Flow News: Protecting The Guadalupe Is Important

 

It seems that we have been cursed with plenty of high water over the last two trout fishing seasons, hence, fishing opportunities have been diminished. The 1999–2000 drought was broken in the fall of 2000, and since then, the pendulum has swung to wetness. As I write this piece, Canyon Lake is 7 feet into the flood pool, and the earliest prospect of good, fishable conditions will hopefully occur before you receive this newsletter. The good news: There is plenty of water. Winter is normally the driest season—let’s hope the normal weather pattern takes hold. Only time will tell, but I am optimistic.

Like most, I fished very little last winter because of the high water. I actually caught more trout in June thanks to the sustaining 200 cfs flows from the “recreational pool” of the lake. This lasted until August 6. Flows slowed considerably, but GBRA kept the flows higher than the required minimum. As a result, many more trout survived, a new state record rainbow of 7 ½ pounds was caught in September, and TPWD electro-fishing sampling yielded an incredible number of rainbows in the 5-pound range in early October.

A little extra flow can go a long way to big fisheries improvement. The Guadalupe has never, ever, come close to realizing its full potential as a trout fishery. The year 2001 provided us with a vision of the shape of things to come. The GRTU agreement with Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority will increase the trophy trout potential. Unfortunately, the agreement will not be implemented until legalities over the GBRA water right have been resolved by the courts. Stuart Henry, GRTU attorney, stated at our October meeting that it might take up to three years to settle issues raised by the Friends of Canyon Lake and Small Hydro of Texas. If the courts throw out the GBRA water right, than our agreement is also lost.

The only significant protection the Guadalupe now has is the FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) license that requires a minimum release of 90 cfs during non-drought periods. In addition, the state requires a pass-through of all inflows into Canyon Lake to satisfy senior water right holders downstream of Canyon Dam. GBRA has subordinated large, senior downstream water rights so that the amount of water they have to pass through has now been greatly reduced. That is why our agreement was so important to protect the trout fishery.

There is a bill in Congress that could eliminate protections for trout fisheries below power dams to maximize peak hydropower production. If it is passed into law, it could have an impact here and other numerous blue-ribbon, tailwater trout streams across the country. These dams have severely damaged the pre-existing natural systems, and trout fisheries have been used to mitigate the damage by replacement. We must write our Congressmen and tell him/her to oppose this provision. You probably have received notices from Trout Unlimited concerning the proposal and more information can be found on the TU website. The TU website will generate a letter for you, all you need to do is access www.tu.org or www.capwiz.com/tu/issues and find the action alert. Enter your zip code to start the letter. It’s easy, and your input is needed to stop the loss!

More demands are increasingly being made of the Guadalupe River for water supply and irrigation without regard to the consequences to fish and wildlife. GRTU has passed resolutions of support and is donating to two organizations that are protecting the in-stream flows of the Guadalupe: The San Marcos River Foundation (SMRF) and the Texas Rivers Protection Association (TRPA). TRPA is fighting a water permit that would be used to irrigate a golf course above Canyon Lake. Apparently the golf species has more priority than native fishes and streams. Decreases in flow above the lake have an impact on the aforementioned FERC-mandated minimum flows—the diversions make it easier to trigger a FERC “drought.”

SMRF has applied for at a water right at the mouth of the Guadalupe to protect in-stream flows and the San Antonio estuary. The estuary needs a certain amount of freshwater inflow to maintain productivity. SMRF seeks to reserve all the un-appropriated waters remaining in the Guadalupe. Studies by TPWD show that the estuary needs over one million acre feet annually to maintain good production. There is concern that too much water is already being diverted to the detriment of the estuary. The SMRF application does not impact existing water rights, since the SMRF water right is less senior, but it will pre-empt future, flow-robbing water rights from being established in the basin. It will protect fish and wildlife, even helping protect our trout sustaining flows below Canyon Dam. If SMRF is successful, it would prevent the construction of any new dams. SMRF would donate all its water to the Texas Water Trust whose purpose is to benefit the environment. Many groups representing over 150,000 conservationists are actively supporting SMRF, and GRTU is proud to be one of them.


As I have outlined, there are many flow matters swirling about that affect us and our sport. But don’t forget that maybe the most important flow issue to you is water safety. The currents in the Guadalupe are swift. Being caught in a swift current is like a fly caught in molasses—it is better to be safe than sorry. If you are inexperienced in wading swift flows, be extra careful. Take it slow and be extra cautious. The only safe flow is the one you are comfortable with. Have a good, safe trout fishing adventure.

 

David Schroeder, GRTU Flow Committee