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Guadalupe River could stake new course near Riverside Park

By JJ VELASQUEZ
March 11, 2010 at 8:03 p.m.
Updated March 11, 2010 at 9:12 p.m.

Guadalupe River route may be changing at Riverside Park - Flooding on the Guadalupe River may be cutting a new route across private land opposite of Riverside Park. David Lentz noticed the cut when the river level was up back in February.

FREQUENT FLOODING

Since October, the Guadalupe River has reached flood stage five times:

Oct. 5 - crested at 27 feet on Oct. 7

Nov. 21 - crested at 29 feet on Nov. 24

Jan. 17 - crested at 27 feet on Jan. 19

Feb. 6 - crested at 22 feet on Feb. 7

Feb. 13 - crested at 26 feet on Feb. 15

SOURCE: NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE

David Lentz canoes regularly in the Guadalupe River near Riverside Park.

Two years ago, he noticed a waterfall gushing over the west bank and into private property. He predicted then that the river would begin to change its course that way.

He never thought he'd see it happen in his lifetime.

But last month the Victoria resident noticed the water had cut through the bank and formed a new stream.

"That last flood has cut it down, so it's no longer a rushing waterfall," he said.

Bryan Serold, who manages the lower basin of the Guadalupe River, said the river has begun the process of shifting its course.

The new stream forms a wishbone with the river and is approximately a quarter-mile long, Lentz said. The river reached flood stage on Feb. 13. Lentz, a river enthusiast, noticed the stream on Feb. 14.

Over time, the stream could cut back into the river and form an oxbow lake, a u-shaped bend.

How long it takes for the river to change its course, if it indeed occurs, will depend on the amount of additional flooding in Victoria, Serold said. The shift may take years.

"It's something that won't happen overnight. That's for sure," he said.

Heavy flooding after the drought contributed to the change in the river's geomorphology.

Since October, when the drought began ending, the Guadalupe River has reached flood stage five times in Victoria.

National Weather Service forecaster Greg Wilk said such high flood activity can occur from time to time, and isn't that unusual.

"It really depends on the situation," Wilk said. "There have been times the Guadalupe River in Victoria has been above flood stage for weeks at a time."

If this occurs, an exchange of land would take place between two or more of three parties involved. This includes the city, which owns the park land; the state, which owns the river bed and banks; and the private landowner, Maurice Hastey.

Hastey, a Plainview resident, could not be reached for comment.

"If the river cuts into your property most of the time, that means that you lose property," said Thomas Gwosdz, the city attorney.

If the new stream forms an oxbow, the island between the main stream and the bend would become state property. In that scenario, Hastey would lose property while the city retains land but does not gain any.

Gwosdz was not aware of the possible change in the river's course until he had spoken to Doug Cochran, parks and recreation director, who had heard about it through Lentz.

The city attorney said it was too early to speculate on the exchange of land, but the matter was interesting to him as someone who cares about the river.

"If he is saying that the river is going to stake a new course, that's very interesting to me," Gwosdz said.

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