TPWD News Release — Nov. 30, 2011
AUSTIN — The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) will hold initial scoping meetings and take public comment on the potential designation of a segment of the San Marcos River as a new State Scientific Area to protect federally endangered Texas wild-rice and its habitat.
The public meetings will take place on the following:
Date and Time:Tuesday, December 6th, 2011 at 6 p.m.
Where:Texas State University
Date and Time:Tuesday, December 13 at 6 p.m.
Where:Grant Harris Jr. Building
TPWD staff proposed the concept of a State Scientific Area for the San Marcos River to the TPW Commission at its August meeting. The next steps are to conduct public scoping meetings to receive feedback on the concept and then to draft a proposed rule. If approved by the Commission at the January 25-26, 2012 meeting, that proposed rule will be published in the Texas Register for formal public comment. The earliest the Commission could approve a final rule would be at its March 28-29, 2012 Commission meeting.
Historically, Texas wild-rice (Zizania texana) was abundant in the San Marcos River, but its range is now reduced to an area that extends from just below Spring Lake dam downstream to the City of San Marcos wastewater treatment plant. Reduced springflow, increased siltation, and pollution have all contributed to a decrease in plant population. High recreational use of the river and its banks have also impacted Texas wild-rice. Wading can damage or uproot plants, especially during low flow conditions.
Under state law, TPWD may establish a State Scientific Area for the purpose of education, scientific research, and preservation of flora and fauna of scientific or educational value. For the San Marcos River State Scientific Area, TPWD proposes a public awareness program to educate the public about the unique resources of the river and the need to protect Texas wild-rice. The agency may prohibit the uprooting of Texas wild-rice within the State Scientific Area. Under low flow conditions where the wild-rice is stressed, TPWD may limit access to some fragile areas inhabited by wild-rice, while continuing to allow recreational activities throughout the full length of the river. The designation is proposed for the San Marcos River starting below Spring Lake dam and extending downstream to the San Marcos wastewater treatment plant. The State Scientific Area designation provides a tool to physically protect the Texas wild-rice population
The idea of designating a segment of the San Marcos River as a State Scientific Area grew out of the larger Edwards Aquifer Recovery Implement Program (EARIP.) The EARIP is a collaborative, consensus-based, regional stakeholder process tasked by the Texas Legislature with the development of a plan to protect the federally-listed endangered species while managing Texas’ Edwards Aquifer for the benefit of all. Participating stakeholders include water utilities, cities, groundwater conservation districts, agricultural users, industrial users, environmental organizations, individuals, river authorities, downstream and coastal communities, and state and federal agencies.
The EARIP participants recently developed a Habitat Conservation Plan to manage the aquifer to preserve the listed species at the Comal and San Marcos Springs. If approved by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), execution of the Habitat Conservation Plan will help to ensure a stable water supply, implement conservation measures that contribute to the recovery of the listed species and minimize the risk of federal court litigation regarding the use of the aquifer.
The EARIP Habitat Conservation Plan and supporting documents will be presented as recommendations to the Edwards Aquifer Authority (EAA) Board of Directors in December. Under state law, the EAA must implement a program by December 31, 2012 to ensure that continuous minimum springflows of the Comal and San Marcos springs are maintained to protect listed species as required by federal law. The EAA must review the EARIP recommendations and may use the EARIP documents as the basis for its required protection programs. The plan will then be submitted to USFWS for approval.
For those unable to attend a scoping meeting, written comments can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or Cindy Loeffler, Texas Parks and Wildlife, 4200 Smith School Road, Austin, TX 78744 by January 17, 2012.