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EDITOR:

Only people spending taxpayer dollars approve of massive surgical procedures without getting more than one opinion.

Thus I was deeply disappointed Monday evening at “City Hall” when, after listening to almost three hours of one-sided presentation supporting the destruction of Cape’s Wier, that all questions from the press and public were cut off, and left unanswered. There certainly are two sides to this debate, both on the benefits of restoration versus destruction on the aquatic biology, and on the potential benefits of a Rio Vista type fix versus the unanticipated consequences and costs of a radical alteration in a 150-year-old river structure.

Several highly qualified experts have raised well-founded questions about the optimistic theories of improved habitat for native fish species, but these were not heard. The fact that the Mill Race will need to be filled if Cape’s is destroyed was finally noted by council members, but the possibility of unintended effects of that action, like the effects on the massive drainage from the Woods Apartments, and their costs, were not thoroughly discussed. What is the “worst case” scenario?

Predictions about the impact of destruction are not as certain as the council seems to want to believe. I fear a cascading series of unforeseen consequences, which could result in the ruin of our beautiful, new river park and entail huge costs for city taxpayers. Yet they are calling for a vote at the next meeting, without hearing any second opinions.

Restoration of Cape’s is a sure bet on preservation of a precious river asset like Rio Vista, while destruction is a gamble on benefits that cannot be guaranteed. Surely the most conservative choice is preservation. If the city gambles on destruction, I will hope for the best. But if the result is a disappointment or worse, our city leaders will make the scar of the Woods apartments even worse on the river.

These issues are not even being discussed in the council’s hasty justification for removing these historic river features. So, please email the San Marcos City Council to ask them to restore Thompsons’s Islands like Rio Vista instead of turning it into just a “normal” drainage ditch for the Woods apartments.

BEN KVANLI
San Marcos

COVER: Local children revel in the San Marcos River at Stokes Park where an old mill race rejoins the river’s main channel in late summer 2012. Cape’s Dam upstream of this location is the subject of a contentious fight over whether to rebuild or remove the flood-damaged structure. MERCURY FILE PHOTO by JAMIE MALDONADO

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8 thoughts on “Letter: Let’s restore, not remove, Cape’s Dam

  1. I attended the meeting Monday night and plenty of time was allotted at the end for questions. It is absolutely false to say that only one opinion is being considered. This particular meeting was specifically held for council to receive the final report of the study done by Dr Hardy at the city’s request. Council members have in the past been taken to Cape’s Dam by Ben Kvanli (last fall) to hear his concerns and ideas, and have heard from the parks board (which recommends removal based on both Dr. Hardy’s study and ones done by US Fish and Wildlife). The city council web page has a link to the meeting video if anyone wants to learn why removal is recommended as the best option for this dam. Council members asked many questions of Dr. Hardy and various city staff during the meeting and considered many sides to the argument – environmental, recreational, and financial.

  2. DON’T MESS WITH STOKES PARK!
    Thank you for publishing Ben Kvanli’s letter and particularly for your choice of a photo, which is of precisely the place where I personally feel most concerned about unintended consequences of Cape’s weir destruction. The plan being pushed through the council will require filling and paving Mill Race, which will erase the river feature in your photo. Having swum in that gorgeous 150-year old pool for more than 50 years myself, I am shocked that the city might make it something that was loved and then lost when they messed with the river there!
    Alfred McAlister
    Dripping Springs

  3. Just for the record Ben Kvanli had several questions and was only allowed to ask one. I wanted to ask about the impact of Cape’s destruction on the river feature in the photo above Ben’s letter but was cut off after asking if there were any potential unintended consequences…and told no there could be none. Hard to believe… After the session closed Dr. Hardy was kind enough to privately admit that he did not remember what would happen to the place in the photo, that he would have to check. Maybe he is watching these comments, if so I beg him to tell what exactly is the fate he expects for Mills Race Falls and the beautiful pool below it.

  4. Dont tear it down! please! people need enjoying to swimming it’s natural.
    Some day people And i will be graduate for kayak. Ben kvanil is best instruction.

  5. Sadly this piece by Kvanli continues the misinformation campaign that has gone on for over a year now. This workshop was to make sure Council got a chance to ask any remaining questions. There have been so many chances to discuss and ask questions again and again that I am amazed that anyone could state otherwise. After a thorough study to make sure recreation activities would be served well by the dam removal as well as the river itself and fish and endangered species, the decision was made. Time to move on and do this wonderful project. Please let your Council know you are grateful for putting the river and general recreation first, above a special interest.

  6. Dianne,

    Where in their report does it state their estimated depth for the river through that section? Is changing this 400 ft section of the river going to make any meaningful impact on endangered species and invasive species? If these biologist were truly trying to make a difference why not look at Rio Vista dam or Cummings dam? Lets be honest here, this is just a whole process to keep the students at Woods apartments from being able to swim and hangout at the river behind the apartments by lowering the water depth so you can’t swim. I was against those apartments as well but lets not try and cover up the true reasoning with a report that doesn’t truly estimate the recreational ability of that stretch of river after the dam has been removed.

  7. Eliminating Cape’s Camp Dam will not lessen the residents of The Wood’s access to the river. A bit longer of a walk to the river, but its still in their back yard. Eliminating the Mill Race means that Thompson’s Island is no longer an “island”, however, the City of San Marcos will still own the land of the former Thompson’s Island for a Park. Stokes Park will remain a park it just will not have a man made channel of river on one side, and a natural river channel on the other. It’s hard to remember a drought, but if you look back at those periods, there was very little if any water going over the Mill race weir or in the mill race channel. The water has to flow past and over Cape’s Dam first, so that is the primary channel for water to run. That’s why a dam was built there – it is the natural path of water and the intent was retain water in a higher percentage above that point. If all the water running over Spring Lake Dam were going down the natural river channel, there’d just be a bit more water in that channel, but not a significant amount. I believe the hard number bottom line is cost – and to whom. It’s more expensive to restore the Dam (proposed $1 million at the expense of the local tax payer, aka property owner) than to remove it (proposed $35,000 at the expense of US Fish and Wildlife. San Marcos will pay nothing for removal, provided it does not rebuild it). Economics in the big picture in vast majority dictates an outcome.

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