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Friday, November 20, 2009

UP, San Antonio River Authority agree on drift removal practices

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February 14, 2001

Union Pacific and San Antonio River Authority officials adopted new practices for removing drift from the river, the Victoria, Texas, Advocate reports. The agreement came a month after a 500-yard logjam built up at the railroad company's bridge on the San Antonio River, over which the river authority has jurisdiction. The bridge is near the Victoria-Refugio county line.

The river authority and railroad company arranged the meeting to iron out the maintenance concerns the logjam caused.

"Ken Sito, chief engineer for UP's southern region, stated that the railroad's desire was to be a good neighbor and ensure the appropriate operation and maintenance of UP structures to avoid adverse impact on downstream landowners," Steven Schauer, a spokesman for the river authority, said in an e-mail.

The railroad agreed to monitor the river for log accumulation at least two to three times a week during normal weather conditions and three to four times a week during wet weather conditions, Schauer said.

In addition to the more frequent surveillance of the river, the two sides agreed to revisit the language in the existing easement, a deed that grants the railroad permission to use the property at the river. A meeting to discuss possible revisions to the agreement has not been set.

Union Pacific agreed to "promptly remove any debris resulting from its use of the property," according to the easement.

When the logjam formed, SARA officials suggested removing the debris from the river would be the most responsible approach so not to cause problems to downstream bridges. A company contracted by Union Pacific to clear the logs from the bridge floated a majority of them downstream, officials from the SARA and Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority said.

Gloria Rodriguez, a spokeswoman for the SARA, said the disconnect between the two sides was over what constitutes removal.

"It wasn't specifically clarified what removal meant," Rodriguez said. "The river authority has a different definition rather than to just loosen it. We wanted it physically removed from the river so that it wouldn't affect other people downstream. Hopefully, from the meeting that occurred we're all on the same page at this point, and we're just trying to take care of it the best way possible."

SARA is working to identify property owners who were affected by the loosened drift, Rodriguez said. The river authority will then get them in contact with Union Pacific.

Espinoza-Williams said the UP plans to be more proactive in how it deals with drift removal. In addition to the agreed-upon weekly monitoring of the bridge, the railroad company will monitor water levels through the National Weather Service's River Forecast Center Web site.

When Union Pacific officials notice accumulation upstream from the bridge, they will have the logs removed before they reach the bridge, Espinoza-Williams said.

"We will go in and take action before the drift accumulates by going in there and removing any debris," she said.

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