July 14, 2008

Victoria Leads Charge Against Damaging Floods

By David Tewes, Victoria Advocate, Texas

Jul. 14--The cause of prolonged, damaging floods on the Guadalupe River has sparked heated debates for years.

But Victoria County is heading up a three-county effort to get grant funding it hopes will provide answers that will end the debate and provide a solution.

"This will be one of the most important studies we do," said Wayne Dierlam, a Victoria County commissioner. Other counties participating are Refugio and Calhoun.

Landowners have said in the past the river would flood and the water would recede in four or five days. Now, they say, those floods last four to five months.

The prolonged flooding is a problem that has developed throughout the last 10 to 20 years. It causes cattle to drown, keeps ranchers from being able to reach their livestock, affects freshwater flows into bays and estuaries, and it's killing hundreds of oak and pecan trees that clog the river.

"We've got a really serious problem," said Gary Burns, the Victoria County commissioner who has coordinated the effort. "There's a tremendous amount of damage."

Speculation about the cause of the problem ranges from a saltwater barrier dam downstream from Victoria, to log jams and releases of floodwater from Canyon Lake.

"There's speculation, but there's no way to prove what's causing it or what the solution is," said Joyce Dean, whose Victoria County department helps write grant requests.

That's why Victoria, Refugio and Calhoun counties will be working with landowners and other agencies to seek a $1.5 million to $2 million grant. The federal grant would be funneled through the Texas Government Land Office to create a computer model of the river from Victoria to the San Antonio Bay.

Officials hope it will identify the problem and show how to fix it.

Burns and Dierlam said it would be an independent study that involves as many people as possible to prevent finger-pointing and come up with a joint solution.

"There's nothing Victoria County could do to correct the problem that doesn't affect Calhoun and Refugio," Burns said. "There are a lot of common goals and concerns."

David Tewes is a reporter for the Advocate. Contact him at 361-580-6515, or [email protected]


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