New Braunfels Herald Zeitung (Newspaper) - June 30, 2011, New Braunfels, Texas
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LAURA McKENZE | Herafd Zeftung
River-goers wave to a photographer with RiverFotos.com as they float Saturday along the Comal River near The Other Place resort.
Continued from Page 1
He said the state only banned alcohol along a 6 to 8 mile stretch of the river where river rafting took place and only during the times when behavior on the river was at its worst: weekends connected to Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day.
While not ruling out actions like the one taken in Sacramento County, New Braunfels Police Chief Tom Wibert stopped short of suggesting what ultimately should be done to curb unsavory behavior on the city's rivers. Wibert said it shouldn't be his place to determine the ultimate answer, because the problem is communal and should be addressed by the community.
"There are so many stakeholders that should all come together for a solution," he said. "It shouldn't be the city. It shouldn't be the police. It shouldn't be neighbors coming up with a solution. It should be all the stakeholders coming together."
He said the police department has taken first steps to solve immediate safety needs. Wibert listed methods of crowd control that help ensure safety. He included limiting access to the river, officers slashing ropes stringing tubes together and increasing enforcement of existing rules.
He said the Comal River has been overwhelmed this year by larger numbers of tubers every day. Wibert said he knows more changes are necessary.
North on 1-35 sits a college town with a river, but that town does not have the problems seen on the Comal.
San Marcos City Marshal Ken Bell said he wouldn't dream of passing judgment on or advice to New Braunfels officials dealing with their problems. Bell said San Marcos is lucky that its river has different topography than those in New Braunfels.
"We don't have little nooks and crannies like on the Guadalupe," he said. "Some of the widths and the speeds; just basically the layout is a little different than that of the Guadalupe and the Comal."
Bell said he tries to use large vehicles and boats to ensure his officers are highly visible to people floating the river. This, Bell said, is no different than what New Braunfels police do. He said it's impossible to compare San Marcos crowds to those in New Braunfels.
"What works here will not work there. We are two totally different operations," Bell said. "You cannot line up our two rivers with our problems and come up with the same answers."
Still, Wolter said removing — or at least limiting — alcohol consumption is key to keeping down abhorrent behavior. He made an analogy.
"With alcohol not being permitted, the draw for the crowd basically goes away," Wolter said.
"I liken it to a frat party on the river."
And who wants to attend a fraternity party without alcohol, he queried.
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"I get a sense of this is what is happening," he said, adding he wonders whether having dissolved aluminum in the river is a health issue.
Ritterson has noticed the algae, too.
"There is a growth of an algae that used to not be thw. It's an algae bloom that is clinging to the bottom. I don't know what causes it," said Ritterson, who has been diving the river for some 18 years.
Fhtterson believes the algae might be coming from runoff from Dry Comal Creek and a small stream that empties into the Comal at Hinman Island.
"It seems there are more contaminants in the water and the water clarity has decreased. I notice that each year it gets a little bit worse. There's a murkiness to the water that just wasn't there in earlier years."
Fish, plants fading fast
While some turtles and crawfish and small fish — perch and bass and an occasional catfish — can still be found in the Comal, the big bass and catfish once there are all gone, the divers said.
"I used to see a lot of fish in there. I hardly ever see the fish anymore," Ritterson said.
"I've seen maybe only 20 catchable fish, keepers, along the whole river," Lookingbill said.
In some spots, most of the plant life is gone, Ritterson said.
"There used to be a wavy kind of grass and most erf that is gone — and on the bottom, there is a growth of that algae that used to not be there," he said.
14 I Thursday, Month Day, 2011 | herald-zeitung.com
Continued from Page 1
Lots of beer cans and oth er litter, disappearing fish and other aquatic life, an odd algae covering things underwater and increasingly murky water have all been observed.
Tim Lookingbill, who has been snorkeling the river reg-ulady since moving to New Braunfels in 2007, said aluminum beer cans can often be found layering the river bottom. The cans are even hidden in the river bottom's aquatic vegetation and float up unexjiertedly by the tens when be accidentally kicks the river grass while swimming by.
Another New Braunfels snorkeler and diver, U.S. Army dentist Jeff Ritterson, said when he dives on Sunday mornings "there are thousands of cans — I mean thousands." He also finds glass and snack food wrappers. "The new trend this year is the wine that comes in these squeezable plastic bladders. I see a lot of those down there."
Lookingbill relates a sad story he's seen many times of tiny crawfish who crawl into beer cans and stay inside, growing until they're too big
LAURA McKENZIE | Herald-Zeitung Javier Alcaraz with the Parks and Recreation Department picks up litter left by weekend river-goers June 6 at the Last Tubers Exit.
to get out. He's pointed it out to state wildlife authorities.
"They say, 'We haven't really looked into that,"' he said.
Both divers say city-hired cleanup crews are doing a great job of removing the cans and litter. Ritterson said when he dives on Thursdays, most of the cans are gone.
"Whoever is cleaning up the river is doing a super job. There are holes in the river the size erf a car, and in the
past they were filled with cans three or four feet deep. Those cans are all gone» now."
But the cans are back again after the weekend tubing crowds depart.
A chemical reaction?
Lookingbill believes the aluminum reacts somehow with tubers' urine to form an algae-like coating that has begun to appear on everything under the water.
"When you go down in the river, everything has got a coating on it — some kind erf coating that sticks to everything," Lookingbill said.
A graphic artist, Lookingbill says he's no scientist but has developed his pee/aluminum/algae theory based on an observation. At certain times, he says, there is sort of urine-and-aluminum tangi-ness to the taste of the river.