Questions about Lake Amistad, including concerns about the amount of water released from the lake, the health and size of largemouth bass in the lake and National Park Service facilities and amenities for visitors, were asked and answered during a two-hour community meeting Tuesday.
The meeting was held at noon in the Cottonwood Room at the Del Rio Civic Center and drew about 65 audience members, many of them semi-professional and avid amateur bass fishermen.
The meeting was organized by professional angler Kurt Dove and the Del Rio Chamber of Commerce.
Dove welcomed those attending the meeting and explained the format for the event, noting interested persons had been asked to submit their questions in advance so qualified experts from the appropriate agencies could attend the meeting and address them.
“One of the difficult things about Lake Amistad is there’s all these different organizations that have a part in operating and maintaining the park, the dam, the water releases, all those things,” Dove told the group at the start of the meeting.
He said many concerns he heard voiced centered on the fact that Amistad had gone into a “downturn” from being the world-class largemouth bass fishery it was about a decade ago.
“That’s why we wanted to get everybody together here today, to start some type of forum ... to find out why it’s happened and what we can do in the future to alleviate those downturns,” Dove said.
He said he hoped those attending the meeting would leave with a better understanding of how the various organizations work together to manage and operate the park, the dam, the lake, the water and the fishery.
Representatives of the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC), Texas Watermaster Program, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) and the National Park Service attended the meeting.
Amistad National Recreation Area Superintendent Chris Ryan spoke to the group, answering questions about park facilities and providing updates on projects.
“The first question we got was, ‘Are citizens able to hold a benefit tournament with the proceeds going to the NPS for help in maintenance and repairs to facilities?’ The answer is yes. Proceeds from tournaments or other activities can be donated to the National Park Service,” Ryan said.
He noted during the winter months, ANRA staff will be working on creating a “Friends of the Amistad National Recreation Area” group that can work to raise funds and create public awareness.
“A Friends group can involve persons volunteering in the park and raising funds for projects in which the NPS has limited funds, such as replacing the dock at the Diablo East boat ramp,” he added.
Ryan also answered a question about whether citizens could work as supervised volunteers in the park.
He said they could, directing interested persons to contact Ranger Activities Technician Kaci Messenger.
Another question Ryan fielded dealt with the boat dock at Diablo East.
The person who submitted the question wrote, “Boats, mainly bass boats, continue to be damaged by tying up to the Diablo East boat dock while launching and taking out. This seems to be mainly caused by the low profile of the boat at its back end coming into contact with the bottom of the 2-by-12 side board of the dock. Is there anything that NPS can do to help with this problem?”
“The NPS has consulted with a professional dock builder, regarding repairs or replacement of the dock. He said that persons need to be responsible for their own boats, and that we cannot design a dock that would eliminate all damage. But if the dock is not able to be modified, we will work to get it replaced,” Ryan pledged.
He added the ANRA is entering a project on the NPS Project Management Information System for funding for a new dock... We’re going to do that this winter. The only thing about that is that we may not get funding for it for about four years,” Ryan added.
The superintendent also answered a question about whether a solar-powered light could by installed on a pole at the water’s edge of the docks at Box Canyon, Air Force, Diablo East and Black Brush boat ramps.
“We have a solar-powered light at the Rough Canyon ramp. It has a concrete base and can be moved with the fluctuating water levels. We can install one of these at Diablo East, Box Canyon and Black Brush. But we’re not going to be putting a light on the dock, because in the past, these types of lights have been ripped off, people tied their boats to them or grabbed them. They just didn’t last long,” Ryan said.
He said the ANRA staff will begin next week installing new solar-powered lights in the parking lots at Diablo East and Box Canyon.
Ryan answered other questions about park facilities, including one about a bench that used to be located about halfway up the Diablo East boat ramp for people to rest. Ryan said that bench would be replaced.
Ryan said park staff is working to maintain the channel buoys under the National Park Service control. Ryan reminded those attending the meeting the IBWC is responsible for maintaining the buoys on the Rio Grande arm of the lake, which delineate the international boundary between the United States and Mexico.
Another question dealt with marking of water hazards “specifically in the 277 area and old cistern tanks.”
“We do mark the manmade structures, which is the old bridge railings and the cistern with hazard buoys and with guidance we received from the Coast Guard. We don’t mark the natural hazards because there are just too many of them out there. There could be 40-plus natural hazards, so we mark the manmade ones,” Ryan said.
The superintendent also recapped completed, ongoing and planned work projects in the park, including the renovation of restrooms, placement of new signage, extension of the dock at Rough Canyon, demolition and removal of the old floating concession store barge, removing more than 1,800 tires from the lake and replacement of aging septic tanks at Amistad Dam.
He also noted the ANRA is in the process of replacing an old water line at Diablo East, constructing a new fish slide to easily return tournament-caught fish to the lake and installing new grinders and clearer instructions at the park’s fish cleaning stations.
Ryan also told the group in January he plans to resume his “Coffee with the Superintendent” program, during which he held monthly meetings with the public a various restaurants in Del Rio.