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The University Star


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Heritage Association weighs in on Capes Dam controversy


File photo of Cape’s Dam

The Heritage Association of San Marcos sent a letter to City Council on Sept. 27 requesting the council reconsider its decision to remove Cape’s Dam.
Capes Dam closed January 2014. In March 2016, the council voted to have it removed, in accordance with state and federal agencies such as U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Part of the councils vote was based off Thom Hardy’s research. Hardy is the chief science officer for the meadows center.
Jane Hughson, Place 4 City Council member and a patron member of the Heritage Association, reassured locals that there won’t be an increase in taxes to fund this project.
“When we voted to remove the dam, we were informed that U.S. Fish and Wildlife would pay for the removal,” Hughson said. “There should have been no cost to the city to remove it, so no cost to the taxpayers.”
A report indicating the effects on the river as a result of removing the dam was presented to the city by the Watershed Systems Group in 2015. The document reports the full removal of the dam will allow the San Marcos River to return to normal flow depths similar to those currently observed upstream of the backwater section and the channel below the junction with the Mill Race return flow. Furthermore, it will present the best ecological benefits to improve the habitat of Texas wild rice. The removal of the dam will provide a safe and sustainable recreation corridor without negative impact.
The local public seems divided in regards to the future of the dam, and it has been one of the most popular items on the agenda since Hughson’s return to the City Council in December 2014. The Heritage Association, however, expressed its discontent with the project despite not taking a stand on any subject in San Marcos for many years. The organization is hoping to be successful in their task by reminding the public that San Marcos would not have been established or been able to thrive without the river and that the dam is one of the oldest existing structures in San Marcos as well as the oldest surviving dam on the river.
According to the letter sent to the City Council, the association claims to “not want to play into the politics of the issue,” however, “the history of the Dam and its importance to the growth of San Marcos are undeniable,” and therefore “its historical significance cannot be downplayed.”
Although voting for the removal occurred last year, there is still much to be done before City Council can proceed with the demolition. The city has yet to plan a replacement for the structure.
“There are still a number of steps that must take place before removal can occur. There is to be a hearing on the historical nature of the dam,” Hughson said. “There are multiple permits from multiple agencies required before demolition can begin. It can be months before these permits are issued.”

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