Report on the San Marcos River Task Force

V. The Third Task Force Meeting

Senator Zaffirini’s Request to SMRTF

Following the second SMRTF meeting, Chairman Jones received a letter from Senator Zaffirini (Tab 31, Letter from Senator Zaffirini) requesting that TPWD ask Caldwell and Guadalupe counties and the tubing companies to report on the MOUs. (Hays County was not referenced in the MOUs). In accordance with Senator Zaffirini’s request, TPWD wrote to the two counties (Tab 32, Letter to Caldwell County; Tab 33, Letter to Guadalupe County) as follows:

On May 20, 2015, Texas State Tubes and Don’s Fish Camp provided to the House Committee on Special Purpose Districts, in that committee’s hearing on Senate Bill 234, a document entitled “Proposed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) Between Texas State Tubes LLC and RKY Ltd. And the Counties of Caldwell and Guadalupe” (the Proposed MOU). The Proposed MOU was intended to reaffirm and enhance the commitments made in the February 2015 MOU, and to provide “specific assurances to Caldwell and Guadalupe Counties, affected river residents and members of the Texas Legislature”.

In particular, the Proposed MOU provided for: a budget of a maximum of $3.00 per tubing patron, allowing a total budget of $210,000 “for additional law enforcement and emergency services”; monthly or quarterly reports to [each county]; an enhanced law enforcement plan; organization and funding of cleanup activities; and a property owner hotline, or alternatively, funding to the county sheriff’s offices to staff for 211 calls. The copy of the Proposed MOU received by TPWD was not signed by [either county].

To aid in the mission of the Task Force, it would be greatly appreciated if you could provide to me, or arrange to provide, records of [each county] related to the February 2015 MOU and the Proposed MOU. This would include:

  • The “full report” regarding “river cleanup, security, and communication/awareness activities” mentioned in the February 2015 MOU that was to be submitted to [each county] by September 30, 2015;
  • A signed copy of the Proposed MOU;
  • The monthly or quarterly reports referenced in the Proposed MOU;
  • Any records of financial assistance provided to [either county] by Texas State Tubes or Don’s Fish Camp; and
  • Any other available records related to the February 2015 MOU or the Proposed MOU.

In response to this letter, Caldwell County provided a letter stating they had no knowledge of the Proposed MOU prior to receiving TPWD’s letter, they had not received quarterly reports from the tubing companies, and the only records they have of any financial assistance from the tubing companies were a handful of payments from the tubing companies related to reimbursement for the use of Caldwell County Sheriff’s Office patrol cars during their enforcement on the river (Tab 34, Response Letter from Caldwell County). Caldwell and Guadalupe counties were both given the opportunity to report on the above at the August 1, 2016 SMRTF meeting, and both reported that no agreements with the tubing companies had been signed. However, Caldwell County had received a draft Proposed Memorandum of Understanding from the tubing companies on July 19th, 2016 (Tab 35, Proposed MOU) and were reviewing it. Caldwell County reported that it had been working with the tubing companies to provide additional law enforcement resources. Guadalupe County reported not seeing an increase in river cleanups, communication with landowners, or additional security provided by the tubing companies.

TPWD’s letter to the tubing companies (Tab 36, Letter to Texas State Tubes; Tab 37, Letter to Don’s Fish Camp, RKY, Ltd.) requested the following information and documents regarding implementation of the MOUs:

At the August 1, 2016 meeting (Tab 38, August 1, 2016 Meeting Agenda), the tubing companies responded to this letter. They submitted a contract with a third party (Pristine River) for cleanup of litter from the river which requires weekly underwater cleanups in the summer months, and during the rest of the year, monthly underwater cleanups (Tab 39, Contract for Cleanups; Tab 40, MOU with Pristine Rivers). The tubing companies also submitted many photographs of bags of litter, mostly cans, collected from the river (Tab 20, Tubing Company Cleanup Reports). They also submitted documents showing the monies they have provided to hire additional off-duty county deputies and for the use of their police cruisers (Tab 41, Law Enforcement Deployment Expense Report). A video that the tubing companies are producing for tubing patrons to view before entering the river was submitted and shown (Tab 42, Tubing Company Video not available at this time). The tubing companies described their plan to make this video available on the tubing company websites and the San Marcos River Foundation website, and to show it to patrons while they are waiting in line at the tubing companies. They also reported that Texas State University (TSU) Outdoor Recreation Department will show the video to students as a part of their incoming freshman student program.

In addition to the paid cleanups, the two tubing liveries stated that they are also working with TSU student Greek organizations to conduct cleanups, and for every person who participates in the cleanup, a voucher for a tubing trip is given. The expectation is that these cleanup participants will acquire an ethic for keeping the river clean, and will pass that along to other students. The outfitters provided a summary of their commitments for professional cleanups, education and outreach, video, and an alternative approach to law enforcement communications (Tab 43). They also provided a written MOU update, included in Tab 44.

Regarding the property owners’ hotline, the tubing companies reported that they had discontinued it because it was unused. No monthly or quarterly reports or “third-party audit” was submitted to SMRTF. No document entitled “September 2015 yearly report” was submitted to SMRTF.

The Proposed MOU provides (Tab 35, Proposed MOU):

[The tubing companies] will create and annually fund a dedicated account in the amount equal to a minimum of $1.50 per tubing patron, and a maximum of $3.00 per tubing patron. All designated funds will be used exclusively for law enforcement officers on the river, river cleanup, emergency services, and customer education and landowner relations. The minimum budget for calendar year 2015 is set between $105,000 and $140,000 for 2015. With the commitment to double the voluntary assessment, [the tubing companies] have agreed to fund up to $3.00 per tubing patron, which would allow for a budget of $210,000 for additional law enforcement and emergency services.

In their August 1, 2016 report to the SMRTF, the tubing companies stated that their actual expenditures for law enforcement and litter cleanup for 2015 were $55,981. This is approximately $49,000 less than the “minimum budget for calendar year 2015” to which the tubing companies committed in the Proposed MOU. The final SMRTF meeting occurred before the tubing companies’ summer law enforcement expenditures were complete, however, as of August 1, 2016, the tubing companies reported law enforcement expenditures for 2016 of $11,925 and a contractual commitment for litter pickup of $20,506, for a total of $32,431.

If the commitment of the tubing companies to fund law enforcement and other activities is evaluated on the basis of $1.50 to $3.00 per tuber as provided in the Proposed MOU, the actual expenditures were less than the per-tuber commitment (published fees for the tubing companies are included in Tab 56.) In 2015, on just thirteen of the approximately 90 days between Memorial Day and Labor Day, the San Marcos River Foundation counted 59,999 tubers on this stretch of the river. At $1.50 per tuber, the committed budget of the tubing companies would have been $89,998.50; at $3 per tuber, the committed budget would have been $179,997. The reported expenditure of $55,981 falls short of this budgetary commitment. The tubing companies themselves did not provide figures on the number of patrons they served, so the San Marcos River Foundation count is the best information available to TPWD staff. Of course, the commitments of the tubing companies to date have been voluntary and unenforceable by any public entity, and the tubing companies had no legal obligation to provide records to SMRTF.