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Removal of Spring Lake Dam could solve everything

Letter to the Editor
Wednesday, October 10, 2018

I have lived long enough to discover one of the saddest truths of life: once you finally figure things out, you are considered to be too old to have anything to offer. Although I am sure I know the truth, my advice is ignored because I am a senile old man.

So, I don’t offer these thoughts because I expect anyone in a position of power to change their opinion. I only hope that some young person will read this and, someday in the future remember that an old man had it right way back in 2018.

There were two articles on the front page of the Daily Record on Wednesday, September 26. One was about the plans to repair Spring Lake Dam, and the other was about a $168,000 study to reduce the number of non native plants in the San Marcos River and increase the habitat for wild rice.

I am convinced that I can help with both issues at the same time. First of all, Spring Lake Dam is going to be repaired with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) money. The amount seems to vary, but is somewhere in the range of 2 to 4.5 million dollars. And, we are told that these repairs are only a temporary, quick fix. The permanent fix will be a complete rebuild if a new “modern” dam. It will be much more expensive.

My first concern is, why the heck are we taxpayers spending FEMA money on this Dam? Repairing Spring Lake dam is not an emergency. The dam has no function other than to provide a pretty lake for some offices. And, it would really make more sense for the Rivers Center to be on a river instead of a lake anyway. Why not spend just a fraction of the money to be spent on “emergency repairs” on dam removal? Why don’t we let FEMA spend our tax dollars on things that really are emergencies? There are plenty of those to keep FEMA busy.

For instance, we could use FEMA money for elevating homes in the Blanco Gardens neighborhood so they don’t flood in the future.

We are told that we have to spend money repairing Spring Lake Dam to save the endangered species that are living in and around the dam. There are, evidently, some blind salamanders and maybe a few fountain darters living in the decaying dam. And there are blind salamanders living in the spring opening. If the dam is breached suddenly, these creatures will die. My solution? Lower the dam gradually, one board at a time. Heck, take a year to lower it. The more you lower it the less pressure on the structure and the less it will leak.

Spring Lake itself is not good habitat for any of the endangered species in the river. Wild rice prefers shallow moving water. So do fountain darters and Gambusia (if there are any left). The blind salamanders living in the spring opening will do just as well whether there is a lake or not.

One thing that does grow well in the lake are invasive plants. Which the university spends a fortune removing. And the removal of which the study (on the front page of the Record - the one that costs $168,000) will address.

But these same invasive plants don’t cause near the same amount of problems in the shallow moving waters of the San Marcos River (or at least we don’t need harvesters to regularly remove it). So it stands to reason that if we get rid of Spring Lake Dam you could get rid of most of these invasive plants. And, at the same time you could increase fountain darter and wild rice habitat by about a half a mile.

Looks like you could solve everything by just removing Spring Lake Dam! And, we could lower it gradually, one board at a time. If I weren’t so senile I’d be a genius. 

 

Tom Goynes