Capes Dam To Return Before San Marcos City Council For Discussion, Staff Direction

Tuesday, the San Marcos City Council will receive an update and hold a discussion regarding Cape’s Dam during their regular work session.

The council will convene for the presentation and discussion at 3:00 PM in the City Council Chambers and provide direction to staff on which of the four options available to them they’d like to move forward on or request additional information.

The four options available to the city are to remove the dam, redesign and rebuild it, restore it or conduct another study.

In January 2019, the council postponed a decision of designating Thompson/Capes Dam and Ditch Engineering Structure as a historic landmark for up to six months.

Councilmember Ed Mihalkanin requested city staff bring them all the information related to the project including estimates for repairs and demolition before the council made its decision.

According to the city, the permitting requirements could vary depending on what direction the City Council would like to go in.

To restore, rebuild or remove the dam, the City of San Marcos will have to receive permitting from (1) the United States Army Corp of Engineers (USACE), (2) United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), (3) Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD), (4) General Land Office (GLO), (5) Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and (6) Texas Historic Commission (THC).

The San Marcos River is considered a navigable body of water because it connects or drains into tributaries that are accessible from a major body of water, such as the Gulf of Mexico.

The USACE’s general definition is, “Navigable waters of the United States are those waters that are subject to the ebb and flow of the tide and/or are presently used, or have been used in the past, or may be susceptible for use to transport interstate or foreign commerce. A determination of navigability, once made, applies laterally over the entire surface of the waterbody, and is not extinguished by later actions or events which impede or destroy navigable capacity.”

How does the location of the dam on a navigable body of water affect the property?

  • The US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) would likely need to be involved if the dam is removed or water flow is affected. US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) may also be involved.

 

  • Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act and its implementing regulations at 36 CFR Part 800 would be triggered.

 

  • If the federal agencies are involved, they would take the lead in negotiating with the City and THC about an appropriate level of effort for mitigating the effects of the project (removal, refurbishment, restoration, etc.) on the dam.

How the City got here

  • In 2014, City Council approved Planned Development District (PDD) zoning for the Woodlands development project, and received 20 acres of dedicated parkland along the San Marcos River, which includes Capes Dam and the Mill Race.

 

  • In October 2014, the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board requested a study of safety and environmental issues associated with the Dam. Watershed Systems Group, Inc. (Dr. Thom Hardy), was contracted to conduct a scientific evaluation.

 

  • On February 22, 2016, Council held a Workshop and received a presentation from Dr. Thom Hardy. Council provided direction to the City Manager to prepare an item for Council consideration and possible action for removal of Cape’s Dam and filling of the Mill Race.

 

  • On March 15, 2016, City Council approved a motion to remove Cape’s Dam.

 

  • On June 21, 2016, a stakeholder meeting was held at fish hatchery, including US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Texas Historical Commission (THC), US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Hays County Historical Commission, and the City. At this meeting, THC stated that the dam, mill race and associated structures retain sufficient historic integrity to remain eligible for listing in the National Register. USFWS stated that leaving the dam in place, in whole or in part, would make the City ineligible for USFWS funding for the project.

 

  • On August 16, 2016, Council received a presentation from USFWS regarding the Cape’s Dam removal planning and permitting process. The USFWS report states that the dam, “acts as a barrier to fish and other aquatic species” and “is in severe disrepair and poses a safety hazard to recreational users.”

 

  • Due to the conflicting positions of USFWS and THC, and the competing interests of other interested stakeholders, the City determines that the best course of action is to suspend the UFWS permit process and further investigate removal, repair and replacement options.

 

  • On September 6, 2018, the Historic Preservation Commission initiated a petition to designate Cape’s Dam and the Mill Race as a Local Historic Landmark.

 

  • On October 4, 2018, the Historic Preservation Commission voted to recommend designation of Cape’s Dam and the Mill Race as a Local Historic Landmark.

 

  • On November 27, 2018, the Planning & Zoning Commission voted to deny designation of Cape’s Dam and the Mill Race as a Local Historic Landmark.

 

  • On January 29, 2019, City Council held a public hearing regarding Ordinance 2019-04, and postponed the vote to designate Cape’s Dam and the Mill Race as a Local Historic Landmark.

Timeline

January 15, 2013, City Council approved Planned Development District (PDD) zoning for The Woodlands of San Marcos development project and received 20 acres of dedicated parkland along the San Marcos River, which includes Cape’s Dam and the Mill Race.

September 23, 2014, the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board received a presentation from Dr. Thom Hardy regarding work done by the Meadows Center in regards to a study of the safety and environmental issues associated with Cape’s Dam. The scientific evaluation was completed which recommended the removal of Cape’s Dam and filling of the Mill Race.

February 22, 2016, City Council held a Cape’s Dam Workshop where they received a presentation from Dr. Thom Hardy and provided direction to Staff to bring back an action item that would approve the removal of the dam and the filling of the mill race. Click to read minutes here.

March 15, 2016, City Council approved a motion to remove Cape’s Dam.  Click here. to read minutes.

June 21, 2016, a stakeholder meeting was held at the fish hatchery, including US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Texas Historical Commission (THC), US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Hays County Historical Commission, and the City.  THC stated that the dam, mill race and associated structures retain sufficient historic integrity to remain eligible for listing in the National Register. USFWS stated that leaving the dam in place, in whole or in part, would make the City ineligible for USFWS funding for the project.

August 16, 2016, Council received a presentation from USFWS regarding the Cape’s Dam removal planning and permitting process. The USFWS report states that the dam, “acts as a barrier to fish and other aquatic species” and “is in severe disrepair and poses a safety hazard to recreational users.”  Due to the conflicting positions of USFWS and THC, and the competing interests of other interested stakeholders, the City determines that the best course of action is to suspend the UFWS permit process and further investigate removal, repair and replacement options.  Click here to read minutes.

October 4, 2018: Historic Preservation Commission recommended the approval of designating Thompson/Cape Dam and Ditch Engineering Structure as a local historic landmark (4-2). Click here to read minutes. 

November 27, 2018: Planning and Zoning Commission recommended denial of designating Thompson/Cape Dam and Ditch Engineering Structure as a local historic landmark (5-4). Click here to read minutes. 

January 15, 2019: City Council briefed in executive session to discuss possible partnership opportunities with Hays County and the Hays County Historical Commission. 

January 29, 2019: City Council considered an item designating Cape’s Dam as a historic landmark. This action was postponed for up to 6 months while staff gathered more information related to the project.  Click here to read minutes.

June 18, 2019: City Council briefed in Work Session on status of possible partnership opportunities with Hays County and the Hays County Historical Commission.  Presentation from County on proposed project anticipated in fall 2019.  Click here to read minutes 

October 15, 2019: City Council received a presentation from Vista Planning & Design on behalf of Hays County and the Hays County Historical Commission regarding a visioning study for Cape’s Dam, the Mill Race, Thompson’s Island & San Marcos River.  Council provided consensus for staff to seek what permissions and permits would be needed from State and Federal agencies to remove or repair the dam. Click here to read minutes. 

Capes Dam Council Workshop Meeting 1-7-2020 -2

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3 Comments

  1. Oddly, Dr. Hardy’s “first” study on removing Cape’s Dam was in 2012. For another agency – recycling his past work at the cost to San Marcos’ taxpayers.

    Meanwhile, the residents of San Marcos could lose out on a future new park simply because of the inability of the City Council to make a decision to move forward.

    Sad.

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