By Terra Rivers | Managing Editor
The San Marcos City Council will seek to have several studies completed before they make a decision on Capes Dam.
During last Tuesday’s regular work session, the council was divided on whether to save the dam or remove it. However, councilmembers were in agreement that there were many questions they wanted answers to before any vote was taken.
The council received a presentation from staff on the entities that would have to be involved in the permitting process regarding the dam and the four options available to City Council.
The four options available to the city are to remove the dam, redesign and rebuild it, restore it or conduct another study.
To restore, rebuild or remove the dam, the City of San Marcos will have to receive permitting from (1) the United States Army Corps 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 Historical 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 significant 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 maybe 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.”
City staff has been directed to begin the process of having several studies done, including toxicology, hydrology (including under drought conditions), and more.
Mayor Jane Hughson said she wanted to know if there was a way to rebuild the dam that would benefit the endangered species living in the river while still diverting water down the Mill Race.
While Councilmember Melissa Derrick voiced interest in the studies, she expressed the opinion that the council should have the dam removed and the mill race filled in.
Hughson and Councilmembers Ed Mihalkanin and Saul Gonzales expressed tentative interest in rebuilding the dam while the remaining councilmembers said they leaned toward removal.
According to staff, it could up to eight months or more before the city council will see the report from the requested studies, and the permitting process to remove the dam could take up to six months or more.