Letters – Commissioner speaks to river issues
To the Community:
For years, tubing operations along the San Marcos River has resulted in public safety problems, littering, and serious nuisances for area landowners. Alcohol-related incidents have at times been serious in nature, including death. The urgent need to address these issues is why we are pursuing both temporary and permanent solutions
to make the river safer and more enjoyable.
For immediate relief, the county has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that is now in effect with two major tubing operations. These operations will jointly contribute approximately $100,000 annually to provide reimbursement for increased law enforcement along the river on weekends and holidays throughout the recreational season. These funds also include allotments for law enforcement equipment, including kayaks and radios, and to reimburse for on-site coordination through the county’s Emergency Management Coordinator. The agreement also calls for the tubing operations to separately pay for an ambulance with trained personnel to be stationed along the river. A separate agreement between the tubing operations provides for cleanup services along the river.
I am thankful to state Rep. John Cyrier for helping to bring the stakeholders together to achieve this MOU, which brings immediate partial relief to these problems while we continue our work on a long-term legislative solution.
For a permanent solution to the problems along the river, State Sen. Judith Zaffarini filed Senate Bill 965 to create a water-oriented recreation district (WORD) to better address public safety needs along the river, maintain the river’s natural beauty, and protect the rights of area landowners. The Caldwell County Commissioners Court passed a resolution in unanimous support of this legislation.
Earlier this month, Sen. Zaffirini announced that SB 965 passed the Texas Senate. Unfortunately, the bill was weakened significantly while in the senate and is now deficient in key areas. It now only provides for law enforcement and lacks provisions for equipment, vehicles, EMS personnel and coordination, river clean-ups, zone administration, and rule making authority. As such, the bill no longer resembles the strong WORD bill we once envisioned.
SB 965 was received and read for the first time in the Texas House on May 16. Rep. Cyrier had it immediately referred to a House committee and was able to have the committee call a special meeting during a floor debate to consider the legislation. It was voted out of committee on May 19 and will next proceed to the House floor.
Discussions with Rep. Cyrier indicate that he is examining options to strengthen the bill, but this may not be possible due to legislative deadlines, since the Legislature is about to adjourn. Whether this bill achieves passage or not, we will continue to work with Sen. Zaffirini and Rep. Cyrier for additional legislative solutions to the problems along the San Marcos River. We are thankful for their continued partnership with Caldwell County officials and residents, and pleased that the MOU now in place will bring temporary relief while we work on permanent solutions to the problems along the San Marcos River.
Caldwell County Commissioner, Precinct 3