Tuesday's Internet Edition, 02:15 PM, June 08, 2004. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- River access plan headed to commissioners by Adam Yanelli Managing editor - Opponents of a plan to allow limited vehicular access to Uvalde County rivers stood outside the Reading Room at the Willie De Leon Civic Center in stunned amazement, some even with tears in their eyes. That was the scene Thursday night after the Uvalde County River Access committee voted 3-2 to present Uvalde County Commissioners Court with a plan that could allow motorized vehicles to access some 60 miles of the estimated 266 miles of the county’s riverbanks. Committee Chair Michael Box cast the deciding vote in support of a motion by committee member Joe Alejandro, which was seconded by committee member Carol Smith. Box also cast the deciding vote when he voted against a motion made by committee member Allan Bloxsom and seconded by member Wright Friday to submit the plan brought to the table by Bloxsom. Box quickly adjourned the meeting following the final vote, and Uvalde Police officers who had been summoned by Bloxsom during a heated portion of the meeting quietly ushered the crowd of about 70 people out of the facility. The committee was formed earlier this year after Senate Bill 155 took effect Jan. 1. The law restricts the use of motorized vehicles in state riverbeds, except where a local access plan is in place. Uvalde County Commissioners voted earlier this year to form a committee to decide if a plan was necessary in Uvalde County and, if so, to devise and help implement said plan. At the start of the meeting, Box welcomed those in attendance yet warned that no public input would be accepted. “We designated this committee meeting to look at various plans,” Box said. “All parties were asked to bring a plan if they had one to submit.” Box then allowed each member of the committee, one at a time, to go over their plans. “I do have a plan,” Alejandro said as he led off the process. “I’ve been working on it for a long time.” As he went over his proposed plan one point at a time, Alejandro re-emphasized that the plan does not advocate driving up and down the riverbeds. “We’re not advocating driving through the middle of the river,” he said. “Our plan only allows for crossing the river at marked crossings.” He added that points where vehicles would be allowed to cross rivers amount to less than 1 percent of the total mileage of the county’s rivers. Smith followed with her plan, which was essentially identical to Alejandro’s except for a couple of points. Smith added that no native deciduous vegetation with a diameter of more than four inches or greater than four feet above ground be removed or destroyed as well as the inclusion of a state off-highway vehicle public lands sticker for all users of the local river access plan. Committee members Wright Friday and Bloxsom followed with their proposed plans, which varied greatly from their counterparts on the committee. Bloxsom began his presentation with a statement. “My vote still stands. There is plenty of current access for all of Uvalde and the state of Texas without a fee,” he said. “My plan allows for no vehicles in the water at any point and time. We have access at all crossings except the Sabinal River at Highway 90, which is next to a junkyard. I don’t think property values can be negatively affected for a junkyard.” After the other committee members went over their plans, Box added his input. “In SB 155, the first words are ‘Except as provided in sections 90.003 and 90.004’” Box explained, adding that the two sections included the wording which allows for exceptions and the creation of a local river access plan. “The way I see it, the bill gave local governing bodies the authority to allow limited freshwater access.” He added that in his opinion it is always better to maintain local control over an issue rather than letting state legislators decide what happens. At that point, Box opened the floor for discussion. Bloxsom went first. “Since I had an active role in helping draw up the bill, I can tell you that legislators were appalled at the pictures I presented them of trucks running up and down the river,” he said. “They did not intend for a quirk in the bill to allow vehicles to go up and down the river. “Joe, if you’re relying on the appraisal district for gradient boundaries, you’re going to find yourself and the appraisal district in court,” he said to Alejandro directly. “If you are driving on the areas you marked, you’re either in private property or four feet under water.” He also said the plans submitted by Smith and Alejandro did not address potential decreases in property values, sufficient law enforcement or adequate trash receptacles. “There are none along the trail except above the high water mark,” Bloxsom said. “That’s private property. The first time you go up there, you’re going to get cuffed. I hope it is on my place, because I will press charges.” Bloxsom also took offense to the 25 river crossing points in the proposed plan. “If the legislators knew about this they never would have included the amendment about the LRAP,” he said, his voice rising. “That’s why it passed unanimously in the Senate and with only two dissenting votes in the House.” Smith was given the next opportunity to speak. “I’m not from this county, which I’m sure is a point of contention,” she began. “But I’m sure there are many people that are residents of this county that do not enjoy being threatened. “Neither of the plans submitted by Mr. Bloxsom and Mr. Friday meet the guidelines set forth by Texas Parks and Wildlife,” she continued. She cited a passage in the bill that said “nothing in this section shall limit the right of a person to navigate in, on or around these freshwater spots.” She added that if the “no wheels in the water” clause that Bloxsom and Friday keep referring to was adhered to strictly, Uvalde County would have to redo several crossings where wheels do, in fact, come into contact with the water. “Landowners can’t put their private roads across the water, either,” she added. Alejandro went next. “I’ve been speaking for three years now on this issue, and I’ve been called many things,” he began. “But this is the first time I have been called a quirk. I, too, worked with legislators and had a part in the creation of the bill. I’m tired of talking and I’m tired of writing. I want to make a motion that we submit Carol’s and my plan to Uvalde County Commissioners.” At that time, Box accepted the motion and called for a second, which Smith offered. In a roll call vote, Smith and Alejandro voted yea, Bloxsom and Friday voted nay, and Box cast the deciding vote in favor of the motion. At that time, Bloxsom made a motion to present his plan to the court and received a second from Friday. In a roll call vote, Smith and Alejandro voted nay, Bloxsom and Friday voted yea, and Box cast the deciding vote against the motion. -------------------------------------------- This is an on-line publication of The Uvalde Leader-News 110 No. East St. Uvalde, Tx 78802-0740 830/278-3335 830/278-9191 (fax) For comments or questions, email The Uvalde Leader-News.