VICTORY ON THE GUADALUPE:
THE TROUT ARE PROTECTED!
July 17, 2001—a day that will go down in the history of GRTU as a defining moment, an important milestone. The Guadalupe River Chapter of Trout Unlimited and the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority reached an historic agreement that guarantees minimum stream flow protection for the Guadalupe river trout fishery!
Starting only after GBRA’s water permit is declared final, water from Canyon Reservoir will be released during the months of May, June, July, August, and September, in non-drought years, expressly to support the trout fishery. The flow rates will roughly double the current minimum flow requirements and will have a magnitude to ensure the over-summer survival of trout down to Beans Camp, a distance of 10 miles below the dam.
The settlement was reached in the form of a binding contract upon both GBRA and GRTU. GRTU agreed to withdraw its request for a hearing scheduled on July 19 at the State Office of Administrative Hearings and made it a condition upon GBRA to reach a deal before hearings began. Remanding the case back to TNRCC for speedy approval will meet the objectives of the task that we began in January of 1999 as authorized by GRTU Resolution 99-01: RESOLUTION TO PROTECT THE GUADALUPE RIVER TROUT FISHERY. GBRA will gain its water right and is not restricted in its plans to sell and deliver water as a result of the agreement.
The agreement was the product of many hours of tough negotiations with numerous proposals and counter proposals. In the end, it represents a compromise that both parties met each other halfway to reach a deal. A tremendous amount of credit goes to Stuart Henry, the legal representative of GRTU, for getting us a solid and enforceable contract. Without Stuart’s expert water law knowledge and considerable negotiating skills, we would have been cut short. Simply put, I don’t know of anyone who could have done a better job! We are indeed fortunate to have Stuart Henry on our side.
The meat of the settlement is the guaranteed flows. In any calendar year when Canyon Lake exceeds 909.0 feet msl (full conservation capacity), for any length of time beginning on the first day of January, flows will be guaranteed for the entire May-through-September period starting on May 1. If Canyon Lake does not reach that mark before May 1, Minimum Daily Release (see chart below) will start the day after Canyon is greater than 909.0 and will not be interrupted once the trigger is met. Water for the flows will originate from both the flood and conservation pools of Canyon.
Month Days Daily Release
May 1‑15 140 cfs
May 16‑31 170 cfs
June 1‑14 210 cfs
June 15‑30 240 cfs
July 1‑31 200 cfs
Aug 1‑31 200 cfs
Sept 1‑30 200 cfs
TPWD gathered a mountain of water temperature data, from six different monitoring stations. I used this data to surmise that the Minimum Daily Release from May 1 through June 30 could support trout down to the Second Crossing (approximately 14 miles). GRTU wanted to maintain the flows at a higher rate in July and August, but we had to compromise. The flow rates for July, August, and September will ensure trout survival at least to Beans Camp (Third Crossing) and perhaps a little further. If we couldn’t maintain the trout down to the Second Crossing, as was our original goal, sustaining the trout to the Seond Crossing to July is the next best outcome.
An engineering firm, HDR, Inc., did the hydrology studies on 55 years of historical flow records on the Guadalupe. With the new water right and the expected demands for water, the computer model predicts that for more than two of every three years Canyon Lake will fill to the elevation of the trigger level. When the trigger is set, a highly consistent pattern emerges: Canyon Lake will be at, or above, full capacity in July for 92 percent of those years. And this did not take into consideration a possible permanent deviation in the operations procedures for slowly releasing floodwaters. This year a temporary release deviation for the bottom one foot of flood storage provided a 200 cfs flow that lasted until August 6. It appears that the agreement will have relatively insignificant impact on Canyon Lake by lowering it about an average of one foot by the end of the period.
GBRA agreed to reimburse GRTU $75,000. This will pay for our legal expenses. The contract expires in the year 2018, so the flows are not permanent. It is a situation where one has to look at the glass as being either half empty or half full. I have to believe that the possibility of carving out a segment of Canyon Lake’s flood storage to support minimum flows over the long term can ensure flows past the contract period. Notwithstanding all the additional economic benefits derived from sport fishing and water recreation, it will become important over time to continue the flows. So the glass has been filled halfway and we are moving the level in the right direction.
Although the contract is signed and the money is in hand, the water right is currently not finalized. There will be no flows until GBRA is granted a certificate of adjudication to appropriate the water. A strong legal challenge is being waged by the Friends of Canyon Lake. It could be two years before the final status of GBRA’s water right is certain. Additionally, Comal County Commissioners have been grumbling and making threatening noises concerning the GRTU/GBRA agreement. For some mysterious reason they have found fault with it. But they have no legal standing in this matter and cannot interfere with a contract. GRTU was granted party status to contest the water right by vote of the TNRCC Commissioners. The same Commissioners urged that GRTU and GBRA reach a settlement and provided the Alternative Dispute Resolution Offices as a means. There should be no question of our legitimacy in reaching a settlement and signing a contract. We stand ready to defend our contract if anyone tries to mess with it. It seems to me they are just plain jealous because GRTU achieved a better deal for the County than they did.
I would like to thank all the people who helped make this possible. Special recognition goes to Scott Graham, Billy and Stacy Trimble, Hylmar Karbach, Alan Bray, and George Spalding, who invested considerable time and effort. Those who have made donations to the Guadalupe Legal Defense Fund and helped in any other way are very much appreciated.
Many affidavits were submitted to TNRCC in the course of proving our legitimate interest in this matter. Reading through them, I saw how the GRTU of today was built on the foundations of those who started the chapter, stocked the trout, did the studies, intervened with the FERC permit, and changed the TPWD regulations. Everything they did was the best that could be done, and it was very important to get us where we are today. We have only scratched the surface, there is a lot more to accomplish and future GRTU’ers can do it. Can we dare hope that GRTU and GBRA can cooperate for the betterment of the river and this unique resource?
Isn’t this a great time to be a member of GRTU? Come and join us—be a believer and spread the word, be active. Much more needs to be accomplished. A whole new level of potential has been opened up with the new agreement: trophy trout, a sustainable trout fishery. We stand to protect America’s coldwater fisheries and the Guadalupe.