current bill and it's history here:

What the Texas River Protection Association (TRPA) would like to do is substitute the following language for the entire 27 pages legislation that is currently SB 280 (or, if that isn't possible, at least include this language in SB 280): 
Substitute for Senate Bill 280:

It shall be unlawful for anyone to use, carry or possess beverages in a disposable container on or in the public waters of the San Marcos River from Spring Lake Dam to the Farm Road 1977 crossing at Staples.

A disposable container is defined as a receptacle designed to be used once, then thrown away and includes metal and aluminum cans, glass containers, Styrofoam cups and containers, cardboard containers, and plastic containers.
Basically, I have taken the language from the New Braunfels disposable container ban and applied it to the San Marcos River.  I think it will do wonders to keep our river clean and to keep most of the drunks away.

I think it is curious to note this reasoning in the bill analysis for the current SB 280: 
Thousands of visitors tube on and otherwise use the San Marcos River each year. The number of visitors to the river, especially for tubing, has increased substantially in recent years as cities and local entities with authority over neighboring rivers (e.g. the Guadalupe River) have enacted laws that discourage certain types of behavior on the river. 

One example is the "can ban" on the Guadalupe River. No longer allowed to bring disposable containers on to the river, visitors are now flocking to the unregulated San Marcos River in Caldwell and Guadalupe counties, specifically around the area of Martindale, to go tubing. Tubing is the recreational activity of floating down the river in a tube, usually drinking beer or other alcohol. 

The increased activity is causing issues for residents of Caldwell and Guadalupe counties and the City of Martindale. Landowners along the public river are reporting problems with littering, trespassing, and public intoxication. In addition, the increased traffic, littering, and safety issues impact the local roadways. Because the counties do not have adequate funding to enforce existing laws and protect public safety, nor the authority to act on the river, which is public property, these problems are left unaddressed.
So, the authors of the bill point out that New Braunfels has passed an ordinance that is working to protect their river, so we (the authors of SB 280) are writing legislation that will have no hope of providing the same sort of protection for the San Marcos River. 

A hearing on the bill by the House Special Purpose District committee is scheduled for this coming Wednesday, April 24th, starting at 8:00 a.m. in room E2.014 (in the underground capital extension).  I realize that this is short notice, but I just found out about this hearing this afternoon.  The bill is the 8th bill scheduled to be heard by the committee, so it may take a while for it to be considered, but we do need as many bodies as possible to at least sign a witness card and let the committee know their thoughts.

If you can't make the hearing, it would be great if you could call Representative Kleinschmidt's office and let them know that you would like to see the disposable container ban added to the legislation (in place of the language that prohibits such a ban).  You can reach his office at: 512-463-0682.  Or, you can fax him at 512-463-9955.

It would also be appreciated if you could contact your state representative and state senator to let them know about your concerns with the current WORD language and the need to add a ban on disposable beverage containers.  Here is the site where you can figure out who your representatives are and how to contact them:

Tom Goynes,
president TRPA
cell: 512-787-5574

The author, Tom Goynes