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County enters partnership to protect the Blanco River and Cypress Creek

Friday, March 1, 2024

With various river towns across Hays County, protecting those natural resources is of top importance to residents. With that in mind, the Hays County Commissioners voted unanimously to form a new interlocal agreement with the city of Wimberley, the city of Woodcreek, The Watershed Association and the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment in order to implement the Blanco Cypress Watershed Protection Plan.

The agreement established a three year pilot program to fund the continued Clean Rivers Program water quality monitoring for Cypress Creek and the Blanco River upstream and downstream of the Wimberley Valley. According to the Watershed Association’s website, the organization has been collecting water quality data since 2003, and is the only nonprofit organization in the state of Texas to do so. This data is used to assess whether surface water in the Blanco River and Cypress Creek is meeting Federal Clean Water Act standards. The interlocal agreement also established a Watershed Coordinator Position. The agreement states that the Executive Committee and Management Team will identify special studies and planning initiatives.

Hays County Commissioner Lon Shell said this program isn’t necessarily new, it will just have an expanded purview and a new funding source.

“Previously the Cypress Creek Watershed Protection plan had been funded through grants from the [US Environmental Protection Agency],” Shell said. “It was one of the first of its kind that actually was preemptive to a waterway that was actually in peril, so that group has been working for a while. Eventually those grant funds start to go away from the EPA, and the locals are asked to take them on. So we’ve come up with the idea of putting together [an agreement] in the area and also expand it to the Blanco River as well to monitor water quality there.”

Watershed Association Executive Director David Baker said the Watershed Association began monitoring water on the Blanco River and Cypress Creek approximately 23 years ago.

“Water doesn’t know jurisdictional boundaries,” Baker said. “This is an attempt for us to really collaborate with multiple entities that water affects. It’s really about water quality and water quantity, and this plan was the first EPA approved plan in the United States, we think, that had a groundwater protection component in it, because we said you can’t have water quality without water quantity. And we’ve seen the impacts this last year of the shortages of rain of over-pumping. This plan is essentially the community owning this.”

Baker added that he’s hoping this agreement is something that can grow as the county acquires more land.

Shell said the county’s part in the agreement would be supplying the Watershed Coordinator position, which he hopes will “grow and maybe even take on other watersheds,” and the other partners have committed funds to the agreement.

“I think we can see that everybody is putting something into this. It’s not just one entity lifting all of this. It is a true partnership [that is] trying to accomplish something that we all think is very important,” Shell said. “We saw last summer the impacts that we saw to our water flows, especially those at Jacob's Well, which is a county park. And we like to see people utilizing it. We didn’t get to do that last year. So I think we can all understand how important that waterway is and all of the waterways that we have in the county.”

The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment Director of Watershed Services Jenna Walker said the center is in support of this effort toward keeping “Cypress Creek and the Blanco River watershed clean, clear and flowing.”

To learn more about the Clean Rivers Program at the Watershed Association go to watershedassociation. org/impactareas/ watershedprotection/ clean-rivers-program.

San Marcos Record

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