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BCRAGD gets active in Clean Rivers Program

By Carolyn B. Edwards BCC Staff Writer

During its April 5 quarterly meeting, the Bandera County River Authority and Groundwater District board approved the purchase of testing equipment to be used to support the district's active entry into the Clean Rivers Program (CRP). This summer, the BCRAGD has hired Kayla Rohrbach as an intern to help gather data for that program.

Rohrbach, a junior biology major at Schreiner University in Kerrville, has been trained by scientists from the San Antonio River Authority and senior BCRAGD staff to collect the data. She will be working with BCRAGD General Manager Dave Mauk, BCRAGD's field technicians and hydro-geologist David Jeffery throughout the summer.

She will also be working on a research project during her internship.

"We are very pleased to have Kayla working with the district this summer and consider her a valuable member of our team," said Mauk.

The testing equipment cost BCRAGD $17,000, but Mauk said it is heavy duty and "expected to last 10-15 years."

Mauk has been working for some time to make the "river authority" arm of the BCRAGD more active and more visible. Participation in the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality's (TCEQ) program is one way of accomplishing that goal, he said. The program is designed to collect data from various sources and then "disseminate the data to other agencies and interested parties," said Mauk.

Mauk argues that active participation in the program as a river authority protects Bandera County residents' interests in their water.

"One of our core responsibilities as a river authority and groundwater district is to safeguard our natural resources," said Mauk. "The Sabinal and Medina Rivers are two of the most important resources in our county.

One of the principal ways to safeguard those river basins is through water quality monitoring. The TCEQ Clean Rivers Program is the gold standard in Texas for surface water monitoring."

Mauk aims to have BCRAGD staff testing six Medina River locations across the county on a regular basis: Brewington Crossing, Freeman Crossing, Moffatt Park, Ranger Crossing, 1st Street Bridge, and English Crossing.

Data collected in Bandera County will be combined with data collected as part of the San Antonio River Basin Clean Rivers Program monitoring.

In addition to BCRAGD staff, monitoring will utilize members of the Bandera County Stream Team. The Texas Stream Team is a network of trained volunteers and supportive partners working together to gather information about Texas natural resources and to make that information readily available.

The Clean Rivers Program, established in 1991, aims "to maintain and improve the quality of water within each river basin in Texas." In the program, the TCEQ works with river authorities, other agencies, local governments, industry and citizens. "The program's watershed management approach will identify and evaluate water quality issues," says TCEQ. The program will work to establish priorities for correcting water quality issues and work to implement those actions.

The CRP has set six objectives to which BCRAGD's participation will contribute.

The first is to provide quality-assured data to TCEQ for use in decision making. That will include maintaining routine monitoring programs in Texas' river basins. It will also include training programs in order to certify the data.

Maintaining a water quality database is another part of this objective.

The CRP's second objective is to identify and evaluate water quality issues.

Promoting cooperative watershed planning is the third objective.
In their fourth objective, the CRP plans to inform and engage stakeholders through public meetings and other forums.

Fifthly, the CRP promises to maintain an efficient use of public funds, placing a 10 percent cap on administrative expenses, among other goals.

Finally, the program hopes to remain adaptable to emerging water quality issues.

Pictured: Photo courtesy BCRAGD
Kayla Rohrbach, left, is currently completing her internship with the Bandera County River Authority and Groundwater District. Rohrbach, a 2010 Bandera High School graduate, is currently a junior at Schreiner University majoring in biology. She is pictured collecting samples with BCRAGD Field Technician Roy Chancy, center, and two members of the San Antonio River Authority. The SARA scientists were training the BCRAGD staff on procedures for participating in TCEQ's Clean Rivers Program.