July 15, 2008

Flood Study Meetings Begin Tonight

By David Tewes, Victoria Advocate, Texas

Jul. 15--A three-county effort to get grant money to study damaging and prolonged flooding on the Guadalupe River drew support Monday.

"I believe this fresh look into this will be refreshing," said community activist Kenneth Schustereit. "Thousands upon thousands of acres down there are fallow today."

Schustereit, speaking during a commissioners court meeting, blamed the fallow land on extended flooding that deposits silt and makes otherwise productive land useless.

Victoria, Calhoun and Refugio counties are working together to get a $1.5 million to $2 million grant for the study. It would focus on why the floods that used to last for days now last for months. It would also attempt to find a way to fix the problem.

A series of public meetings this week will kick off plans to involve affected landowners in the effort to solve the Guadalupe River flooding problem.

"We want the local landowners --those that are most affected personally --to come to this meeting and choose a representative for an advisory committee for the coalition," said Joyce Dean, Victoria County's director of Administrative Services. "We really want people from the landowners who are interested in helping us identify the problem and solve the problem."

The meetings are open to the general public and officials hope each county will elect two people to the advisory committee. One will be the representative and the other an alternate.

Schustereit said he's studied the prolonged flooding for years and he believes he knows what the problem is.

"Absolutely, positively after you study this situation, you will find one reason and one reason only," he said. That's a lack of stewardship on the part of the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority, he said.

That includes installation of a saltwater barrier downstream from Victoria and log jams, all the responsibility of the river authority, he said.

Executive Director Bill West with the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority said the fact that it is one of the participants in this study shows it is trying to be a good steward.

"One of the results of this modeling effort will help us determine the factors that are contributing to the flooding on a scientific basis rather than personal opinion," he said.

Another example he cited is the recent clearing of a logjam on the San Antonio River. It was causing floodwater to spill over to the Guadalupe through a bayou in Refugio County.

County Commissioner Gary Burns, who coordinated the grant effort, said he can't completely agree with Schustereit.

He said it's important for residents in the three counties to attend the public meetings this week to help find a solution.

"But mainly we need to work together and not accuse each other," Burns said.

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


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