Parts of the San Marcos River will be off-limits to anglers, tubers, waders, and others during low-flow periods in an effort to protect the river and endangered rice plants found only in its uppermost two miles, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission unanimously decided last Thursday.
The rule designates as a state scientific area the stretch of the river between a dam near Aquarena Springs Road and the city’s wastewater treatment plant downstream of Interstate 35 starting Sept. 1. The rule also for the first time allows for a fine for people who intentionally rip out an endangered plant.
Texas wild-rice, which is found underwater along the riverbed and grows up to 45 inches tall, has been listed as an endangered species since 1978 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Its deterioration can signal greater environmental harm to the river, fed by the San Marcos Springs out of the Edwards Aquifer, said Cindy Loeffler, the water resources branch chief for TPWD.
“Protecting those species means we’re protecting our water supply, (and) we’re protecting an economic sector of tourism and recreation,” Loeffler said.