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Huge logjam frustrates river lover (Video)

Jan. 29, 2013 at 10:05 p.m.
Updated Jan. 28, 2013 at 7:29 p.m.

Leonard Urban talks about the logjams in the San Antonio River along his property and how they affect his daily life. Urban bought the land when he retired to relax and fish in the river. He cannot do that anymore because of the logjams taking up most of the water. Urban would like the GBRA to clear the river and put in place a plan to keep it from jamming every time there is a flood.

Leonard Urban stood on the bank of the San Antonio River.

The smooth, green water used to slide along just feet below the edge of the bank, but now the water sits in pools, trapped by logs that clog the river as far as Urban can see in either direction.

The river has a logjam that extends for a couple of miles above Urban's place, to about seven miles past it, he said.

Urban started coming out to this stretch of the river to fish in 1995. He loved river fishing and - after years of leasing a tract - about 10 years ago, he persuaded a landowner to sell him about two acres on the edge of the river just across the way from the McFaddin place.

Now, the water sits in puddles far below him, and he hasn't been able to get out on the San Antonio River and fish from this point in months.

"I bought this place so I could settle here and go fishing all the time. That's all I wanted to do - have a place to take my son and grandson fishing" said Urban, a retired communications worker from Victoria.

Over the years, he has seen the river rise and fall, but in recent years, it has become crowded with logs as dead trees move down the river and get stuck.

The Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority took over responsibility for this stretch of the river about a decade ago. The GBRA has used its manpower and tools to clear the logs from the river, but the authority has declined his requests to clear the logs in recent years, he said.

Jim Murphy, the executive manager of water resources and utility operations for the GBRA, said they have a legal obligation to keep the San Antonio River cleared, but they must have the funding or the manpower to do that.

"We are willing to clear it, and we were doing that when we had the money and we had the guys in the canal division that had time," Murphy said.

Logjams along the rivers have been a problem for years, but the drought that has gripped the state has made the problem even worse because more trees have died and fallen into the rivers, clogging them more. The water level of the San Antonio also makes it harder to move the trees, forcing them further down river, he said.

The GBRA had planned to clear the river of logs in recent months, but the drought has kept them from doing it, Murphy said, because they need a good water flow to do the work.

"Nature plays a big part in this. We wanted to get started, but there just isn't enough water right now," he said.

Urban has been hoping the GBRA would not only clear the logjam but would also dredge the river itself, clearing any debris that has built up over the years and is covered by silt along the river bottom.

Murphy said the proposal is difficult because, aside from the cost, any change to water flow, such as dredging, requires consultation with the Army Corps of Engineers. It could also trigger issues with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and U.S. Fish and Wildlife, he said, because dredging could change the habitat of the area and impact species.

Aside from his own concerns, Urban argued that clearing the river will allow more water to flow down to the Guadalupe River and, from there, to the bays and estuaries, allowing a better water supply for both the people and animals that rely on the Guadalupe for water.

Murphy said as long as the city of San Antonio remains upriver the water supply will be controlled by that city, whether the river is dredged.

"There's a lot to this issue. It's not a simple thing," Murphy said.

Still, Urban stands on the edge of the river bank, looking at the pools created by rotting logs and trash. He used to be able to put a boat in the river and navigate it to find the best spots for fishing. Now, he can't get a boat past this narrow stretch of embankment along the edge of his property.

"Nobody wants to take ownership and do anything for the little guy," Urban said.



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