County to Vote to Extend Closure on Guadalupe Tonight (TX)

Posted: 07/11/2002
by Jason Robertson

The Comal County Commissioner's Court is taking measures that will restrict access to the Guadalupe River indefinitely. This goes beyond the court order described in AW's river closure alert on July 10, 2002.

The proposed order, posted below, will be voted on tonight in New Braunfels at 8:15pm. If approved, all recreational access will be curtailed.

AW's letter to Comal County DA Dib Waldrip (email datdww@co.comal.tx.us) and Sheriff Bob Holder (email soajrh@co.comal.tx.us) is posted below.

If you contact the DA or Sheriff, please follow these guidelines:

1. Be polite and courteous.

2. The Sheriff's officers and county officials are being overextended and exhausted by the on-going recovery efforts, please be brief and do not try to debate the issue with them.

3. Simply call to express your concern in the court order and proposed county order, and describe your interest in re-opening the Guadalupe for whitewater recreation as soon as possible.

4. Propose that the closure be modified to remain in effect until the water level gets down to a certain level, perhaps 5,500 cfs, the maximum release amount from Canyon Dam, and then only to boaters properly equipped with helmets and pfd (life jacket).

5. Finally, thank the officials you are talking to, and express sincere appreciation for their hard work.

This is not an appropriate time to be adversarial. The situation on the Guadalupe is unique, and as the county order makes clear there are many difficult problems related to public safety and law enforcement in the region. However, it is important to act now and raise awareness of the public interest in restoring recreational access to the river as soon as reasonable.

In the past, AW has gotten closely involved with deterring high water river closures in California, New York, Maryland, District of Columbia, Tennessee, West Virginia, Oregon, as well as many other states.

Our actions on those occasions was to proactively establish state and local policies addressing recreational access during flood events and ensuring that the rivers are not closed in the future following heavy rains.

The flooding on the Guadalupe is unique though, because this flooding is so far out of the ordinary and there are so many developing stories of personal loss and tragedy.

Thus, our primary objective on the Guadalupe is to restore access as soon as possible and to make sure that boater access does not impede on-going rescue and recovery efforts. The question of what to do in the future re possible high water closures is likely premature.

We do not want the boating community to be viewed as part of the problem during this difficult time. The impressions the local legal community receive of the boating community in the coming weeks are likely to structure local policies and regulations for a very long time. Hence the need to be courteous, sincere, and accept personal responsibility for our actions.

Have fun and paddle safely!



Dear Mr. Waldrip and Sheriff Holder,

I am writing to you on behalf of American Whitewater's members and much of Texas' paddlesports community. American Whitewater is a national non-profit. We work on river access, safety, and conservation issues. Our members in Texas have alerted us to the recent closure of the Guadalupe River by the county court and the extended order that the County is considering this evening.

Before I continue, I want you to know that I appreciate all of your efforts to protect public safety and recover from the recent flooding. I know that you are greatly extended, have been working especially long hours for the past couple of weeks, and will continue to do so for many more days.

However, I want to ask you to consider working with us to re-open the Guadalupe for whitewater recreation as soon as possible. Perhaps you could work with us to ask the Comal County Commissioner's Court to allow members of American Whitewater and the Texas River Recreation Association to be permitted to access the river under the County Order being proposed tonight? Members of these two groups should have the requisite skills, swiftwater knowledge, safety training, and equipment to recreate on the Guadalupe safely (even at high water).

In the past, AW has gotten closely involved with deterring high water river closures in California, New York, Maryland, District of Columbia, Tennessee, West Virginia, Oregon, as well as many other states. Our actions on those occasions were to proactively establish state and local policies addressing recreational access during flood events and ensuring that the rivers would not be closed in the future following heavy rains.

The flooding on the Guadalupe is unique though, because it so far out of the ordinary and there are so many developing stories of personal loss and tragedy.

Thus, our primary objectives on the Guadalupe is to restore access as soon as possible AND to make sure that boater access does not impede on-going rescue and recovery efforts. The question of what to do in the future re possible high water closures is likely premature.

We do not want the boating community to be viewed as part of the problem during this difficult time. Please contact me as soon as possible, but at your convenience to discuss what can be done to restore recreational boating access on the Guadalupe. My contact info is provided below, as is a link to our website with information about the river closure.

Sincerely,

Jason D. Robertson
Access Director
American Whitewater


ORDER NO. _______
AMENDMENT TO THE COMAL COUNTY
EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT PLAN


WHEREAS the rains of late June and early July of 2002 have caused flooding with immense devastation;
WHEREAS the devastation includes damage to septic and sewage systems throughout Comal County;

WHEREAS the Comal County Health Authority has determined that the damage to septic and sewage systems as well as other factors caused by flooding create a significant health threat primarily in the Guadalupe River and also in portions of the Comal River;

WHEREAS the devastation resulted in the occurrence and imminent threat of widespread and severe damage, injury, and loss of life and property from the flooding and water contamination to the extent that it is a disaster and public calamity requiring emergency action;

WHEREAS the Governor of Texas and the Comal County Judge have declared Comal County to be in a state of disaster;

WHEREAS the flooding has caused fast and swift currents;

WHEREAS those currents altered and changed the bed and banks of rivers, streams, reservoirs and lakes within Comal County;

WHEREAS requests for rescues from the floodwaters have been numerous;

WHEREAS the floodwaters damaged numerous aspects of the public infrastructures;

WHEREAS the flooding has severely damaged or destroyed hundreds and hundreds of homes, buildings, other real property, natural habitat and vast amounts of personal property;

WHEREAS such damage and destruction has caused an extensive amount of hazardous debris to exists within the waterways of Comal County;

WHEREAS proper management of Canyon Dam and Canyon Lake will require the United States Army Corps of Engineers to release large volumes of impounded floodwaters at fluctuating velocities;

WHEREAS the flooding in general has taxed the resources of law enforcement and other officials beyond capacity;

WHEREAS reports of persons committing criminal trespass, criminal mischief, theft, looting, etc. with access from the floodwaters have further taxed law enforcement resources; and

WHEREAS the Comal County Judge and the Commissioners Court, pursuant to the Texas Disaster Act of 1975 as codified in Section 418 of the Texas government Code, has adopted a local emergency management plan which should, to the extent necessary, be amended to include the following rules in this ORDER, as a reasonable security measure, to govern entrance to and exit from the affected areas for as long as deemed reasonably necessary by the County Judge or to the extent otherwise allowed by law;

NOW THEREFORE BE IT HEREBY RESOLVED that, by a majority vote of the Comal County Commissioners Court as indicated by the signatures below, the recent flooding constitutes a disaster and ongoing emergency in Comal County.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the ongoing emergency constitutes a threat to the health, safety and welfare of the public.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that a limited ban and prohibition of the use of all public waterways in Comal County will foster the health, safety and welfare of the public.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the following specifications of the limited ban and prohibition shall continue for the foreseeable future.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the limited ban and prohibition shall be as follows:

Unless otherwise permitted herein, all recreational boating, water sports and other recreational uses are banned and prohibited on the Guadalupe River within Comal County, including its tributaries, the river channel, reservoirs, lakes, and inundated areas adjacent thereto; Property owners along the Guadalupe River within Comal County and their immediate family members only may use the river for the limited purpose recovery, repair and cleaning of flood damage if, and only if, any such person wears on their person a properly certified floatation device; Recreational and all other uses of the Comal River from its headwaters to Landa Lake at the Landa Park train depot shall continue to be permitted to the extent allowed by law;

Recreational and all other uses of the Comal River from Landa Lake at the Landa Park train depot through the Spring-fed Pool and into the original and natural Comal River channel to the bridge at Hinman Island Drive shall continue to be permitted to the extent allowed by law;

All recreational boating, water sports and other recreational uses are banned and prohibited on the Comal River from Landa Lake at the Landa Park train depot through the Dittlinger Mill race to the confluence with the Guadalupe River; and

Property owners along the Comal River and their immediate family members only may use the river from Landa Lake at the Landa Park train depot through the Dittlinger Mill race to the confluence with the Guadalupe River for the limited purpose recovery, repair and cleaning of flood damage if, and only if, any such person wears on their person a properly certified floatation device.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Comal County Judge may exercise his sound discretion in lifting, altering and terminating this limited ban and prohibition as needed.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that, pursuant to Section 418.173 of the Texas Government Code, any person found to be in violation of this ORDER and any other portion of the Comal County emergency management plan, including this amendment thereto, shall be guilty of an offense punishable by a fine not to exceed $1,000.00 or confinement in the Comal County Jail for a term not to exceed 180 days.

IT IS SO ORDERED AND RESOLVED on this the 11th day of July, 2002.

_______________________________ Danny Scheel, County Judge _______________________________ _____________________________ Jack Dawson, Comm., Pct. # 1 Jay Millikin, Comm., Pct. # 2 _______________________________ _____________________________ Cristina Zamora, Comm., Pct. # 3 Moe Schwab, Comm., Pct. # 4 ATTEST: _______________________________ Date: _______________________ Joy Streeter, County Clerk
Jason Robertson
635 Joseph Cir
Golden, CO 80403-2349