Friday, February 27, 2009

A Capitol Idea

This week I became a lobbyist for a day. I have never been politically active, beyond voting in every election since I was 18, so I thought this would be a good opportunity to see the legislative engine here in Austin hum along.

Wednesday Feb 25th was Trout Unlimited day at the Texas state capitol. A contingent of 14 members of the Guadalupe River chapter of Trout Unlimited (including your correspondent) visited the offices of state senators and representatives, providing copies of the book "Rivers of Restoration" signed by the author.

Some facts that are not known by the general public about our beloved river and chapter were shared with aides to the elected officials (we didn't get to meet any of the legislators in person), and I wanted to share those facts here.

Canyon Lake was formed in 1964 when the Guadalupe River was dammed. Because the outflow of the dam comes from the bottom of the lake, the water is too cold for native warm water fish species to live for the first several miles below the dam. Texas wildlife officials were charged with replacing the lost fishing opportunity to the people of Texas.

Trout were the obvious solution, as they thrive in water temps below 65F. Several other similar fisheries (called "tailwater" fisheries) had been successful across the nation, but the Guad has the distinction of being the southernmost trout fishery in the United States. Stocking of trout began in 1968, with Lone Star Brewery being the first sponsor to pay fo the stocking.

Also in 1968, a group of forward looking conservationists formed the Guadalupe River chapter of Trout Unlimited. TU is a national organization dedicated to the conservation of cold water fisheries. In the years since forming, GRTU has become the largest chapter in the world, with over 4, 000 members; twice the size of the next largest chapter.

The Guad has another has been named one of the top 100 trout streams in the United States.

Many folks have long enjoyed tubing the Guad in the summer, and it indeed is a treasure for that. But far fewer realize that in the winter, the trout fishery continues to provide revenue for the businesses in the area during a time when tourist dollars are harder to come by. Most trout fishing ceases by March, when the tubing and other water sports begin ramping up.

But as the old saying goes, whiskey is for drinkin', water is for fightin'. That is certainly true where the Guad is concerned, and especially in drought years like this one.

Without getting into the details, let's just say that there are more demands for water than there is water. Government agencies appointed to manage the water resources aren't above duplicity, and we have become the watchdogs of the river, to insure that the agencies manage the water appropriately.

Lakeside land and business owners of Canyon Lake are often at odds with TU, because we have negotiated a minimum flow agreement with the the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority during the summer months, which insures at least 200 cubic feet per second of water flow through the dam. This keeps the river sufficiently cool for trout to survive for about 6 miles downstream. Tube rental businesses love it becuase their customers prefer floating in tubes rather than carrying them downriver.

The minimum flow agreement cause friction with lake property owners when they are unable to use their boat ramps and areas of the lake become dangerous to boat due to exposed hazards when the water level drops too low.

There have been charges of GBRA allowing too much water to be pumped out of the lake for other purposes and never making it through the dam, and various other real or imagined infringements on water rights.

Our goal of meeting with our lawmakers was simple...let them know who we are,what we do, and to raise their awareness of this rare gem of a river.

By the way, if you get the Outdoor channel, the Guad will be highlighted this weekend on Trout Unlimited's program "On the Rise". Check local listings, but here in Austin it airs late Friday night around 11:00P, and again Saturday morning at 8:00A. I have the DVR set...I have a date Saturday morning with the river.

Tight Lines...

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