SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS

Mismanagement of Guadalupe basin hurts us all

Jan 26, 2010 | San Antonio Express-News by Charles Smith | TAP In The News

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As a commissioner for Aransas County, I am writing in response to the comment by Rep. Bill Callegari, R-Houston, (“Whooping crane suit could threaten Texas cities’ water,” Jan. 16).

While we commend Rep. Callegari’s interest in this important issue, we believe that the lack of a responsible water management plan for the Guadalupe River Basin represents a great threat to the prosperity of users both upstream and downstream.

The Aransas County Commissioners’ Court unanimously approved a resolution to join and support the efforts of The Aransas Project (TAP) on Oct. 12. TAP’s growing membership includes: Aransas County, Town of Fulton, Aransas County Republican Party, Aransas County Democrat Club, International Crane Foundation, Aransas County Navigation District, Coastal Bend Guides Association, and many businesses and private citizens.

Freshwater inflows are the lifeblood of our bay systems and are critical to tourism, the primary driver of our economy. Issues concerning health of the bay systems are important to us, and our downstream position allows us to see the natural, human and economic impacts of the failure to responsibly manage water resources in the Guadalupe River Basin.

Likewise, upstream citizens, businesses, and agriculture across the Hill Country and San Antonio also rely on these same resources to thrive. Our needs are no less or no greater than the needs of upstream communities. That is why it is imperative that a water management plan for the Guadalupe River Basin be one that considers the interests of all of us.

Last year, nearly 10 percent of the last remaining wild flock of endangered whooping cranes died under Texas’ watch. This is more than just the drought. Last winter clearly showed that, despite the reassurances of the water management authorities, there just isn’t enough water being set aside for Aransas County to mitigate low flows, especially during sparse rainfall.

While we are hopeful that a solution resulting in a responsible water management plan for the Guadalupe River Basin can be reached without resorting to a federal judge’s mandate, the current environmental flows process does not have the scope or jurisdiction to protect the cranes nor to remedy the over-allocation of water resources in this basin that already exists.

In this basin, the existing processes aren’t enough “to ensure the needs of all water constituencies, including endangered species, are met.”

Even though coastal communities are the first to feel it, a flawed water management plan endangers the livelihood of everyone that relies on the Guadalupe River Basin for stability and prosperity. If the bays are unable to survive, it is only a matter of time before the entire river basin is put in jeopardy.

We must do everything we can to ensure that the Guadalupe River flows from the springs in the Hill Country to the bays and estuaries of Aransas County. Responsible water management is not an “upstream” versus “downstream” fight. Responsibly-managed water is good for the entire basin.

Charles Smith is an Aransas County commissioner and a member of The Aransas Project.

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