Work on Canyon Dam Floodgate Starts Monday and Flow Rates on the Guadalupe River Could Get Dicey
Expect on-and-off streamflow disruptions on the lower Guadalupe River starting Monday when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) proceeds with plans to replace Canyon Dam’s floodgate.
Construction will last through April and flows will be shut off while workers are inside the conduit.
However, Clayton Church, a Public Affairs specialist with USACE’s Fort Worth District, which oversees Canyon Lake, said a series of catch-up releases will allow flows to remain as close to “normal” as possible for 24-hour periods.
“This strategy has been fully coordinated with Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) and will allow for the least impact to the environment while still allowing for safe working conditions for the Tennessee Valley Authority people,” he said.
To see a schedule of anticipated work dates click here.
But Canyon Lake’s local economy relies on water recreation and especially fishing. Winter months are the peak season for rainbow trout fishing in the Guadalupe River.
TPWD’s annual trout stocking program also is well underway. Some 20,528 rainbow trout will be released into the Guadalupe River through February because trout are not native to the Guadalupe River. They’re stocked for fishing purposes only.
Dan Cone, a fishing guide with Castell Guide Services, is vice president of Fisheries for the local chapter of Guadalupe River Trout Unlimited (GRTU), a nonprofit which conserves, protects, and restores trout and salmon fisheries and watersheds like the Guadalupe River Tailrace, the southernmost freshwater trout fishery in the United States.
He sees both sides of the story even though needed repairs to the outlet mean the Guadalupe also will become temporarily problematic for tubers and anyone on a watercraft.
Recreationists and fishermen will want to avoid areas directly below Canyon Dam, where shutoffs will have the biggest impact, Cone said.
His best advice is to find downstream pools that take longer to drain.
“The further down from the dam you go, the lesser the impact that you’re going to see,” Cone said.
The timing couldn’t be better for rainbow trout, which are stressed during summer months.
“I’m happy they’re doing this now,” Cone said. “I’d rather them drop the flows during the winter months when the water’s colder. The colder the water the more oxygen it can carry. When water temperatures get above 68 degrees it doesn’t have enough oxygen for them to be able to go about their normal routine. At 68 degrees they start to stress. At 72 they start to die.”
GRTU and TPWD may change stocking dates — Dec. 9, 16, 22, and 29, and Jan. 6, 13, 20, 27, and Feb. 17, 23 of 2023 — to make sure fish are not added to the river on zero-flow days.
Another possibility is to identify parts of the river that may not be impacted by reductions in the streamflow.
“For stocking the fish it’s going to mean possibly stocking different days and different locations,” he said.
The really bad news for everyone is the area just below Canyon Dam is the only free access point to the river.
“For families who want to fish or don’t want to pay to go into a campground or one of the other access points, it’s going to be a tough year for them,” he said.
Low flow rates caused by drought and decreasing water levels in Canyon Lake already plague fishing guides, but flow disruptions will be a game-changer for everyone.
Cone predicts big challenges for anyone else planning to float, raft, canoe, kayak or navigate the river on days flow rates are stopped.
Tubers will have to look for “pond areas” on the river or reschedule trips.
Fishing guides suggest fishermen check with them first before deciding when to book a trip.
“Rather than doing the rafting trips we switch to wade trips,” he said, warning that this may not be an option or anyone with mobility issues.
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